Friday, 1 December, 2023

Enhancing Efficacy Of Governance

Enhancing Efficacy Of Governance

Dev Raj Dahal

The art of governance pertains to how well public goods are managed in the society for the optimal satisfaction of people and a semblance of public order is created for their peaceful pursuit of life. Governance efficacy in Nepal rests on the ability of multi-level governance actors to attain the Directive Principles and Policies of the State underlined in the Nepali constitution and international obligations and match the aspirations of people for the improvement of their lot with its capabilities. The concern for good polity entails certain closure of its strategic space from geopolitical actors’ unfair manoeuvres in national power vacuum and pulling Nepali leaders into post-national directions while opening access of people to the institutional resources of the governing actors to perform balancing acts and enhance their authority, legitimacy and efficacy.

The science of governance implies reasonable management of political power of the nation built on the trust, consent and will of Nepalis so that social discipline and distributive justice nestle to optimistic tenor. Modern politics in Nepal requires not shunning historically dogged free national spirit but fostering the rationality of politics to serve public good and the governance to cultivate national interests without being parochial to technological imperatives and cosmopolitan responsibilities that are the drivers of social transformation.

Force of will
Yet the wheels of political power in the nation are less catalysed to kindle the policy intellectuals and embed in local knowledge with empirical roots and the mosaic of society and enable them to reflect their intellect to the multidimensionality of drudgery of people and supply creative inputs to governance to reengineer and transform the moribund economy into a productive one capable of balancing demands and supply. Nepali people are the producer of political power. But they lack pertinent knowledge, unity and institutional strength to check, discipline, decentralise and devolve it and generate force of will to use governance for their general interests. The costs of governance are becoming inordinate to them.

Without adequate spur of macroeconomic performance to uplift the bottom one-third of the population, raise the scale of production and narrow the gap between input and output of the polity, a network of patronage and political spoils will go on to stifle the efficacy of governance. This is the reason national public policies in Nepal are devoid of contextually embedded feelings of knowledge, needs of people and rights entrenched in the constitution or even statutes of political parties thus marking governance deficits in fulfilling political and constitutional promises. Nepali culture does not encourage political leaders to become individualised and operate outside the circle of constitution and party’s life, frequently amend statutes or even bypass them as per their passion, ambition and expediency, not national necessity.

Once the constitution and party statute come into being and rules concerning ideology, structures and programmes are laid out, any transgression of these elements can mire the nation into fractious political culture, not their maturation in governing at pan-state level. In such a context, coordination of governance roles can make it efficacious and adapt it to multispeed world. Noted economist Michael Spence rightly says, “The main job of government is to facilitate structural change by investing in human capital, protecting people in the transitions through income support and access to basic services and then to let the market forces and investment incentives work.”

The efficacy of governance requires rallying a broad-based political consensus on the Constitution of Nepal, especially its vision, principles and various articles that provide a political map for the rule-based order. It establishes the legitimacy of the action of constitutional bodies and civic institutions and averts political polarisation along ideological, institutional, interest, identity and personal lines of leadership. The spirit of constitutionalism is exactly couched in the coordination, communication and steering of governing actors -- traditional, modern and even post-modern ones though the last one relishes the spell of division, and citizens along coherent direction. In Nepal, the constitution is the only political mechanism of mediating social contract of actors of various scales — people and the state, labour and capital, male and female and national society and international regimes.

The enforcement of the social contract for mutual obligation either through education, upholding the national integrity system or legal enforcement can bind all into a common national destiny and destination. In Nepal, however, disproportional rights of citizens as compared to their duties have only burdened the state beyond its institutional, financial and political capacity to meet. The multiple layers of sprawling political parties in Nepal with their hierarchy of grievances propel national governance to an unsteady course. They socialise Nepalis not on the constitutional values of democracy but indoctrinate party programmes and the strategy of differentiation so that pre-modern politics of divide and rule holds sway over the modern politics of cooperative action, compromise of interests and optimisation of universal ideologies and a myriad of subsidiary identities struggling for recognition.

Democracy transforms multiple identities of Nepalis into a national identity and prepares them for nation-building. This process, however, is slumped in Nepal and the current political dynamics does not signify any possibility for robust governance in the nation. The efficacy of governance in Nepal supposes a link of politics to public policy and ability to address local, national and transnational issues, rules, institutions and processes. It enables governance actors to execute the constitutional vision of a redistributive social welfare state, a state that can fulfil the aspiration of Nepalis for self-governance, guide all actors along lawful course and take the nation to a sustainable pathway of progress.

Nepal has to capture the sovereignty of the policy domain. It is another area to enforce the accountability and transparency of governance to the public, push for post-conflict, earthquake-sensitive rebuilding programmes and pandemic and bring the life in the margin to inclusion, participation and positive activism. Public policies determined by Nepali parliament can have the ownership of people, their stake and the prospect of participation in their entire cycle. Politics stands to lose if they are only borrowed and adapted to national and local context regardless of national reality, local knowledge, engagement and utility to improve the standards of the people.

The welfare state breaks down if redistribution is flawed and the state, economy and people want coherence in the moral high ground in national affairs. The non-economic factors - deterioration of political stability, persistence of obstreperous actors and jarring forces, catch-all bent of political parties, survival-oriented leaders, partisan governing structures, feeble local institutions and fluid political attachment of Nepali voters - are drags on the efficacy of post-conventional governance. They have drained trust and choked the feedback. It is hard to escape unless a diverse set of governing actions are taken to restore inter-subjective balance and reciprocity.

The efficacy of governance in Nepal cannot be fostered without modernisation of the infrastructure of democracy, such as local government, political parties, NGOs, CBOs, public interest groups and the democratisation of the internal life of the agencies of political socialisation — family, society, political parties, civil society, public institutions and cultural industries. It is essential to create a common background for a stable socialisation and coordination of governance. The increasing democratisation of agencies of socialisation consolidates democracy, develops people and leaders’ compliance to the rule of law, deradicalise the behaviour of leaders and cadres of political parties and seek a velvet divorce of rancour and clichés from politics. The legitimacy of violence in politics sustained by a culture of impunity, lingering transitional justice and partisanisation of public institutions in Nepal are the critical barriers to achieve the efficacy of governance.

The efficacy of governance supposes a sound mechanism of mutual accountability of internal and external stakeholders so that financial resources can be properly concerted into the national priority sectors of provision, production and distribution of public goods and services at a minimum cost Nepalis can easily afford. Environmental issues, technology, market integrity and social solidarity have set the linkages of micro and macro factors where the governing actors have to take into account soft sides of civil society and hard sides of economic and strategic actors to enable their efficacy in governance that is both just and legitimate.

Similarly, broadening civic awareness of the citizens about the changing nature of the global, regional, national and local environment, the interest positioning of various actors and shift from hostile positions to enlightened interests for shared gains for democracy, peace, justice and progress is crucial. A nation lifts itself with the graciousness of its leaders and declines with the rotting of the efficacy of its governance. The constitution underlines several provisions: popular sovereignty, which means political power, should spring from the autonomy of people. The base provides the foundation of democracy and sustainable development. This means choices for Nepalis at the local self-governance offers scope for social transformation. It also includes an opportunity for proportional social inclusion of various classes of people so as to broaden the base of political and demographic power.

Social inclusion
The policy of social inclusiveness improves the legitimacy and quality of governance and captures the synergy of politics, leadership, business and civil society through the learning of each other’s shared values and goals underlined in the Constitutions. The right to information included in it denotes that conditions of liberty must be established with the transparency of decision-making so that costs of coordination, connection and transactions for governance can be reduced and people know all the issues and the processes of settling problems. Likewise, the provisions of social rights including right to work is premised on the fact that Nepal’s economic and social policies should be geared to justice where no one is left behind, not even the powerless from social security, social protection and labor market opportunities.

The accountability of governing institutions presumes to create democratic order governed by rule of law entailing legitimate means of keeping, acquiring, using and transferring political power through elections. Local legislative, executive and adjudicating powers and public-private-cooperatives’ partnership set the scope for participative mode of development synergy in Nepal. The duties of local governance actors are huge in reforming the scope of democracy and development and setting demands and supply of public goods in balance. Yet, their experience, capacity, resources and leadership demand additional personnel so that they can achieve constitutional goals. Efficacy of governance demands ownership of people in process, outcome and indigenous capacity for adaptation to innovation, technology, institutions and leadership robust enough to perform all governance tasks at multi-scale.

(Former Reader at the Department of Political Science, TU, Dahal writes on political and social issues.)