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Global Development Issues 101: The Role of Governments in Economic Development


International development remains a central topic in academic dialogues, particularly when explored through the lenses of Public Administration and International Relations. This field delves into the delicate equilibrium between a country’s internal growth objectives and its external diplomatic engagements. The focus is on how nations aim to enhance their economic position and the quality of life for their residents, a reflection of their global stature and internal prosperity.

From an academic perspective, development is defined by the myriad ways nations navigate their economic and societal progress. Even though the importance of development is universally accepted, the outcomes are diverse across countries, and shaped by varying factors. This variance in outcomes underscores the multifaceted nature of the factors that underlie developmental stagnation for certain countries, while others grow and thrive.

To comprehensively apprehend the essence of development, an exhaustive exploration of its historical antecedents is essential. Additionally, a meticulous examination of classical developmental theories holds paramount importance. Furthermore, an acute cognizance of the strategies employed to address global challenges becomes indispensable in the context of mitigating issues such as poverty and inequality.

This 101 series consists of seven articles, each dedicated to exploring the concept of development, its various components, and its potential prospects for the future:

4.     Global Development Issues 101: The Role of Governments in Economic Development

5.     Global Development Issues 101: The Role of Culture and Institutions in Development

6.     Global Development Issues 101: The Connection Between Gender Equality and Development

7.     Global Development Issues 101: Achieving Sustainable Development and the SDG


Global Development Issues 101: The Role of Governments in Economic Development

The preceding chapter of Global Development Issues 101 was a comprehensive exploration of classical growth and stagnation theories. Beginning with an examination of theories predating World War II and subsequently transitioning to post-war perspectives, it highlighted the profound impact of the war on global politics and economics. These shifts triggered significant changes (economic, political, and social) that wielded considerable influence over the trajectory of a nation toward progress or stagnation. The intricate tapestry of the development of nations is woven from a multitude of factors. Hence, the subsequent chapter embarks on a deeper exploration of a paramount player in this narrative: the role of governments in fostering development. Governments, as the primary governing bodies entrusted with the stewardship of a nation, hold substantial authority and capacity. Their actions and policies have the power to drive transformative changes or perpetuate stagnation. Understanding the nuanced role of governments is fundamental to deciphering the mechanisms by which they function. This article seeks to delve deeper into this subject matter, examining the inner workings of governments, their important role in managing the state, and their ability to shape and adapt policies that directly influence the future of a country.

The examination of governments and their influence on development encompasses a multifaceted study. It extends beyond mere observation of the organizational structures and frameworks governing their operations. It involves a comprehensive analysis of the intricate decisions they make and the policies they implement. This nuanced exploration of governance unravels the complex dynamics underlying these entities, revealing their potential to either influence progress or impede societal advancement. By delving deeper into the scholarly inquiry in governance, a profound comprehension emerges, shedding light on how these governing bodies can stimulate change. This understanding becomes instrumental in elucidating how governments, equipped with their authority and resources, can be harnessed to drive nations toward sustainable development and enduring prosperity. Furthermore, this exploration unveils the potential for governments to transcend mere bureaucratic roles. They become instrumental forces capable of orchestrating transformative change, fostering a future marked by sustainable progress and prosperity for their nations.


Understanding Governments as Institutions with Authority

This article embarks on an exploration by laying a foundational understanding of governments and their intrinsic role in governing societies. Governments, comprising a collective of individuals entrusted with the stewardship of a nation, hold sway over the direction and pace of societal progress (Rothstein & Teorell, 2008; Ali, 2015). Their influence spans an intricate web of domains encompassing the economic, political, legal, and social spheres, wielding considerable impact on the trajectory of societal development. As custodians of authority, governments bear a multifaceted array of responsibilities, chief among them being the formulation and implementation of policies that shape the socio-economic landscape (Rothstein & Teorell, 2008). Policies meticulously tailored to the circumstances of a nation serve as catalysts for development, acting as drivers for economic growth and enablers of social advancement. Furthermore, governments are responsible for resource allocation, a pivotal aspect in fostering and sustaining development (Rothstein & Teorell, 2008). An efficient allocation of resources into priority sectors, including but not limited to infrastructure, healthcare, and education, holds the potential to fortify public services and uplift societal well-being (Rothstein & Teorell, 2008). This effective management of resources creates an enabling environment conducive to progress and sustainable growth.

While this article delves deeper into the specifics of various governmental factors, it is essential to underscore their authority in policy creation across diverse fields. Their capacity to craft policies is not only tailored to foster social welfare but also to stimulate economic growth and drive sustainable development (Rothstein & Teorell, 2008; Ali, 2015). Additionally, their role in resource allocation remains instrumental in ensuring an equitable and effective path to societal progress. However, governments transcend national borders in their significance. They serve as the representatives of their nations on the global stage, engaging in diplomatic relations, forging trade agreements, and nurturing collaborations (Ali, 2015). Successful international engagements open gateways to opportunities. They also fortify market access and cultivate partnerships, contributing significantly to political stability and overall societal development (Ali, 2015). Consequently, the efficacy of a government in steering societal development and fostering a promising future stands as a cornerstone of progress (Abdellatif, 2003; Ali, 2015). A well-functioning government proficient in governance and policy implementation becomes a key driver of sustained societal advancement. This underscores the critical need for good governance to pave the way for a prosperous and inclusive future.


From Governance to Good Governance

The discussion about government extends well beyond its structural existence; it encompasses the intricate practice of governance, the art of guiding a nation through collective challenges (Ali, 2015). Governance is not solely about the mechanics of government but about its efficacy in addressing societal issues: “However, simply speaking, governance is the process of decision making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented)" (Ali, 2015, p. 66).  It recognizes the interplay between the government and society, understanding and responding to their shared struggles. This concept of governance has deep historical origins, originating as communities sought systems for decision-making to foster harmonious living (Ali, 2015). Throughout history, societies have undergone significant transformations to establish more efficient systems where governance becomes an indispensable element. However, there is a distinction between governance and its effectiveness. Effective governance relies on striking a delicate balance between governmental authority and societal needs (Ali, 2015; Rothstein & Teorell, 2009). It involves various elements such as the rule of law, public accountability, democracy, and considerations for human rights, among others (Ali, 2015; Rothstein & Teorell, 2009). In advocating for high-quality governance, Rothstein and Teorell (2009), political science researchers, delve into the essence of this concept and its attainment. Their research emphasizes the crucial role played by governmental institutions in shaping economic growth and social welfare trajectories (Rothstein & Teorell, 2009). This is especially significant in nations undergoing development and transition.

However, the act of governing surpasses mere authority; it necessitates deeper exploration and research into the paradigm of "good governance” (Ali, 2015; Rothstein & Teorell, 2009). The observations of Rothstein and Teorell (2009) highlight a surge in scholarly inquiry dedicated to comprehending and fostering good governance. Ali (2015) explains in his research on good governance that societies aim to ensure transparency through the exercise of power. Ali (2015) emphasizes the increasing pressure for democratic practices and the establishment of connections between the populace and its governing authority. In essence, effective governance thrives when the government aligns its actions with the aspirations of the people it serves, or as stated otherwise by scholar Ali (2015), it applies to the exercise of power in a variety of institutional contexts, the object of which is lo direct, control, and regulate activities in the interests of people as citizen, voters, and workers. Hence, it can be said that good governance is that which fosters human development through popular participation and social and economic equality. The ultimate objective of good governance has to be to create a civil society (p. 69).

Yet, amidst the emphasis on quality governance, Rothstein and Teorell (2009) bring attention to a critical dimension often sidelined in discussions. They underscore the lack of exploration of the impartiality of institutions wielding governmental authority (Rothstein & Teorell, 2009). This facet, revolving around the fairness and neutrality of these governing bodies, remains relatively uncharted territory within the discourse on quality governance. This aspect of governance—assessing the impartiality of institutions exercising governmental authority—holds profound implications. It prompts a critical need for scholarly endeavors to unravel its complexities, acknowledging its role in shaping governance quality and the overall societal fabric (Rothstein & Teorell, 2009). Further research and discourse in this area could potentially enrich our understanding of governance dynamics and fortify the foundations of effective and equitable governance practices.

Generally, the measure of fairness within institutions extends to their proactive capacity to take action and lay down the foundations for societal progress (Rothstein & Teorell, 2009). When a country encounters developmental challenges, the root cause often stems from inefficiencies within its governmental institutions. It becomes evident that necessary changes are imperative to enhance the quality of their services, fostering not just growth but also societal welfare (Rothstein & Teorell, 2009). Rothstein and Teorell (2009) highlight a significant notion, asserting that impediments to economic development are more often attributable not to a lack of entrepreneurship or resources in human or physical capital but rather to the poor quality of government institutions responsible for implementing laws and policies. Consequently, the responsibility falls on the government, as the overseeing authority of diverse institutions, to elevate the overall quality of each (Rothstein & Teorell, 2009). This improvement is crucial not only to achieve success but also to bring about substantive benefits for society at large. Empowering these institutions with improved efficiency and efficacy becomes instrumental in catalyzing societal advancement and ensuring a more prosperous future for the nation.


Factors that Ensure Good Governance

Despite certain flaws and weaknesses within scholarly research concerning good governance, consensus exists on several fundamental principles (Ali, 2015; Rothstein & Teorell, 2008). These principles primarily encompass seven elements: democratization, accountability, adherence to the rule of law, absence of corruption and transparency, consensus-oriented approaches, effectiveness and efficiency, and the assurance of equity and inclusiveness (Ali, 2015; Rothstein & Teorell, 2008).


Democracy not only stands as a fundamental principle but also as a prerequisite for good governance (Ali, 2015). Its impact extends beyond mere governance principles, significantly shaping societal dynamics. Within democratic systems, the ethos of democracy fosters and promotes human rights, encouraging active participation and ensuring a platform for societal engagement (Abdellatif, 2003; Ali, 2015). Moreover, it empowers individuals with economic and political freedoms, thereby nurturing a conducive environment for growth and progress. The relationship between a democratic government and its populace is crucial. Democracies prioritize the needs of society while entrusting the decision-making process to a governing body (Abdellatif, 2003). This setup encourages inclusive participation, ensuring that diverse voices are heard and valued. Notably, citizens wield the power to hold leaders accountable and remove those whose actions contradict the public interest, thereby fostering a system of checks and balances (Abdellatif, 2003; Ali, 2015).

Moreover, the democratic model serves as a facilitator of open, transparent, and inclusive discussions concerning developmental priorities, as articulated by Sharma (2007), professor of politics. This dialogue-driven approach proves instrumental in directing crucial resources toward addressing infrastructural needs and delivering services that cater to both the immediate necessities and the long-term aspirations of the populace. The research by Sharma (2007) focuses on exploring the interconnection between democracy, effective governance, and the trajectory of economic development. Within nations deficient in stable governance structures, the absence of democratic practices often becomes conspicuous, leading to stagnation and significant challenges to societal progress (Sharma, 2007). This accentuates the impact democracy wields on the developmental trajectory of a nation. Consequently, the influence of democratic principles on government actions becomes profound, especially in the formulation of policies and decision-making processes, as underscored by Abdellatif (2003), Ali (2015), and Sharma (2007). Governments face an imperative choice: align policies and decisions with democratic principles. These actions not only define ease but profoundly influence the effectiveness of developmental endeavors. The acknowledgment and integration of democratic practices into governance structures become pivotal drivers of sustainable and inclusive development, highlighting the role of democratic ethos in shaping development.


Governmental accountability stands as another principle for nurturing good governance and fostering sustained development. Ali (2015) delineates accountability as the obligation of the government to its citizens, serving as the conduit through which individuals exert influence on their governance. This concept entails the responsibility to be answerable for actions and decisions, especially in the public sphere. Leaders, given their substantial authority, assume accountability for actions that have adverse effects on society (Ali, 2015). Moreover, the doctoral research of Gyong (2014) underpins the intrinsic connection between accountability and good governance within a democratic framework. Gyong (2014) contends that accountability is intertwined with public trust; governments earning the trust of their populace can make more informed decisions, assured of navigating the right path. This trust also signifies an efficient system, as accountability relies on transparency and adherence to the rule of law (Gyong, 2014). It elucidates the obligation of governments to disclose information about their decisions and validate their actions. Additionally, there is a necessity for other governmental bodies to enforce accountability, oversee behavior, and implement sanctions for misconduct (Ali, 2015; Gyong, 2014). Therefore, accountability plays a vital role in ensuring good governance, enabling the evaluation of system effectiveness, public officials, and governmental entities. An effective accountability framework allows a country to operate at its maximum potential, fostering development.

The Rule of Law

Accountability within a system, as emphasized by Gyong (2014), hinges upon adherence to the rule of law, as noted by Ali (2015), who further expands upon the significance of the rule of law, elucidating its connection to the concept of justice. Justice, esteemed both in governance and society, ensures consequences for misconduct and establishes benchmarks for communal coexistence (Ali, 2015). This underscores the indispensable need for an equitable legal system integral to fostering good governance, particularly one that safeguards the rights of marginalized groups and minorities (Ali, 2015). The requisites for the rule of law extend beyond mere legality; they require an autonomous and unbiased system capable of adjudicating cases impartially and on a case-by-case basis, as advocated by Rothstein and Teorell (2008). Their emphasis on impartiality underscores its role in upholding fairness, devoid of biases or preferential treatments. Ensuring that government officials adhere to established laws becomes imperative to prevent biases, thereby facilitating the functioning of diverse infrastructures and promoting adherence to set standards (Rothstein & Teorell, 2008). Embedded in justice and bolstered by a legal framework, this system ensures the functionality of infrastructures. Simultaneously, it profoundly shapes the formulation of effective policies within an established governance framework (Rothstein & Teorell, 2008). Such a system serves as a catalyst for societal development, fostering an environment where governance aligns with fairness and justice, ultimately contributing to sustainable progress and societal welfare.

Absence of Corruption and Transparency

A well-functioning system that upholds the rule of law and enforces accountability among both individuals and governments is important for societal progress. This system must also ensure the absence of corruption to ascertain the adherence of a government to the right course (Ali, 2015). Hence, governmental transparency becomes imperative, enabling citizens to gain insights into the decision-making processes of their government. Ali (2015) states:

The government must have complete transparency with all its decision makings; as well as with its implementations of laws and policies that should be aligned to the rules and regulations of good governance. Additionally, all information must be easily accessible and understandable by the media as well as by the ordinary citizens. By doing this, disseminating important information about the activities and real status of the government would be easily monitored and understood by the entire citizenry (p. 72).

Consequently, governmental transparency regarding decision-making processes and the implementation of policies and laws is advocated (Johnston, 2006). Simultaneously, a system of stringent accountability, as emphasized by Ali (2015), is imperative to monitor performance and penalize misconduct. Amidst escalating corruption, individuals in public service face heightened pressure and increased standards in fulfilling their responsibilities. As such, transparency requires openness from governmental authorities, active participation, scrutiny from the populace, and a commitment to honesty from all facets of society (Johnston, 2006).

Consensus-Oriented Approaches

Democratic governance relies on active involvement and participation from the population in decision-making processes, emphasizing the necessity of reaching a consensus. Ali (2015) underscores the necessity for consensus-oriented approaches within good governance, particularly to navigate between diverse stakeholder interests. However, the complexity arises when a select group, vested with decision-making authority, faces the task of identifying the most beneficial option among competing interests for the greater welfare of the populace (Ali, 2015). Research by Hillenbrand (2004) delves into the significance of consensus-building within democratic transitions, emphasizing the responsibility of public bodies in shaping in making the best choices. To attain development and garner acceptance for specific decisions, public officers must identify the most optimal solutions for individual cases (Hillenbrand, 2004). While achieving a middle-ground solution might prove challenging, the most effective approach involves prioritizing the most crucial needs and fostering consensus from that point.

Within the dynamic landscape of diverse stakeholder interests, the ultimate decision-making authority rests with the government (Ali, 2015). Therefore, consensus-building emerges as a crucial aspect of democratic governance, not only promoting transformation but also enhancing further societal development, aligning with the assertions from Hillenbrand (2004). This consensus-driven approach in decision-making embodies the essence of democratic principles, ensuring that the voices and interests of the populace are considered in shaping the future of a nation.

Effectiveness and Efficiency

Ali (2015) stresses that within the framework of good governance, efficiency and effectiveness stand as key factors, shaping the core components of successful governance structures. The essence of good governance lies in the capacity of processes and institutions to deliver outcomes that cater to the evolving needs of society while using limited resources. The challenge often arises from the scarcity of resources, compelling governments to prioritize specific areas for development while ensuring optimal resource allocation (Ali, 2015). Public entities, when navigating these constraints, find themselves compelled to adopt a forward-thinking approach. They discern decisions that not only spur economic growth but also foster long-term societal advancement. This emphasis on long-term vision becomes essential for sustained progress and development (Ali, 2015).

The insights of Kefela (2011) offer a concrete illustration of how good governance amplifies efficiency and effectiveness, notably in the context of Sub-Saharan countries. The imperative for developing nations lies in establishing accountable and efficient systems capable of mobilizing public resources and effectively managing fiscal policies (Kefela, 2011). Such well-structured systems, equipped with effective decision-making mechanisms and judicious resource allocation strategies, form the bedrock for sustainable growth and development, especially in resource-constrained settings (Kefela, 2011). Within the sphere of good governance, enhancing the management of public bodies and their operational processes remains a priority. This ensures sustained efficiency and effectiveness in resource allocation, decision-making, and overall governance (Kefela, 2011). It not only contributes to progress but also establishes frameworks that propel long-term societal development.

Equity and Inclusiveness

The ultimate aim of good governance, as asserted by Ali (2015), revolves around fostering development and enhancing societal welfare. Central to this objective is the assurance of equitable and inclusive rights for every individual, necessitating decisions that consider the diverse populace, including the needs of minorities. The research of Ott (2011) further underscores the link between government efficacy and happiness, highlighting how good governance correlates with elevated levels of happiness among people. In systems characterized by good governance, individuals experience higher happiness levels due to efficient functioning and the protection of their rights (Ott, 2011). Therefore, a high-quality government primarily focuses on enhancing the welfare of the nation, aiming to bolster overall happiness and equity.

Moreover, the study by Mothusi (2016) particularly focused on Africa, delves into how good governance drives transformation. Mothusi (2016) highlights the role of inclusivity and integration in administrative transformation, asserting that good governance plays a critical role in guiding governments towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. By providing a direction for governments, good governance empowers them to devise processes to accomplish these goals (Mothusi, 2016). Supporting good governance, as indicated by Ali (2015), Mothusi (2016), and Ott (2011), not only elevates happiness within a country but also ensures equity, safeguards minority rights, enhances welfare, and catalyzes societal transformation through inclusivity. These collective factors ultimately converge toward the overarching goal of development, underscoring the multifaceted impacts and linkages within good governance.


Good Governance and Its Impact on Development

The role of governments as the authority responsible for the governance of a nation cannot be overstated. Governance, as elucidated in the work of Rothstein and Teorell (2008), is a mechanism for addressing societal problems, emphasizing the distinction between mere governance and the imperative need for good governance. Within the paradigm of good governance, governments assume authority, orchestrating decision-making processes and formulating laws and policies (Rothstein & Teorell, 2008). However, for the existence of good governance and its subsequent facilitation of development, certain key factors must be in place. Abdellatif (2003) and Ali (2015) underscore the role of democracy as a prerequisite for good governance, ensuring societal participation in political decisions through a proactive government. Moreover, the ability of citizens to hold public officers accountable, within legal constraints, as highlighted by Ali (2015) and Gyong (2014), is another important factor. This underscores the role of the rule of law, as emphasized by Ali (2015), Gyong (2014), and Rothstein and Teorell (2008), encapsulating the legal framework to which every individual in a nation is subject.

Transparency within public institutions, as advocated by Ali (2015) and Johnston (2006), becomes instrumental, shedding light on their actions and management to deter corruption. Additionally, consensus-oriented approaches prioritize building support for government decisions. These approaches often balance diverse stakeholder interests while considering available resources, as supported by Ali (2015) and Hillenbrand (2004). Efficient and sustainable decision-making processes, echoed by Kefela (2011) must focus on making the best decisions suitable for the prevailing circumstances, ultimately contributing to the overarching goal of safeguarding rights, improving welfare, and fostering an inclusive and equitable society (Mothusi, 2016; Ott, 2011). This collective effort by governments aims at societal betterment and development, emphasizing the multifaceted aspects of good governance.

Bibliographical References

Abdellatif, A. (2003, May). Good governance and its relationship to democracy and economic development. In Global Forum III on Fighting Corruption and Safeguarding Integrity, Seoul (Vol. 20, No. May, p. 31).

Ali, M. (2015). Governance and Good Governance: A Conceptual Perspective. Dialogue (Pakistan), 10(1).

Gyong, J. (2014). Good governance and accountability in a democracy. European Scientific Journal, 7(26), 71-89.

Hillenbrand, O. (2004). Consensus-Building and Good Governance—A Framework for Democratic Transition. Centre for Applied Policy Research.

Johnston, M. (2006). Good governance: Rule of law, transparency, and accountability. New York: United Nations Public Administration Network, 1-32.

Kefela, G. (2011). Good governance enhance the efficiency and effectiveness public spending-Sub Saharan countries. African journal of business management, 5(11), 3995.

Mothusi, B. (2016). Integration and Inclusivity: Fundamentals for Transformation of Governance and Public Administration in Africa. African Journal of Public Administration and Management, 14.

Sharma, S. (2007). Democracy, good governance, and economic development. Taiwan journal of democracy, 3(1), 29-62.

Ott, J. C. (2011). Government and happiness in 130 nations: Good governance fosters higher level and more equality of happiness. Social indicators research, 102, 3-22.

Teorell, J., & Rothstein, B. (2008). What is Quality of Government: A Theory of Impartial Institutions. GOVERNANCE: An International Journal of Policy, Administration and Institutions, 21(2), 165-190.

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