Case of Rwanda: a transition towards Good Governance

The Economist labeled Rwanda the Singapore of Africa for the impressive development achieved in governance since the 1994 genocide. The Government of Rwanda is celebrated by international donors for its capacity of delivering results and managing resources efficiently. Analysts have also expressed doubts about its success story in the fight against corruption.  This paper aims to revisit the lessons learned from the Rwandan transition between 2000 and 2018.

Transition to bad governance in Botswana

The celebratory rhetoric associated with Botswana is that of an “African miracle”, highlighting its exceptionality in being able to transition towards a democratic state after it obtained independence from colonial power in 1966. Against all odds, it was able to develop a functioning multi-party democracy with relatively free and fair elections, rule of law, and universal franchise. Several studies underline the structural and actionable causes that allowed democratic principles to
rapidly spread: maintenance of pre-colonial political institutions, limited colonial exploitation by the British, an endowment in natural resources, effective economic management, and enlightened leadership. However, the most senior democracy in the African continent is undergoing a period of uncertainty and slowdown. An analysis of the indicators of good governance reveals how Botswana is not proceeding towards the successful path on which it embarked more than four decades ago, rather it is downgrading in several components over the 2008-2018 period.

The Quality of Government and Public Administration

In 1999, Evans and Rauch showed a strong association between government effectiveness (quality of government)—particularly the presence of a Weberian-like bureaucracy, selected and promoted on merit alone and largely autonomous from private interests—and economic growth. In 1997 and the aftermath of the Washington Consensus controversial reforms the World Bank promoted this finding in its influential World Development Report 1997 as part of its broader paradigm on “institutional quality.” Twenty years of investment in state capacity followed, by means of foreign assistance supporting the quality of public administration as a prerequisite to development. However, most reviews found the results well under expectations. This is hardly surprising, seeing that Max Weber, credited as the first promoter of the importance of bureaucracy as both the end result and the tool of government rationalization in modern times, never took for granted the autonomy of the state apparatus from private interest. He clearly stated that the power using the apparatus is the one steering the bureaucracy itself. In fact, a review of empirical evidence shows that the quality of public administration is endogenous to the quality of government more broadly and therefore can hardly be a solution in problematic contexts. The autonomy of the state from private interest is one of the most difficult objectives to accomplish in the evolution of a state, and few states have managed in contemporary times to match the achievements of Denmark or Switzerland in the 19th century. Two countries, Estonia and Georgia, are exceptional in this regard, but their success argues for the primacy of politics rather than of administration.

Europe’s Burden: Promoting Good Governance Across Borders

The EU is many things: a civilization ideal to emulate, an anchor of geopolitical stabilization, a generous donor, and a history lesson on cooperation across nations. A fixer of national governance problems, however, it is not. In this book, Mungiu-Pippidi investigates the efficacy of the European Union’s promotion of good governance through its funding and conditionalities both within the EU proper and in the developing world. The evidence assembled shows that the idea of European power to transform the quality of governance is largely a myth. From Greece to Egypt and from Kosovo to Turkey, EU interventions in favour of good governance and anti-corruption policy have failed so far to trigger the domestic political dynamic needed to ensure sustainable change. Mungiu-Pippidi explores how we can better bridge the gap between the Europe of treaties and the reality of governance in Europe and beyond. This book will interest students and scholars of comparative politics, European politics, and development studies, particularly those examining governance and corruption.

Reviews for this publication

“A blistering and contrarian critique of EU anti-corruption efforts from one of the field’s leading authorities. Based on extensive quantitative data spanning both EU member states and a large number of the union’s external partners, the book’s findings have troubling implications for the future of EU good governance strategies – and deserve to be considered with the utmost seriousness.”

Richard Youngs – Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Europe

The Evolution of the World Bank’s Anti-Corruption Programming: An Analysis of Driving and Limiting Factors

This paper explores the evolution of the World Bank’s anti-corruption programming and examines its driving and limiting factors. Building on a novel dataset of  World Bank anti-corruption activities and on expert interviews, the paper investigates the impact of factors internal and external to the World Bank on the institution’s anti-corruption programming. The analysis distinguishes three agendas operating under the anti-corruption label that differ in their conceptual understanding of corruption as “a crime”, “a matter of public administration”, and “a matter of power and politics”. The paper finds that internal factors related to the World Bank’s legal and policy mandate, the underlying financial model, and the organizational culture are among the most significant in explaining the evolution of the institution’s anti-corruption programming. Findings suggest that addressing those factors will be crucial for the effective renewal of the World Bank’s strategic and operational approach to doing anti-corruption.

Corruption and Development: A Reappraisal

Corruption and development are two mutually related concepts equally shifting in meaning across time. The predominant 21st-century view of government that regards corruption as inacceptable has its theoretical roots in ancient Western thought, as well as Eastern thought. This condemning view of corruption coexisted at all times with a more morally indifferent or neutral approach that found its expression most notably in development scholars of the 1960s and 1970s who viewed corruption as an enabler of development rather than an obstacle. Research on the nexus between corruption and development has identified mechanisms that enable corruption and offered theories of change, which have informed practical development policies. Interventions adopting a principal agent approach fit better the advanced economies, where corruption is an exception, rather than the emerging economies, where the opposite of corruption, the norm of ethical universalism, has yet to be built. In such contexts corruption is better approached from a collective action perspective. Reviewing cross-national data for the period 1996–2017, it becomes apparent that the control of corruption stagnated in most countries and only a few exceptions exist. For a lasting improvement of the control of corruption, societies need to reduce the resources for corruption while simultaneously increasing constraints. The evolution of a governance regime requires a multiple stakeholder endeavor reaching beyond the sphere of government involving the press, business, and a strong and activist civil society.

Seven Steps to Control of Corruption: The Road Map

After a comprehensive test of today’s anticorruption toolkit, it seems that the few tools that do work are effective only in contexts where domestic agency exists. Therefore, the time has come to draft a comprehensive road map to inform evidence-based anticorruption efforts. This essay recommends that international donors join domestic civil societies in pursuing a common long-term strategy and action plan to build national public integrity and ethical universalism. In other words, this essay proposes that coordination among donors should be added as a specific precondition for improving governance in the WHO’s Millennium Development Goals. This essay offers a basic tool for diagnosing the rule governing allocation of public resources in a given country, recommends some fact-based change indicators to follow, and outlines a plan to identify the human agency with a vested interest in changing the status quo. In the end, the essay argues that anticorruption interventions must be designed to empower such agency on the basis of a joint strategy to reduce opportunities for and increase constraints on corruption, and recommends that experts exclude entirely the tools that do not work in a given national context.