Governance Issues in Pakistan Essay

Good governance has emerged at the forefront of the public’s demand in Pakistan. Citizens, domestic enterprises and foreign investors see governance as the key ingredient for sustainable development and a sound investment climate. Accordingly, good governance is recognized as one of the most critical factors for successful achievement of the strategic thrust, policies, programmes and targets. This is the age of living transparently. There is a need to bring a visible change in the culture of all financial players – Finance Ministry and Departments must be more open and transparent, as are all Commercial Banks under the vigilant supervision of the State Bank. Pakistan’s favorable economic conditions can only be achieved as a result of reforms. Reforms can open up opportunities for foreign investors. Reforms lie at the core of our economic turnaround. This process needs to be continued for a longer time.

Generation Reforms

The focus of ‘first generation reforms’ was to achieve macroeconomic stability, to rescue the declining and volatile economy. The achieve high growth and sustain it, the second generation reforms focus on building the institutional and governance capacity and improving the competitive environment in the country. Civil services, police, judiciary, and devolution will be the key areas of governance those should occupy reform effort. In the face of emerging WTO challenges, the focus should be on reducing the cost of doing business in Pakistan, especially in areas such as government regulations, tax distortions, the efficiency of public utilities and removal of infrastructural bottlenecks. The challenge now is to sustain reforms in order to accelerate growth and achieve economic prosperity.

The concept of governance relates to the quality of the relationship between government and the citizens whom it exists to serve and protect. Governance may be defined as the manner in which power is ‘exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources for development. This concept is concerned directly with the management of the development process, involving both the public and private sector. Good governance relates to a pluralistic and holistic view where responsibility is jointly shared by players in public sector, the corporate private sector, and civil society by addressing the issues of accountability, transparency, participation, openness, rule of law and predictability. It is also a key link between growth and reduction of poverty and inequality. As growth generates income, good governance trickles this effect down to the masses, particularly the poor. The State is responsible for creating a conducive political, legal and economic environment for building individual capabilities and encouraging private initiative. The market on the other hand, is expected to create opportunities for people. Civil society facilitates the mobilization of public opinion and peoples’ participation in economic, social and political activities.

Ultimate Test of Good Governance

The ultimate test of good governance is the broad satisfaction and ownership by the people. The four main elements of good governance are accountability, participation, predictability, and transparency. These are discussed in the following.

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  • Accountability: It is a wide ranging term meaning that public officials are accountable and varies across countries depending on political structures, historical cultures and value systems. It is the perception of the society about the accountability of public officials that really matters.
  • Participation: Participation implies that the citizens of the State are at the head of any activity undertaken by the State. It depends on the ownership by the people of policies and programmes at all levels. The litmus test of participation is whether the citizens identify fully with ownership concept.
  • Predictability: Predictability is the consequence of the existence of laws, regulations and policies and their fair and consistent application. The system would have check and balance arrangements and their effectiveness determine its predictability. It implies social acceptance of the legal and regulatory framework.
  • Transparency: It complements the three preceding elements of good governance. It implies a clear understanding of government rules, regulations and decision at all levels. It is the perception of the people about the fairness of the government decisions that matter.

The strategy for the devolution process has been shaped by the past experience including issues relating to centralized and top-down decisionmaking, haphazard planning, weak accountability and financial management, and lack of transparency and citizens participation. The principles of across the board accountability and public participation underpin the reforms process with the focus on improving the public sector service delivery mechanisms. Community participation is at the center of the strategy, with broad-based, decentralized, and homogenous local organizations at the village and neighborhood level. The participation of the non-elected citizens in the development process is ensured through the Citizen Community Boards (CCBS).

Management or Governance

The ultimate test of good governance, however, is the popular perception of the quality of management or governance. What is the popular perception about governance in Pakistan has been discussed in a number of studies?

Main elements of these studies are summarised below

  1. State power is used only for the benefit of the elite and does not protect citizens from the excesses of the powerful. The system of justice, it is presumed, has been used to the advantage of the rich and the powerful and criminal acts of the elite classes are accepted phenomena.
  2. The misuse of power has been institutionalized by the rise of mafias who gain access to the political system. These mafias use the executive discretion of the political authority in appointments; formulation of public policies; disposal of public assets; and the purchases of goods and services.
  3. Corruption and cheating have become institutionalized and more dangerously are well-developed habits. It is generally believed that all institutions of public service have been corrupted and therefore hás weakened public confidence in the political structure, executive authority, and judicial system.
  4. Regulatory systems are believed to be not for the public welfare but for economic exploitations and suppression of the vulnerable sections of the society. Even the security of life and property is generally believed to be nonexistent. This has led to a general rejection of the judicial, legal and political structure. The psychological impact on society is too catastrophic.

Poor Perception of Governance

The poor perception of governance has the undercurrents which must not be overlooked. These are: [tie_list type=”lightbulb”]

  • Alienation of general mass of the population from the managers and the institutions has led to the rejection of the system with serious implications for the future. Participation, ownership, transparency and predictability can neither be restored nor ensured as long as alienation prevails.
  • Alienation has bred large-scale cynicism and any reforms agenda of economic and social policies or institutional reform is decried. Even the most well intended and well thought out policy is ignored or received with skepticism and accountability efforts have only strengthened public perception of the elitist nature of Governance. Even the exposure of the most powerful and the richest is received without any shock or dismay.
  • Alienation and cynicism in tum create general Apathy. Falling rates of participation in the political process is one of the indicators. Corruption does not carry the stigma of public shame and any political process is seen as a game of the rich and the powerful.

It needs to be underscored that social state of the society, cultural. values and the mindset of the people ultimately determine the acceptance or otherwise of all the reforms. If people are getting poorer they get even more alienated from the institutions and their managers. Similarly, if the bulk of the population is illiterate, their understanding and confidence in the transparency.. predictability and accountability will never be restored.

Governance may be viewed both from the managers perspective and public perceptions. Most of the discussion and theory relating to the former tends to relate the managerial behavior and incentives to act in the public interest. It is generally argued that incentives which include standards and norms of conduct, clear rules, monitoring and supervision systems of rewards and penalties training etc., influence the behavior of the managers. If the system rewards inefficiency, dishonesty or exploitation, then the governance will deteriorate and the public interest will not be served. Such a system is tolerated either because of its ‘value structure or because of the inability to act or demand good governance.

Issues of public sector efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability are important for long-term growth. Public sector management requires action to make markets competitive. Similarly, issues of restricting the reach of state intervention and improving the delivery of basic services must be high on the country’s development agenda. A policy, legal and regulatory environment, which secures property rights and enforces contracts, is supportive of economic growth and poverty reduction. People being at the heart of development need to have access to the institutions that promote it. Systemic corruption extracts a heavy price by reducing investment and increasing capital costs.

Now we come to the different aspects of our country in which good governance is the need of time. International experience demonstrates that decentralization offers great scope for enhancing the efficiency of public sector delivery services. Decentralization is promoted for the reasons of increased administrative efficiency, equity, service provision, participation and democratization, national cohesion, local empowerment and poverty reduction, among others. Local governments are more likely to engage in participatory procedures that can identify local priorities and provide feedback on actual implementation progress and difficulties.

The overarching policy for the devolution reforms is to introduce a democratic, accountable and rights-based framework for local governance in Pakistan. The government’s devolution plan calls for empowered, accountable, elected local governments, with the requisite political, administrative and financial authority to deliver services effectively. The local government system has been established in a three-level system of the district (Zila), tehsil and union councils. Local governments at each level comprise their elected Nazim and Naib Nazim, their elected councils (district, tehsil/town and union councils) and their administrative structures (district government, tehsil/town municipal administration and union administration).

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