My recent paper on governance indicators suggests we should be assessing government quality based (foremost) on what governments do, not (primarily) on how they do these things. The basic idea is that governments are authorized to provide services etc. not just to be transparent or 'artistes of best practice' systems that cost millions but generate much less.
Some ask me what I mean when I suggest that we should be using data that assesses ends. I have given some examples--birth registration rates, road deaths, trade levels through ports, etc. These all fit in various places in my dashboard of ends (see the figure below showing China, compared with other BRICS).
One of the 'ends' I include here refers to freedom of citizens to travel outside the country. I think this is an important indicator of how well governments are using the authority citizens give them to create a meaningful state that has credibility, can negotiate on behalf of citizens, etc. I use various measures to get a sense of how well governments play this role, including the Henley index of 'freedom of travel'. It is a really nice index you can see described in the press (for instance, http://www.ibtimes.com/best-passports-have-unrestricted-travel-around-world-1422038).
It calculates how many countries (out of 219) a citizen of a specific country can travel to without needing a visa. Hence the idea of 'freedom to travel'. The higher the number, the more your government has worked over time to facilitate your travel. The lower the number, the less effective your government is at doing this (note that the lower numbers also reflect weak governance at home, given that visas are often required from places that are considered security risks or poorly governed states).
I know it may seem pretty simplistic to use such a measure, but it really matters. If you are a firm looking to build a new plant in a country, one thing the government of that potential country does is facilitates movement of your potential hires. If you choose to locate in a country where all your hires need visas to leave, you will incur costs that you need to think about, and you will have to wait for visas, and you will have to delay travel plans. I know this because I travel on a South African passport but most of my colleagues are on US passports: they get to choose lower cost flight options that I can't, and are simply more 'free to travel'.
So: Which countries exhibit better and worse governance ends in this area? Here is a summary (taken from http://www.ibtimes.com/best-passports-have-unrestricted-travel-around-world-1422038).
U.S. passport holders may enter 172 countries and territories without a visa, a marked increase from 2012.
Citizens of Denmark, Germany and Luxembourg can also enter 172 countries and territories, though it’s citizens of Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom who, with a score of 173, edge out all others to have the best passports for global travel. Rounding out the top tier are Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands at 171, followed by Canada, France, Ireland, Japan, Norway, Portugal and Spain at 170.
On the flipside, passport holders of Kosovo (38), Lebanon (38), Sri Lanka (38), Sudan (38), Nepal (37), Eritrea (36), Palestinian Territory (36), Pakistan (32), Somalia (32) and Iraq (31) have the least visa-free travel options among all countries and territories surveyed, save those whose passports were issued in Kabul, Afghanistan. Afghani passport holders can only visit 13 percent of the world, or just 28 countries, free of formalities.