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Governance: An international journal of policy, administration and institutions

Arndt on “What is governance?”

Christiane ArndtChristiane Arndt, Programme Coordinator, Measuring Regulatory Performance, OECD, responds to Francis Fukuyama’s “What is governance?”  The views expressed in this comment are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the OECD.

I agree with Francis Fukuyama’s plea to measure the ability of governments to make and enforce rules, and the ability to provide services, and to favor transparent and well-defined data over meaningless super-composites. I also agree with other commentators that the suggested measures are not sufficient proxies for the overall quality of governance which is a far more encompassing concept. Beyond this ambition, measures of the “black box of government” can be useful to analyse, compare and improve its functioning.  For example, OECD’s bi-annual publication Government at a Glance provides access to international data on the entire “production chain” of government activities including information on revenues received, government expenditures, employment and compensation, human resource management, regulatory governance, transparency and integrity and  output and outcome measures.  It is currently being extended to a large number of countries beyond the OECD members.

I fundamentally disagree with Francis Fukuyama on the conceptual separation of state capacity from processes. He seems to limit state capacity to the professional background of officials and the resources available. At the same time he cites himself “the ability of a government to regulate pharmaceuticals” as one of the measures for state capacity. Yet this ability clearly depends not only on the quality of staff and resources available, but also on the processes and systems in place to design, enforce and review regulations.  Are processes in place to undertake risk assessment and regulatory impact assessments? Do officials test whether it is possible to comply with the regulation? How are inspections organized? Are reviews of existing regulations regularly scheduled to see if they achieved their objectives and are not in contradiction with other regulations?

We are currently developing a new methodology to measure the implementation of the 2012 OECD Recommendation of the Council on Regulatory Policy and Governance in OECD countries, which includes these elements. The Recommendation presents Regulatory Policy as a whole-of-government activity integrated in the policy cycle of regulatory design, enforcement and review, and supported by appropriate institutions. It sets out the measures that Governments should take to deliver regulations that meet their public policy objectives and have a positive impact on the economy and society. The development of internationally comparative data on its implementation is part of the Programme on Measuring Regulatory Performance which assists countries in assessing and improving the quality of their regulations and regulatory governance systems. We are in a continuous dialogue with officials from OECD countries to identify what is important to measure.

I look forward to continuing the debate. In the meantime, some episodes of Yes Minister may provide some further inspiration for conceptualizing the functioning of the executive and its interaction with the political sphere (e.g. see for instance this video on the political-administrative interface).

Written by Governance

March 21, 2013 at 11:59 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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