Leadership & Governance

Why Good, Capable Governance Matters

Good Governance & National Prosperity

How do governments contribute to national development and prosperity? At best, their exact functions and roles are sometimes misunderstood, and they are often seen mainly as regulators or lawmakers. At worst, governments are sometimes vilified as wasteful, bureaucratic and parasitic – obstacles to growth and progress.

Fortunately, we now understand that just as governments need the support of markets and citizens to perform their duties well, they are also important for creating the right conditions and environment that companies, investors and people require to flourish. For instance, sound education and healthcare policies raise the qualifications and energy of the national workforce, while good tax and investment laws give businesses confidence and clarity. Courts enforce contracts and property rights, security and defence services provide the stability that all economic activity requires, and public works and infrastructure form the backbone of economic processes like distribution and logistics, transport and communications.

Markets need government, just as governments need the market.

A Vision of Enlightened Governance

Honour and Trust

First, the institutions of government must honour the responsibility and trust placed in them in the exercise of their core functions.

Legislators and political leaders must propose and support sound policies and laws. Good government leaders must be responsible stewards of both the internal systems of government (institutions, laws) and the external systems (societies, cultures, markets) they are entrusted with.
An independent judiciary interprets the law, and in cases of judicial review, ensures that laws and government actions are not in violation of a country’s Constitution. It also plays a key role in the enforcement of stable and secure property rights, an essential precondition for economic growth.
Public officers are tasked with administering laws and policies. They implement programmes and interventions, and may also rely on rules, incentives, and sanctions to encourage compliance and cooperation. The “last mile” of implementing public policies is key – often, good policies fail due to low operating capacity, insufficient funds, or corruption.

Regulatory, audit, enforcement and evaluation agencies must check abuse and corruption, ensure that laws are observed, seek good value for money in procurement and financial matters, and determine whether public policies and spending achieve their goals.

Taking the Long View

Second, governments must act in the long-term public and national interest. Merely having talented people and ample finances is meaningless, if governments do not display sound values and integrity, and do not channel assets towards improving outcomes that matter. Often, the most desirable outcomes require more than one electoral term of office to achieve. Without political consensus, long-term plans will often be reversed by incoming governments.

Strong Institutions that Last

Third, leaders must build strong and stable institutions that will outlast themselves. Good institutions and processes support continued good performance. However, good performance in the short term may not lead to good processes, unless conscious efforts are made to document and institutionalise them.

Engaging Governments

Engaging government officers at a range of levels and seniority allows Freedom to Create to:

  • Identify and pursue both “quick wins with huge impact” (e.g. when identifying and empowering a senior leader) and “gradual gains with broad impact over time” (by improving the general skill, capacity and values of the government);
  • Build inclusive groups of stakeholders at the policy and political level;
  • Enhance programme continuity in the long term;
  • Identify good leaders at all levels, because senior leaders need the help of good middle-tier leaders to oversee and lead the direct implementation of policies and reforms;
  • Build broad based capacity throughout the public service (e.g. technical capacity at junior level, complex system management capacity at senior level);
  • Build up alumni networks for mutual help and support.