The terms governance and good governance are popular terms and are commonly used in the development discourse in politics and even in academic discussions, however, governance has sometimes been confused with the term government. The term governance means different things to different people and varies from country to country and is sometimes defined in terms of good or bad. For example, what is considered as a corrupt practice in one country may be a usual occurrence in another country since there is no precise definition of governance. Bad governance is usually seen as the major contributor to the ills that have confronted our societies today and until this is dealt with, most developing countries which are also poor countries may not be able to reduce their poverty levels or achieve economic growth. According to Rao (i) even projects considered to be technically sound and development strategies have failed to produce the desired outcomes due to bad governance. According to Singh (3) governance refers to the way in which power is used to manage a country’s social and economic resources to achieve development. It is characterized by transparency, accountability and participation and encompasses the regulatory framework and economic policies as well as all aspects of the manner in which a country is governed (Punyaratabandhu 1).
Good governances also encompass several aspects of governance and include ruling justly, fighting corruption, respecting human rights and enforcing laws fairly (Singh 3). It also includes respecting property rights and removing barriers to trade so as to encourage economic freedom. Good governance also involves pursuing sound fiscal policies as well as monetary policies and recognizing the contributions of the private sector to the country’s economy. Good governance also recognizes the interrelationship between the country and the international community and should also open the country’s economy to domestic and foreign investment. Governance structures which are considered to be good recognize and practices open, accountable and democratic governance systems which respect the rule of law. In good governance, access to information, competency and civil liberties are very important. It involves translating societal demands into alternatives which helps in policy formulation and implementation. Donor assistance is also needed in developing countries to help strengthen governance especially on empowerment and capacity-building (Bird 477).
The term poverty governance has resulted from the failures in governing systems which have facilitated the increase in corruption in societies, impoverished the environment and have caused the lack of basic government services to the poor population. Governments, the common Citizens and the donor communities all have a common concern to reduce and prevent poverty by applying good governance (Rao 3). Poverty governance is where institutions of governance, policy and development strategies are made to be more responsive to the poor. It involves establishing rights and opportunities to the disadvantaged population and genders by promoting and encouraging equal access to resources, ensuring community-driven development and supporting the political voice of the underprivileged population. Poverty governance involves good governance that is people-centered and is also citizen friendly (Rao 9). According to Punyaratabandhu (1) good governance provides an enabling environment which can facilitate sustainable development and help reduce poverty. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of 2000 recognizes good governance in its agenda for reducing poverty by improving people’s lives.
Poverty Reduction and Good Governance
Poverty reduction through good governance encompasses many aspects of governance which include promoting accountability in the use of public resources to benefit the poor population; building national capacities, formulating and implementing pro-poor policy; transferring decision making closer to the poor as well as helping them organize themselves; and ensuring advanced service delivery to the poor by improving administration as well as the private sector participation (Poverty Task Force 3). It also includes strengthening the rule of law while focusing on pro-poor enforcement procedures; involving various stakeholders in participation and representation of the poor and more importantly preventing corruption as this severely affects the poor.
Good governance is very important for achieving long-term and sustainable socio-economic growth of a nation. This implies that it is essential for a government’s poverty reduction programmes and its community participation approaches aimed at reducing poverty and improving the nation’s infrastructure to be addressed and implemented by applying aspects of good governance. This would enable the government facilitate greater socio-economic development and prosperity
One way in which poverty reduction can be achieved is by empowering the poor. This involves improving transparency and increasing the poor’s participation in governance. Improving the poor’s participation may be attained through creating pro-poor rules for seeking as well as holding public office. The political principals should be given the oversight role to ensure that this is actually taking place and also help in formulating such policies. Participation among the citizens should be encouraged by availing opportunities for citizens’ participation in government affairs. Mechanisms should be put in place to give the citizens a voice that would enable them to influence program delivery and policy-making. The citizens should be encouraged to get more involved in the governance of the country by implementing appropriate decentralization policies. Citizen participation can be promoted by ensuring consistent application of the policies and rules.
Good governance aimed at reducing poverty considers the role of gender in economic development. Good governance promotes gender equality and in particular, empowerment of women. Poverty reduction in relation to gender includes providing support to the vulnerable groups which are the elderly, children and women. Good governance eliminates gender inequality and mainstreams gender issues in government institutions through gender policies. Poverty governance puts women empowerment as key to achieving comprehensive economic growth. Microcredit programs are provided to women of low socio-economic status to help them improve their economic status through self-employment. Women are given more control over land ownership. Women are also empowered to politically and are given the opportunity and the capacity to participate in decision-making both at the local and national level.
Transparency should involve free flow of reliable, timely and understandable low-cost information. This can be promoted by providing regular information through publication and dissemination and by enhancing feedback loops among policy-makers, the general public and the government officials. Providing information to all the stakeholders usually promotes transparency in the government and encourages good governance. Providing access to information to the poor enables them seek services and also take advantage of the available opportunities in government programmmes. Access to information gives the poor the opportunity and encourages them to exercise their rights and enable them pursue the available economic opportunities in the market (Poverty Task Force 9). Accessibility of information among the general public holds the government more accountable. However, lack of access t information on programme rules exposes the poor population to corrupt practices. Thus good governance ensure that barriers to access to information such as remoteness of locations and the technical languages used in providing explanations as well as the complications involved in the administrative process which may include complexities in filling forms, requiring the citizens to fill in their ethnic languages and many others are addressed and resolved to guarantee availability of information the poor population.
Poverty reduction through good governance promotes budget transparency which is vital to the poor population’s understanding of how financial resources are being spent and what the government is doing to ensure that the budget targets pro-poor programmes. It is important to disaggregate expenditure to the local and sectoral levels. This would facilitate the flow of budget funding to the pro-poor programs more precisely. Poverty governance and good governance establishes transparency at the local level of governance such as the local authorities in activities such as revenue-collection, expenditure and provision of infrastructure and social amenities at the local level. Poverty governance focuses in improving the efficiency, accountability and transparency of the local government authorities.
Both poverty governance and good governance recognizes democracy as a very important aspect of improving the citizens’ participation in decision-making both at the national and local levels. Good governance promotes the people’s participation in local planning, local budgeting and other related activities aimed at improving their living at the local level (Poverty Task Force 7). Good governance also allows the local community’s participation in establishing mechanisms for ensuring accountability and transparency in government service programmes and development projects including those provided by the local government authorities; and national government at the local level. Giving the poor the opportunity to participate in local government projects gives the poor a chance to discuss and influence, plans, programs, community policies, economic developments, budgets, service delivery and other aspects of development which best suits their needs and support sustainability. Democracy in the management of the local government authorities gives the poor the opportunity to discuss how to develop more job opportunities and better job skills.
Good governance facilitates the growth of civil societies and encourages their participation in governance and in enterprise building in both the social and economic sectors particularly in the rural areas (Rao 6). The civil society also participates in resource mobilization. The civil society collaborates with local government and the private sector in resource mobilization and developing innovative approaches.
Both poverty governance and good governance pursue accountability. Government officials and institutions should be made accountable for their actions on citizens. This would provide the citizens with an opportunity to participate and have a voice in public and government affairs (Corea 10). Accountability can be achieved through putting in place mechanisms that require that responses be made in accordance with institutional conduct. The governance structure should ensure good supervision in government institutions and officials, encouraging high levels of participation by the citizens as well as by providing appropriate incentives. Poverty governance and good governance also lays more emphasis on strengthening the capacity of the national assembly to carry out oversight roles. It ensures training of the members of parliament as well as parliament staff on communication, gender issues, and budget control among others and ensures that they effectively master the legislative processes.
Decentralization and Efficiency
Poverty reduction through good governance can be achieved by improving efficiency and coverage and ensuring sustainability of basic government services. This would involve providing adequate predictable resources in all sectors of the economy including the local authorities and developing the capacity of the local authorities to provide the basic services (Bird 451). Since the local government is closer to the people, good governance ensures that local governments are properly structured to achieve decentralization of service delivery. This helps reach the people particularly in the remote areas, promote access to resources and also improve security. Poverty governance involves empowering the rural poor, building the human capacity at the local level, political commitment and social mobilization at the community level (Corea 5). It also involves demarcation and designing of responsibilities for programme delivery by making the delivery flexible.
Providing sustainable basic services should be accompanied by improving the capacity and motivating the public servants to consistently provide better service delivery to the citizens and ensuring accountability in all government institutions not excluding institutions at the local level. The capacity of the public servants is improved through better training and improved incentives. The public service should be made more efficient and capable of delivering better services to the citizens, and implementing policy at all levels. This should be made more transparent in public financial management. The general public should be enabled to have an open access to justice which should be fair across board. Improving efficiency and ensuring sustainability in development should focus more in fighting corruption so as to reduce poverty among the citizens. Improving coverage involves decentralizing service delivery and simplifying administrative procedures as well as improving the quality of service delivery.
Good governance should ensure that pro-poor strategies involve increase in the government’s effectiveness to enable the poor population to build their own capability which would in turn enable them to improve their economy and eventually rise above poverty. Poverty governance ensure that the government provides access to basic government services such as education, health care and infrastructure which also include water and power; and enhances the poor population’s ability to improve their socio-economic status. It also ensures that the poor population is enabled to access the right agencies and that they are able to put their concerns clearly. Good governance also ensures that the citizens are able to seek more appropriate and better responses from the government through good governance structures. The civil society is made more responsive in service delivery to the general public. Poverty governance involves the poor in the participation in design and implementation of reforms. This improves responsiveness as well as interaction between the government and the poor population. Reforms in institutional capacities improve service delivery to the citizens. The poor have to be given the capacity to effectively participate in development issues by teaching them community management skills.
Effective Legal System
Governance aimed at reducing a nation’s poverty levels should have a legal system that is effective in enforcing the rule of law and supports the poor. This promotes the security of the citizens as well as their social and economic relations. It is important to make the decisions of courts available to the poor population so as to improve transparency which would in turn enable accountability in the legal system. It is also important for all public institutions and government agencies to apply the law when dealing with the poor populations. Good governance aimed at poverty reduction should put in place effective measures that control acts that violate freedom, democracy and also curb corruption, unnecessary bureaucracies, harassment for bribes and arbitrariness. Good governance strengthens individual accountability as well as administrative discipline and puts in place measures for dealing with those who violate the rules.
Good governance aimed at poverty reduction has a legal system that is committed to eradicating corruption. Corruption disproportionately affects the poor since it increases their cost of accessing administrative systems, thus depriving them of a greater percentage of their income. Good governance creates an environment where corruption can be successfully addressed. Mechanisms are put in place to prevent corruption from occurring and also deal with corruption that has occurred. Laws prohibiting corruption are implemented and enforced by both the courts and the law enforcement officers.
Macro-economic stability and employment
Poverty reduction plans ensure that the governance structures and aspects address macro-economic stability of the nation. Addressing macro-economic stability involves expanding the opportunities for operation for the foreign investors and the private sector (Corea 7). Foreign investment rules are made flexible; new markets are opened up and access to agricultural land is improved.
Both poverty governance and good governance aims at creating jobs to the citizens. They aim to address the limited job opportunities by the people’s capacity for innovation and creativity. In developing countries, such aspects of governance focus on promoting agricultural activities. Poverty governance aims at improving the rural population’s skills, knowledge and capacity through training, extension services and provision of incentives. Such governance also supports the small scale business enterprises by providing microcredit services to the entrepreneurs as well as commercial services to the private sector. Poverty governance focuses on trade liberalizations and deregulations which enable economic growth and thus reduce poverty. Poverty governance also ensures implementation of trade policies that encourage foreign direct investments in the country thereby improving the employment situation of the country and the overall economic growth of the country.
Good governance and poverty governance implements and promotes labour standards which includes social protection and security, encouraging dialogue in addressing workers rights’ not excluding the home-workers, equal employment opportunities. Poverty governance recognizes the need to constantly improve the people’s job skills and innovativeness. It therefore involves putting in place institutions for improving workers skills.
According to Robertson, Novelli, Dale, Tikly, Dachi and Ndibelema (56), poverty governance focuses on provision of education to the citizens so as to achieve poverty reduction. A population which is well-educated and skilled is able to create, access, disseminate, and utilize the skills and knowledge to develop the economy and achieve productive economic growth. The skills of a people of a nation determine its economic competitiveness in the international markets. Therefore good governance aimed at reducing poverty ensures that it provides a life-long learning and constantly upgrades the skills of its citizen so as to meet the demands of the economic forces of technology and globalisation. Good governance ensures that the education provided to the citizens is accessible, is of high quality and imparts life-long skills in the learners. Poverty governance focuses on implementing Information Technology (ICTs) facilities in provision of more efficient and effective education (Robertson et al 86). Such governance system puts in place the quality assurance systems to monitor the educational system and learning. It reviews its learning objectives to meet the requirements of the changing society.
Well-educated population is better enabled to effectively participate in social, economic and political issues hence expanding democracy and economic growth since the two are related. Education encourages protection of human rights which in turn promotes freedom of speech. The citizens are therefore able to expresses themselves and address their needs in relevant forums and also seek solutions to their needs and problems through relevant government and non governmental agencies. Education also promotes national cohesion and minimizes conflicts in a country. Thus good governance ensures that the education provided addresses the problems of national cohesion and imparts important social values such as tolerance, fairness and cooperation which foster national identity among citizens (Robertson et al 104). This in turn creates reduces the chances of insecurity and violence and create peace which is essential in achieving economic growth and hence reduce poverty among the population.
Good governance and poverty governance almost imply the same thing. However, the difference only lies in the scope of governance application. While good governance is an aspect of governance practice that should be practised in all situations of governance, poverty governance focuses on improving the socio-economic status of the poor population in a country. Poverty governance applies the concepts of good governance to achieve governance that is aimed at reducing the poverty levels of the nation. This implies that it is essential for governments to apply good governance in achieving comprehensive economic, social and political growth that is democratic and ensures better living standards. Good governance should be comprehensive and should include all groups in the country. It should benefit the young, the aged, women and other groups that exist in the nation.
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