Good Governance and Good Government


The topic of this essay concerns about good governance namely what is it, what is its possible application in the formal and informal sectors added to its context, do the different ideological systems concord with it and lastly does it produce any, whatsoever, improvement or development in any sense and sector? And to answer to all that issues I will firstly define it, secondly discuss all its characteristics and indicators from the various organizations directly and/or indirectly involved with it and thirdly compare and contrast by analysing any situations within the main political orientations in which it is present or absolutely absent and the consequent effects.

And finally I will try my conclusions to whatever it could produce with plausible recommendations.

Well, the meaning of “governance” in the normal daily use and the first one that comes straightforward to the mind is: the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented). The concept anyway of “governance” is as old as human civilization and that is since human being felt the need to organise themselves by gathering in groups and electing among them those who will decide for the communities way of life, the eventual relation between the members and theirs with any other possible group around.

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However it is very recent when developmental professionals and different actors (international organizations, local, national and regional governments) noticed the relevance of governance on the causes that produce bad or good outcomes regardless the expected results and the intentions behind.

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The increased use of the term “governance” good or bad, in the development literature is real and evident, but because bad governance is being absolutely regarded as one of the main causes of all evil deeds in all over the world, most of the International developmental institutions and financial donors have changed approaches by pretending from aid eligible poor countries to ensure good governance in order to have access to aids or loans. Not to ignore the fact that it is anyway the civil society, tacitly to ask, first of all, their relative governments for good governance if it ensures for a decent and better standard of life. The aforementioned definition implicates the automatic existence of decision makers whom are usually called actors by scholars and professionals. On the bases of this definition it can be used in several contexts such as corporate governance, international governance, national governance and local governance.

This report answers the question: Why does ‘good’ government and ‘good’ governance matter? Specific questions that guide this evaluation are:

  • What are the attributes of good governance?
  • Define what “good” is in the context of governance
  • What is the current style of the New Zealand government?

We should take into account the context in which the term is being used. In simple terms good governance is something that adds to the improvement of society, traditionally in the context of development of and/or developing countries.

The style of government in New Zealand has traditionally been a democratically elected House of Representatives which is held every three years. New Zealand has a Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) voting system. Our government framework is set up with three distinct groups: Legislature, Executive and Judiciary. This separation of powers ensures there is no abusive of powers and independent review of each group.


Governing describes activities such as political, social or administration that are used to influence or control an outcome. The world bank implemented the good governance concept in 1989. The framework included: Voice and Accountability,

Political Stability and Absence of Violence/Terrorism, Government Effectiveness, Regulatory Quality, Rule of Law, and Control of Corruption (Kaufmann, Kraay et al. 2011). However other organisations such as a non-profit might consider the “social” aspects as the “good” in the term good governance to promote well-being and economic development (Van Doeveren 2011).

The World Bank has a goal to end poverty and promote prosperity. Justice and the rule of law are key to achieving these goals (Santiso 2001). In addition to the United Nations (UN) sustainable goals the UN has three pillars: peace and security, human rights, and development. All three pillars are under pinned by the rule of law to be successful. This leads us to an assumption that each framework needs an institution to steer and have oversight. They need to sustain the desired behaviour by setting and enforcing a set of governing rules.

Various authors discuss, measure and hypothesis governance modes of countries. Some suggest alternative modes to hierarchical and market mechanisms through their literature research. (Héritier and Lehmkuhl 2011) define new modes of governance in Europe as “modes of public policy-making” which is made up of both private and public policy-making players that take place outside government institutions, in a defined sector or functional area. An example of a new mode would be to delegate regulatory tasks to an independent authority.

As an example of governance modes within New Zealand we look at the public health system. In the 1980-1990 period hierarchies and markets were the main governance mode (Barnett, Tenbensel et al. 2009). In 2000 community networks with a hierarchical framework emerged. This can be seen in the move towards community/citizen input and/or representation in decision-making at District Health Board (DHB) for community funded services (mental health, aged care etc.). The model was hierarchical and the relationship between various levels questionable. The Ministers appointed DHB Chairpersons and their loyalty meant their views frequently aligned with the Minister providing a strong centralized decision-making body.

There are 21 DHBs, and now the Board members are voted in from the health sector and the Chairperson is appointed by the Ministry of Health. The DHB appoints the Chief Executive. This structure encourages more decentralized and autonomous decision making (separation of power) and accountability. The provision of hospital services in the DHBs remains part of the hierarchal mode through a letter of expectation (and funding) from the Minister and Ministry of Health.

One of the major causes of under development is represented by the heavy debts that plague these countries as a result of continuous increasing interest loans hardly repayable. Stabilisation, deregulation, devaluation, distortion of prices and many other interventions render developing countries life very miserable. The killing factor anyhow is represented by the Bretton Woods Institution’s Structural Adjustment Programmes (SPA) with the intention to help heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) repay or clear their debts in order to be eligible to new loans . But, these criticised institutions and related organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), dedicated from long time their efforts to help poorer countries to overcome corruption, but unfortunately and sorely without positive tangible results, and this is because of their mismatching “rigid” policies and certain conditionals imposed on borrower such as Structural Adjustment Programme, that did not succeed to alleviate but, at the contrary, worsen the already existing conditions of poverty.

The worse part is that IMF conditionals diminish the state’s authority to govern its own economy as national economic issue and not differently. But with the stabilisation programmes, deregulation, price distortion and privatisation of nationalised industries predetermined by the structural adjustment packages does not help the borrower to implement good governance. Equally the WB’s acting in partnership with the private sectors of a given country results in substituting the state which represents the primary provider of essential good and services. Imposing the reduction of government’s expenditure on food subsidies, education and healthcare or changing its import and export policies does not at all help developing countries to achieve good governance. This replacement usually ends in a shortfall of those services when most likely the condemned country is more in need. But now the Bretton Woods institutions realized that they need to review their policies in order to enable good governance to be achieved and the veracity of this is reported in the 1994 Naples summit communiqué of the G-7’s countries.

This communication clearly explicitly urged the need of reforms and reviews because of the Bretton Woods failure to achieve its primary mission of poverty alleviation. Reforming and reviewing the International Financial Institutions means they themselves need to practice and apply good governance and not pretending only from their borrowing members. If they succeed to change their policies in better then perhaps there will be a hope of improvement for the developing countries. All the above exposition concerns the theoretical side of good governance and it is very ideal and difficult to be realised in practice up to be considered a utopia. Nevertheless, the real fact is that good governance is absent from the international scenario and only few countries could be said to be close to implement it fully. Besides, the hilarious aspect of this assertion is that they are of different political orientation. This means that good governance does not require a certain political view than other.

Examples of these politically differently oriented states are: OECD, Japan, China and the Arabian Gulf countries. Good Governance and the main political systems and governing ideologies As stated before Good governance is not necessarily related to any of the political systems existing nowadays and this because countries with totally different political orientations seem to succeed implementing it. Moreover these systems might be used as temporary solutions in certain difficult political moments regardless their main “normal” one. In the purpose to understand which of these systems could conciliate with what could be seen as good governance paradigm it is worth to remember them with some useful comments. There are two main different groups on which these systems are based namely collectivism and individualism.

The first one considers human being the pillar around which to build a society with the result that the types of the societies are different as it is different the means to design it. What they have in common is the notion that one (king or dictator) or many men (majority) should rule the others. At the contrary the individualist are more philosophical concepts in respect to the other group. Under the umbrella of collectivism there are autocracy/ dictatorship/ despotism, communism, conservatism, democracy, fascism, imperialism, monarchy, pluralism, plutocracy, socialism and theocracy, and the individualist are: anarchism /nihilism, liberalism (classical), libertarianism, objectivism, capitalism, and the republic.

Each of them has its characteristics and less or more they could be simply interrelated and or contradictory. -Autocracy, dictatorship and despotism, for instance, are very similar in term of definition and that is an uncontrolled supreme right of governing in a single person with the difference that autocracy is supposedly benevolent. But there is a paradox in the sense that anyway an autocrat needs a huge amount of force to subordinate perhaps an unwilling people and from autocracy we pass to dictatorship.


Even though the use of the term good governance is widely used there are various definitions about the meaning of the term, the cause, and the effects of good governance Andrews (2010).

To define what is ‘good’ we would have to consider the value or advantage to someone or something. In the context of an individual we would consider attributes such as morals, virtues, righteous, and ethics. If applied to the word governance is it simply to have a set of qualities/standards to be desired or approved? Much like the UN sustainable development goals.

In the section above we put forward that governance is the process by which authority is used in the management of economic and social resources for development but, how do we ensure it to good? (Santiso 2001) proposes that this term introduces the process of decision-making through public policy preparation. This same author states that democracy or good governance is not sustainable without the other. The author concluded that in developing countries there is a need to address issues relating to power, politics and democracy to ensure it is good governance/government.

(Van Doeveren 2011) states that good governance focus on five main principles: accountability, efficiency and effectiveness, openness and transparency, participation, and rule of law. In the New Zealand what makes our governance process good is the presence of a functioning government that uses similar attributes.

Accountability – Increased transparency in the workings of government and agencies to the citizens of New Zealand. There are also independent bodies that are tasked with reviewing the actions/complaints of the public sector. The government has three groups; Members of Parliament and the Governor-General make up the first group Legislature. Their role is to make the rules of law, and to investigate the Executive. The Executive is Ministers and their portfolio agencies. Lastly the Judiciary (Judges) who interpret and apply the law.

Efficiency and effectiveness – Over the past decade we have seen the move towards online and connected services in the public sector. Old style administration processes have been streamlined and “more for less” is no longer a goal but a reality in the budgetary constraints facing New Zealand.

Participation – In the early 2000s the phrase “Open government” was used to enhance accountability through transparency. It appeared to be a one-way openness. Citizens want to participate in the decision-making and policy process not see information after the decision is made. Participation is now more evident in both local government (local elections, budget bid and activity funding) and some of the community lead services in the public sector.

Rule of law – We have separation and balance of power that provides impartial administration of justice. This reduces the opportunities for corruption.

I would argue that the examples above are not a decentralised government system but a new mode of governance with both private and public players working within the central government framework.


One author describes “good government” as an aspiration for people who are task with the advancement and effective operation of public institutions. This same author concluded that moving forward the term should be replaced with “good governance.” Supporting this statement by describing “good governance” as something that contributes to the good of society (Perry, de Graaf et al. 2014).

Although the term “government” might imply as those who govern and/or the institutions there is an emerging trend. Instead of steering our citizens through good governance principles and frameworks, governments are now seen to be serving (Denhardt and Denhardt 2000). The role of the public servant is to meet their citizens shared interests instead of controlling or steer society. For example, using a marketplace model, the relationship between government and its citizens moves towards a transactional customer-based model. The transaction could occur between a government provided services and privatised functions. The focus is on delivering a service in new and innovative ways instead of a bureaucratic system that makes decisions based on citizen perception/assumptions. New Zealand public sector has started to shift from a closed system to one the encourages participation and transparency with its citizens. We could conclude that our public sector chief executives run their agencies more like a business instead of just being technical experts in their fields. However, interested stakeholders would expect streamlined processes to deliver more for less and still meet their expectations. How in a democratic society would we balance the individual need with the need of the many?

Neither of the authors above discuss the impact on budgetary constraints with these proposed models. The use of technology is not mentioned on how or if it would enable or support more efficiency or effective services to citizens.

(O’Neill 2009) argues that we are ‘doing things differently’ instead of ‘doing different things’ through the use of technologies (e-govt initiatives). The author supports this theory that the demand for capability has meant digital channels for current processes and systems mean agencies can do the same without a significant financial impact or changing their processes. This theory would provide an illusion to our citizens that government is providing a service delivery and governance model however the constitutional structure of government remains the same.

A civil society is a non-governmental organisation or an institution outside the family, state and market where people with common interests meet and work together for that interest. Civil societies have become the first medium of social service and support in places where other assistance and help is scarce. Civil societies may include NGOs, social movements or community groups, trade unions, faith groups and many more. As civil societies grow, they become powerful and influential social groups with important responsibilities, and thus become an integral part of the country’s governmental system. These civil societies work to aid the government in small and major issues, thereby ensuring the proper working of the government by relieving them of pressure.

The role of civil societies is not only social i.e. to bring together people of common interests together but on a larger scale they must work towards good governance (What is acivil society, 2001). Good governance is a concept where institutions, private or public, work in a responsible and a transparent environment providing an abuse free and corruption less system which is responsive to the public demands and beliefs. This phenomenon of good governance when applied in a positive and an efficient manner would result in human development and also in large scale benefit the world (Sheng, UNESCAP, 2012).

The rise in the power of civil societies has resulted in the downfall of communist states as well as monarchy and there has been a growth of democracy. Having understood the terms “Civil Society” and “Good Governance” individually; a relationship can be derived between them, highlighting the role of civil society in good governance. It has been debated a lot that a civil society can flourish only under a democracy, as democracy provides the societies with much more freedom and independence to work. As JA Scholte (2002:281) pointed out, a democracy does not flow automatically but has to be nurtured. An active and diverse civil society plays an importabnt role to assist good governance or democracy.

There have been various debates about the boons civil societies have brought for democracy and how it has been a bane. Analysing the positive effects of civil society in a democracy is very essential and may help to understand the importance of these societies for good governance. A strong civil society may help in identifying potential political weaknesses. There are some nations in the world that are extremely powerful and successful like United States of America, United Kingdom etc. and owe a lot of its development to their strong civil societies while nations with under developed civil societies do suffer in a long run. For example, Spain, who are currently in a state of economical breakdown, still believe in the traditional methods of governance like blind faith in the government.

The civil societies can act as mediators between the government and the people and can assist in making decisions. The certain connection provided by the government and the public increases the transparency in the working of the government which leads to the people having a belief in the government and it gives them an incentive to work for the betterment of the country. The support of a civil society as a whole increases the tolerance and understanding of people towards the rules of the government and the democratic power also supports the civil society to play the role of advisory for better implementation of laws.

Civil societies for their beliefs and work collect a lot of funds and donations from people which can directly support the government by forming NGOs or organise social gathering to help those in need. Another huge part a civil society plays towards obtaining good governance is the ability of these societies to spread education. For a nation to develop and run successfully it is important to have well-read public. Civil societies can organise workshops, open theatres, schools with nominal fees and provide with books, stationary and other necessary material required for education. Moving further, we should also discuss the negative side of civil societies in governance.

There is a developing fear, that with the civil societies becoming strong and powerful, they may deviate from their goals and become greedy. These societies may start working too much in favour of the public ignoring their responsibility towards achieving good governance or even democracy. A check needs to be kept over the principles and working of the civil societies. The leaders of the government are forced to keep a friendly and a healthy relationship with the civil societies so as to have a control over them. A democratic government may face a lot of issues as there is a huge possibility for civil society being biased to a particular political party that can be against the public of the nation as well as the government.

There is a prospect of a reverse situation as well the government favours a particular civil society only thereby benefitting it with all the government grants, donations, relief funds and other administrational advantages which harm the other civil societies. The concept of civil society can be classified as “Western” and some of the laws or beliefs followed by these societies may not be of cultural acceptance in under developed or developing nations, causing a political stir locally. Civil societies can also fall short of satisfying religious beliefs of a country, as this being a sensitive issue is preferred to be left untouched by the civil societies.

The powerful leaders of a civil society can pressurise the state to make some difficult, unethical or complicated decisions for personal benefits, example, some activists or lawyers may force the administration to make certain changes in the existing policies even if the new policy does not benefit the whole country as a whole but only a certain section of a society. Another huge disadvantage of a civil society can be the non-realisation of the power of the civil society itself by the leaders and thus failing to provide the people with transparency of its work and activities. This can create a sense of mistrust amongst the believers who may either stop supporting their societies or start a revolt against the existing one which is another unwanted pressure for the government.

Lastly, the ability to maintain the interest of the people towards the civil societies is another major task. Here the people of different social, political and economic backgrounds co-exist and it becomes essential for the civil societies to bind them in harmony as these diverse groups form a very integral part of good governance. Having described the concepts about the role of a civil society in good governance, I would like to support my thoughts and ideas with an example of an Indian civil society as my case study.


Good government and good governance matters and we need both to be sustainable. Government makes decisions that has a direct impact on citizens lives, the environment they live in, their jobs, wages and healthcare just to name a few. Therefore we need their engagement and participation in the decision-making process. Good governance is pivotal for all successful businesses. It reflects the organisation’s performance and provides a framework to be innovative in pursuing principles/goals that develop the environment in which they operate.

When researching good governance and government there was little mention of trade-offs. The conflict between valued principles and budget constraints and dynamic stakeholder expectations was not present in the limited literature research. More research in this area would surface the tension between public decision-makers choosing between public values and interests within a budget.


  1. Andrews, M. (2010). ‘Good government means different things in different countries.’ Governance 23(1): 7-35.
  2. Barnett, P., et al. (2009). ‘Implementing new modes of governance in the New Zealand health system: an empirical study.’ Health Policy 93(2-3): 118-127.
  3. Denhardt, R. B. and J. V. Denhardt (2000). ‘The new public service: Serving rather than steering.’ Public administration review 60(6): 549-559.
  4. Héritier, A. and D. Lehmkuhl (2011). ‘New Modes of Governance and Democratic Accountability 1.’ Government and Opposition 46(1): 126-144.
  5. Kaufmann, D., et al. (2011). ‘The worldwide governance indicators: methodology and analytical issues.’ Hague Journal on the Rule of Law 3(2): 220-246.
  6. O’Neill, R. (2009). ‘The transformative impact of e-government on public governance in New Zealand.’ Public Management Review 11(6): 751-770.
  7. Perry, J. L., et al. (2014). ‘Returning to our roots:“Good government” evolves to “good governance.”.’ Public administration review 74(1): 27-28.
  8. Santiso, C. (2001). ‘Good governance and aid effectiveness: The World Bank and conditionality.’ The Georgetown public policy review 7(1): 1-22.
  9. Van Doeveren, V. (2011). ‘Rethinking good governance: Identifying common principles.’ Public Integrity 13(4): 301-318.

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Good Governance and Good Government. (2021, Mar 05). Retrieved from

Good Governance and Good Government

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