On 7/30/2010 9:45 AM, Christian Volney wrote:
For the past several decades the conventional and, until recently, the predominant perspective on development in the international donor community has been that countries are poor because they lack resources,infrastructure, education, and opportunity. By this logic, if rich countries and international institutions could only transfer enough resources and technology, improve human capacity enough, and support health and education enough, development would occur. To be sure, greater public resources, better physical infrastructure, and stronger public health and education are essential for development. But they are not enough, and they are not the most crucial factor. No amount of resources transferred or infrastructure built can compensate for or survive bad governance. Predatory, corrupt, wasteful, abusive, tyrannical, incompetent governance is the bane of development. Where governance is endemically bad, rulers do not use public resources effectively to generate public goods and thus improve the productivity and well-being of their society. Instead, they appropriate these goods for themselves, their families, their parties, and their cronies. Unless we improve governance, we cannot foster development.
Democracy as reflected in free, fair, and competitive elections is not strictly necessary for good governance. And it is quite possible to have bad governance under the formal structures of democracy. But when competitive elections are truly free and fair, they do provide an instrument for removing bad, corrupt, or merely ineffectual leaders. They thus provide an incentive for political leaders to govern more effectively in the public interest. Many in and out of Dominica have been strongly advocating such is the case with the current administration, yet they have been elected by the electorate with an overwhelming mandate in overseeing Dominica’s future for the next 4 years.
Are we (as a developing nation) as a civic crossroads, politically?
The importance of civic responsibility is paramount to the success of democracy and philanthropy. By engaging in civic responsibility, citizens ensure and uphold certain democratic values written in Constitution. Those values or duties include justice, freedom, equality, diversity, authority, privacy, due process, property, participation, truth, patriotism, human rights, rule of law, tolerance, mutual assistance, self restraint and self respect. Schools teach civic responsibility to students with the goal to produce responsible citizens and active participants in community and government.
Has this generation of voters lost sight of this importance and the responsibility that comes with it? If we are to believe all that is written of late regarding the Skeritt lead administration, one could easily surmise we are not a civil minded society.
Democracy gives citizens nonelectoral means associations, movements, the media to monitor the conduct of public officials and participate in policymaking. And leaders in a democracy have more incentives (and more institutional means and obligations) to explain and justify their decisions and to consult a broad range of constituencies before making decisions. Such participation and debate give the public a stronger sense of policy ownership. As a result policies are more sustainable, and government is more legitimate. Yet, with this being said, the claims by forums (such as the citizens forum) paint a bleak and devastating picture of an undemocratic state in the making.
Under most circumstances any normal logical civil minded ‘thinking’ citizen (like myself) would be inclined to be wary and concerned that our government is leading us down a path of destruction and towards a totalitarian state.
These are some of the reasons that promoting democracy and good governance is so profoundly in the national interest of the United States and any other democratic state, Dominica included. Democracy and good governance are mutually reinforcing: when they develop together, resources are used to advance the public good. Public institutions perform their designated roles. Social consensus supports and stabilizes the system of government. Disputes are settled peacefully. And investment flows in, attracted by the low transaction costs associated with government transparency and legitimacy and the rule of law. In these circumstances economies grow, human welfare improves, trade expands, political stability and capacity deepen, and countries become more responsible and resourceful members of the international community.
There can also be great benefits for the environment. Where the institutions of governance are strong, access to land, water, and forests is controlled, and private property rights are enforced. The management of natural assets also is much more effective.
By contrast, when governance is bad and undemocratic or only superficially democratic development pathologies inevitably have regional and global consequences. Poverty becomes entrenched through corruption and distorted, wasteful investment. Chronic fiscal deficits drain and then drive away international resources. The absence of the rule of law permits and poverty can drive wanton destruction of the environment. In the absence of state capacity and will to address public health problems, infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and new viruses proliferate, mutate, and spread across borders. The blatant venality and injustice of repressive regimes foster antimodernist and religious fundamentalist movements of rage against the West, especially the United States. In the fertile soil of a weak state and feckless legal system, organized crime networks take root, threatening the rule of law internationally through fraud, piracy, kidnapping, terrorism, counterfeiting, money laundering, and trafficking in arms, drugs, and people.
I agree these arguments are ‘stressed’ within the realms of extremities, yet the counter-argument that these indicators are beginning to surface in our beloved should not be overlooked and must be addressed is ‘indeed’ cause for concern.
The more inept, lawless, corrupt, and predatory governance is (or is perceived to be), the more likely it is to descend into the violent conflict and state failure that intensify all these factors and produce humanitarian crises and destruction of civil conscious communities. The potential for such crises destabilize regions and cry out for risky and costly international intervention. It is much safer and cheaper to build a well-governed, democratic state than to rescue a failed one. Indeed, the only way to prevent or reverse the threats that flow from bad governance is to foster stable, effective democratic governance. Promoting democratic governance is therefore vital to security and economic sustainability in Dominica and must be a central objective of any development assistance program.
Advancing democratic governance is a huge challenge. Superficially, the global state of democracy appears encouraging. Over the past quarter century democracy has steadily expanded around the world and is now the predominant form of government. But swirling beneath this expansion has been a dangerous countertrend a growing disenchantment among citizens and Diaspora that increasingly view their political leaders as corrupt, self-serving, and unable to address their countries’ serious economic and social problems. Seems to me that developing countries (such as Dominica), the people are losing confidence not just in elected officials but in their democratic institutions.
The rising cynicism of disaffected populations (as is being witnessed in Dominica) has justification worthy of caution and mention. In many new democracies governance is simply inadequate to meet the challenges of economic and political development. And in the typical authoritarian regime (as other have claimed Dominica may be embarking upon) governance is even more corrupt, arbitrary, and exploitative. Unless governance becomes more open, lawful, accountable, and responsive and where formally democratic, more deeply so it will not deliver sustained development. Transforming governance will require more investment in democracy and governance assistance. It will also require a new, more comprehensive strategy to generate the most crucial ingredient and the one most often missing: the political will of leaders to risk difficult reforms.
It is our civic duty as citizens, and as a concerned Diaspora, to ensure diligence in good governance is at the forefront of our agendas. It is also of an equal importance that this diligence is monitored and reported as an unbiased and non-political agenda if authenticity is to prevail.