ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Administration, Decentralisation and Good Governance

Administration, Decentralisation and Good Governance D Bandyopadhyay I COMMEND the concept of 'good governance' in its simple English meaning. But I have a strong objection to the term as it is being touted in the recent years by multilateral and bilateral aid agencies as a part of precondition of aid or as a process of reform as conditions of aid. It is becoming an in-thing in recent development literature assiduously crafted and hawked by the north either to deny aid or to use it as leverage in securing changes in the system of governance in the aid receiving countries. The World Bank and the OECD have become great proponents of this concept. The World Bank has identified three distinct aspects of governance: (i) the form of political regime; (ii) the process by which authority is exercised in the management of a country's economic and social resources for development; and (iii) the capacity of governments to design, formulate and implement policies and discharge functions. The OECD uses the World Bank definition of governance with the following links: legitimacy of government (degree of democratisation), accountability of political and official elements of government (media freedom, transparent decision-making, accountability mechanisms), competence of governments to formulate policies and deliver services, and respect for human rights and rule of law (individual and group rights and security, framework for economic and social activity, and participation).1 One is touched by the mock modesty of the Bank document when it states that as its charter prohibits, it does not look into the form of political regime as if by manipulating the other two elements, it does not subvert the first, but the OECD which consists of the old imperial powers does not have any such compunctions. With all their commitment to legitimacy of governance and human rights et al, most of the aid was directed towards strategic allies in the cold war, to many authoritarian regimes, to many high military spenders. Even today, two-and-a-half times as much percapita ODA goestohigh military spenders as to low military spenders. Even today, strategic allies get preference over poor nations, for example, El Salvador receives 16 times as much US ODA per poor person as does Bangladesh even though Bangladesh is five times poorer.2 Isn't this a fine example of the north's sophisticated hypocrisy and subtle double-speak? The term 'good governance' as it is being used today by the north has become the symbol of recoloni- sation and new Imperialism.

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