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01/25/2013

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Mehmet Akif Demircioglu

Thank you for the post, Prof. Andrews. It seems that the meaning of governance and the measurement of governance are very dynamic. In addition, all countries have different cultures, history, trust, economic development, etc that there is no one best way to measure governance. For instance, one country may emphasize strong fiscal conditions as a good governance (like rational factors) and others may emphasize democratic participation for a good governance (like normative factors). Therefore, I agree with you that "The idea of good governance may not make sense." I, however, would like to change your sentence a little bit: The idea of good governance today may not make sense tomorrow and even good governance has different interpretations.

In addition, your post has reminded me means and ends chains. I think governance is a "mean" (but an important one!) and it cannot be an "end" itself. The "end" in this context may be a "democratic governance." Thus, when I look your examples, I can comment them as following: First, "political hiring" is a "mean" as well as "meritocratic hiring." So, both of them can be used for governments although some governments may prefer one or another in order to execute their policies. Second, transparency is also "mean" that if public has any benefit to learn the content of these secret negotiations, they can learn. But, I do not think learning the inside agencies in all their operations may be useful to public. Third, "regulation" is also another "means" or "tools". As long a regulation may increase the people's benefit, protection, and promotion, these tools can be used. Some regulations may be good but some not. These decisions should also be dynamic.

I know my examples are very simple here, but I have been thinking about "democratic governance" for a while, which may make sense here. And I agree your sentence that "...governance is a relative and contextual thing, and that any governance discussion needs to face up to uncomfortable thoughts."

Sincerely,

Mehmet Akif Demircioglu

Philipp Krause

Thanks Matt for the very kind plug for beyond budgets and the post on debt. I've added a few comments on the debt question over there (http://www.beyondbudgets.org/blog/2013/1/25/what-does-debt-mean-for-governance.html#comments)

But two related thoughts on the bigger issue of governance indicators.

First, they are certainly very context specific, but that doesn't mean they're meaningless. To say that in most countries, many positions are probably better filled according to merit than by political appointees is not saying merit-based appointments don't matter. It's just very heavily caveated.

And second. We're methodologically tempted to assume that governance indicators are interval-scale, but their relationship to the mythical "actual" governance obviously isn't. Does a budget balance improvement mean the same when you're moving from -5% to +5%, as opposed to from +10% to +20%? I doubt it.

I don't think this discussion has run its course just yet...

Doug Hadden

Matt,

At least the discussion isn't about 'best governance' (as in 'best practices'). Good for you for questioning assumptions that have cultural biases.

Governance is a multi-faceted environment that operates within a changing network with different cultures and values. Chaos theory may be a better way to look at it.

It is very difficult to separate outcomes from dogma where theory defines what one looks for. Debt is one example. Country growth is another. High growth among countries with high government economic intervention is often seen as bad growth

And, there is significant backlash in developing countries around the notion that democracy leads to growth. As there is on definitions of democracy. (i.e. How are term limits 'democratic' ?)

Even if there was agreement on a governance outcome such as debt, we have a measurement problem. Governments have different accounting methods from cash to accrual. The net present value of entitlements often not calculated. Books are often cooked (i.e. Greece). PPPs and other debt funding mechanisms are often off budget. (And PPPs considered a good practice by many and are encouraged by IFIs.) Then there is GDP and whether that is an objective & up-to-date measurement.

matt andrews

Hi Doug. I laughed at the connection between good governance and best practice because the route many prescribe to good governance goes straight through best practice. My goal here is to see if we can use the data that exists out there to create stories about the governance situations in countries. I agree that there are limits to creating comparable measures because of measurement issues and because of comparative problems with core concepts. But I do think we can put data together in ways that allow government decision makers to think more critically about the situations they find themselves in. All this said, it is tragically depressing how little data we have in developing countries and how poor that data is. If we want to do anything about governance as international agents I think better data is a good place to start (not data for academics...data for decision-makers).

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