In 2013, Pakistan experienced its first peaceful transition between two elected, democratic governments. In another first, several parties, including the winning PML-N, produced a concrete manifesto outlining their planned economic policies. But citizens have no mechanism to regularly track what governments are doing towards achieving their election promises.
With CIPE support, the Policy Research Institute of Market Economy (PRIME), an independent economic think tank, has been monitoring progress on the government’s economic manifesto via a carefully designed scorecard. The results show that while the new government has made some progress, implementation of its election promises remains slow.
By Dr. Jong-Sung Hwang
The Open Government Partnership has become a leading force for advancing transparency and civic engagement in 63 countries. It was founded on a strong partnership between governments and civil society organizations. Recognizing the implications of open governance for economic and democratic development, CIPE has helped to establish an independent Council for Engaging the Private Sector in the Open Government Partnership. The Council is a joint initiative coordinated by the National Information Society Agency of Korea, Microsoft, and the Center for International Private Enterprise. CIPE’s Andrew Wilson, Deputy Director for Strategic Planning, is co-chair. The Council welcomes input from private sector and other stakeholders on the future of engagement in open governance.
Dr. Jong-Sung Hwang, Head of the Korea Big Data Center at the National Information Society Agency, introduces this exciting initiative on the Open Government Partnership blog.
Open government is not a new concept. According to Wikipedia, the idea that government should be open to public scrutiny and responsive to public opinion dates back at least to the time of the Enlightenment. For decades now, the emergence of Freedom of Information legislation and e-government initiatives have propelled a trend toward building transparent, accountable, and responsive governments.
However, open government has acquired new meaning in the 21st century, facilitated by the development of information technology. Whereas open government in the past meant access to information inside government, it now means not only access but also active sharing of information and collaborative governance between government and civil society. The distinction is that access is a one-directional relationship in which the government side opens up. In contrast, sharing implies bi- or multi-directional relationships and requires opening up and engagement by all sides.
The new version of open government, which aims for shared governance, can be named as open government 2.0. As Tim O’Reilly, advocate of Gov 2.0, puts it, open government 2.0 seeks to “redefine the relationship between citizens and government officials, engaging the citizen as a full participant rather than an observer. Citizens are not passive consumers of government services anymore. Instead, they are actively engaged in producing and delivering government services and sharing the results.
Participants at a recent Accountapreneurship event in Nepal.
Narayan Adhikari is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Accountability Lab
Two words always come to my mind when talking about accountability: “power” and “holders.” In principle, power comes from the people (the constituency). In a representative democracy, people are the source of power and they hold it by choosing their delegates through elections.
More often than not, however, the officials who get a mandate from the people hold power against the interests of electorate. Consequently, the power dynamic changes alongside the changes in attitudes, behaviors, and interests of the power holders. The cycle then repeats itself. For example; the recent constituent assembly election in Nepal resulted from the failure of the first assembly to promulgate a constitution.
For many Nepalese, democracy is a tool used to subjugate human beings to operate within certain norms, guided by the rule of law and constitutions. It only gives a framework, not an inclusive picture to judge and regulate the behaviors and relationships between individuals as members of a larger society. Democracy without accountability does not achieve equality, but rather degrades morality, integrity, and ethics. Accountability is more than just transparency and anti-corruption. It gives strength to democracy to be a foundation in society and to inspire people to become responsible citizens.
Today, corruption continues to be the biggest challenge worldwide. Corruption distorts development, undermines trust between citizens and government, and produces structural violence. Corruption also carries huge costs. The European Union spends close to 120 million Euros every year fighting corruption. According to World Bank, corruption is one of the largest “industries” with a scale of $3 trillion every year.
Energy imports are a key issue for Pakistan’s business community. (Photo: The Tribune)
CIPE partner Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry organized its first All-Pakistan Chamber Presidents’ Conference in 2009. Since then, the annual conference has become an important venue for bringing the business community from across Pakistan together to discuss pressing economic issues and propose reforms to provide level playing field for businesses to grow.
This year, the conference focused on making the newly-elected democratic government accountable for its promises. The current government is considered pro-business, and has made a number of promises in their manifesto to undertake business-friendly policy reform. Now the business community needs to monitor the progress made by the government in initiating the reform process and the implementation of these reforms. To this end, the Policy Research Institute of Market Economy (PRIME), with the help of CIPE, has started a Manifesto Monitoring Project to track how well the government is keeping its promises.
With the price of oil stuck in the mid-$40′s, the Russian stock market in the tank, and the value of the Ruble plummeting the vertical consolidation of power that occurred under the watch of President Putin is now being called into question. While economic times were swell and oil and $100+ per barrel the population of Russia welcomed the order of a vertical political power and were thankful after years of government mis-management under President Yeltsin. The petrodollars flooding the country were hiding a dirty little non-secret – endemic corruption (price of oil v. TI score). It is difficult to think of an adjective strong enough to describe the level of corruption in Russia - estimated by one source at 50% of GDP!
Calls for the decentralization of the power structure have already begun to ring from many academic circles in Moscow. A simple first step toward making government officials accountable for their actions would be to re-institute gubernatorial elections. The Kremlin took away direct elections over five years ago. Currently the president picks governors who are voted on by regional assemblies. In a recent Moscow Times article by Konstantin Sonin of the New Economic School suggests:
Political scientists and economists have shown that when there are highly competitive elections and informed voters, there is less corruption…In Russia, there is a commonly held misconception that democracy is a luxury that only economically developed and prosperous countries can afford. This belief is particularly popular during economic booms. When times are tough, however, we must pull our heads out of the clouds and plant our feet firmly on the ground. The best place to start is by return direct elections to Russia.
Last summer the presidents of the Russian republics of Tatarstan and Bashkir openly stated that a return to the direct election of governors was preferable. And in November Moscow’s mayor Yuri Luzhkov declared that open elections would increase accountability in government. Now the decision is up to the Kremlin and so far they are saying a big Nyet to any changes in elections.