Democracy, Development and Good Governance:

The Inseparable Links

 

Annual Democracy and Governance Lecture

Center for Democratic Development

At the British Council Hall, Accra, Ghana

March 1, 2005

 

 

 

It is a pleasure and indeed a great honor to be here among you to give the first annual Democracy and Governance Lecture of the Ghana Center for Democratic Development.  Without a strong, vigilant, transparent, and resourceful civil society, Africa cannot achieve development or sustain and improve democracy.  CDD-Ghana is one of the best, most creative and vibrant pro-democracy institutions I have encountered in Africa.  It is particularly gratifying for me personally that I have been asked to inaugurate this annual CDD lecture, and to do so in partnership with an individual for whom I have great affection and admiration, the CDD Executive Director, Professor Gyimah-Boadi. I would also like to thank his Lordship, Chief Justice George Kingsley Acquah, for his warm introduction.  The independence and strong sense of legal professionalism and integrity of the higher Ghanaian judiciary, which he symbolizes and embodies, is one of the great sources of hope for democratic development in Ghana.

 

I want to speak to you this evening about the interdependence between democracy and development in Africa, and more broadly between democracy, good governance, and development in Africa.  My argument will be that Africa cannot develop without democracy, and that democracy in Africa ultimately cannot be sustained without development.  I define democracy, in its most minimal state, as a system of government in which the people choose their leaders and representatives, and can replace them, in regular, free, and fair elections. After four increasingly competitive, transparent, free, fair and well monitored national elections under the 1992 constitution, we can now say that electoral democracy is becoming, or perhaps has become, institutionalized in Ghana.  This is a very important and for Africa hopeful achievement.  Even among some of the countries in Africa that are often considered democracies today, such as Nigeria (where I was last week), elections, while competitive, are not free and fair.  Rather they are plagued with extensive rigging, fraud, and violence.  So entrenching effective, independent administration of elections is an important achievement.

Electoral democracy is important, because it enables the people, at periodic intervals, to hold their rulers accountable, and to replace the government of the day if it does not perform. Further, it enables people to elect representatives who will respond to their developmental needs and concerns and—one hopes—monitor government and hold it to account on an ongoing basis.  But the vertical, electoral dimension of democracy is not enough.  One of my major points here is that if democracy is to serve development, it must be liberal democracy, and responsible democracy.  This entails a number of different dimensions of the quality of democracy and the broader quality of governance.  Permit me here at the outset of this lecture to enumerate these in some detail, because if we do not clearly specify what we mean by democracy, and by good governance, we cannot possibly understand how and why these are necessary for development. 

 

The Dimensions of Liberal Democracy and Good Governance

 

Liberal democracy entails not only free and fair elections in terms of the administration of the voting and vote counting.  A liberal or high-quality democracy (I will use these two terms interchangeably, although they are somewhat distinct) requires a more comprehensive fairness of political competition embodied in the concept of a “level playing field.”  In a high-quality democracy, the electoral arena is open, and the playing field is reasonably level.  Money must not be the principal determinant of who gets elected.  I will freely concede that money politics is one of the major flaws in American politics today, and that every democracy is struggling with how to finance political parties and campaigns.  But I am among a growing body of political scientists and good government advocates who believe that high quality democracy everywhere in the world requires some degree of public financing of parties and campaigns, as well as absolute transparency in the reporting of all party and campaign contributions.  An important element of this is some guaranteed access to the mass media for competing candidates, both presidential and parliamentary.  I hope we can discuss this issue more this evening.

Second, liberal democracy requires extensive public freedoms of speech, press, information, association, assembly, movement, and so on.  This is simply fundamental.  Only in a free society with a vigorous public space can we realize all of the other aspects of liberal democracy and good governance I am going to enumerate here.  Only if people are free to organize, protest, and petition, only if groups can assert their interests and values, only if the media can report, investigate, and expose government policies and actions without fear or favor, can there be meaningful competition, participation, responsiveness, transparency, and accountability.  Only in a climate of true political and civil freedom can a country achieve the absolute fundamental condition for development:  responsible government—that is government that is committed to the advancement of the public good, rather than the private interests of its own officials and their families and their cronies.

Third, a high quality democracy requires participation.  Electoral participation is not enough. People at every level of public life must become involved in the decisions that affect their lives—most prominently, in the setting of priorities for the expenditure of public funds, and in the monitoring of implementation. Multiple, diverse mechanisms for public input can correct mistakes in policy design and implementation, and promote social inclusion and political ownership of policies, including painful economic reforms.  Institutionalized participation also provides channels for settling (or at least narrowing) conflicts over interests and values and for making broadly legitimate policy choices.  Policies will be more likely to be stable and sustainable when they enjoy popular understanding and support.  This requires some means for distinct organized interests, and for historically marginalized groups such as women and minorities, to have input into governmental decisions and some means of protesting policies and actions that do harm to their interests.

A revolution is beginning to get underway in the developing world around the concept of “participatory budgeting.”  When communities are involved in the decision about how public funds will be spent for their development—whether to build a road, or improve a school, or construct a clinic, or drill a borehole—they acquire a sense of ownership over the process, and can become mobilized to make sure that the funds that are allocated in theory actually achieve their intended purpose.  The same principle of course should apply at the level of setting and monitoring national development priorities, and the need to involve a wide range of civil society organizations effectively in this process.  NEPAD and the Millenium Challenge Account both provide new opportunities and expectations in this regard for countries like Ghana.

Fourth, a quality democracy requires responsiveness of elected officials to the needs and concerns of society.  Obviously, government cannot respond fully to the interests of every group, because in any society, interests are in conflict.  But different groups must be heard.  They must have access to parliamentary committees and district councils.  They must have channels of communication to different ministries.  There must be regular means by which elected representatives go back and consult with their constituencies and explain what government is doing.  When there are multiple avenues for participation in policy-making, and when there is strong freedom and competition, then government will be more responsive.  And since people in poor countries most of all want economic development and the physical improvement of their infrastructure and environments, responsive government will be government that seeks and promotes economic development.

Fifth, although it is not achieved anywhere to a satisfactory degree, a quality democracy requires some degree of political equality among citizens. Now, we all know that political equality is linked to economic equality, and that everywhere those with money and high social status have vastly more access to power and more influence over government than do the poor and middle class.   But a good democracy must put some floor of political capacity underneath all citizens, so that every citizen understands his or her rights and obligations in democracy, and has the knowledge and interest to participate—both in elections, and in the ongoing struggle to articulate and represent their needs and to hold government accountable.  This generates a very large need in a poor country, with limited levels of literacy and education, for civic education to raise the political consciousness of citizens and to mobilize them into the public arena in a variety of ways.  In addition, the principle of equality requires that citizens who are disadvantaged be able to, and indeed be helped to, organize themselves to advance and defend their collective interests.  There is strength in numbers, but this strength cannot be tapped and utilized unless it is organized.  Historically over the course of several centuries of democratic development, it has been the ability of poor and disadvantaged groups to come together into trade unions and associations of all kinds that has prevented economic inequality from being perpetually reproduced as political inequality, and that has widened the political arena and advanced democracy.

These five dimensions of democratic quality have to do with deepening the control of rulers by the ruled, which really is the essence of democracy.   A quality democracy ensures that the rulers are accountable to the people, or, in the words of a famous new Iraqi saying popularized by one new civil society organization in the post-Saddam era, that “the person sitting behind the desk is the servant of the person in front of him, and not the other way around.”  But if democracy is to be effective in delivering development, this element of popular control, however deep and vigorous, is not enough. It must be wedded to other dimensions of good governance which together constitute a fuller architecture of a high-quality, liberal democracy.

Good governance consists of several dimensions.  One is the capacity of the state to function in the service of the public good.  Effective functioning requires knowledge of the policies and rules that best serve the public good, and hence training of state officials in their various professional realms.  It requires a professional civil service with a set of norms and structures that promote fidelity to public rules and duties, in part by rewarding those who perform well in their roles.  This relates intimately to the second dimension of good governance, commitment to the public good.  Where does this commitment come from?  It may be generated by dedicated and charismatic leadership.  Or it may derive from a cultural ethic that appreciates and a structure of institutional incentives that rewards disciplined service to the nation or the general community.  In every modern society, however, it must (at a minimum) be reinforced by institutions that punish betrayals of the public trust, and so this normative element is strongly linked to the concrete institutional ones.

A third dimension of good governance is transparency, the openness of state business and conduct to the scrutiny of other state actors and of the public.  Transparency requires freedom of information, including an act to ensure that citizens can acquire information about how government makes decisions, conducts business, and spends public money.  Needless to say, it requires full openness and competitiveness in public procurement, but it also requires openness with regard to the personal finances of government officials.  I will come back to this point in conclusion.

Transparency is intimately related to accountability, the fourth dimension of good governance. Governing agents are more likely to be responsible and “good” when they are answerable for their conduct to the society in general and to other specific institutions that monitor their behavior and can impose sanctions upon them.  Effective oversight requires open flows of information, and hence transparency, so that monitors can discover facts and mobilize evidence.  This requires a system of government by which different institutions check and hold one another accountable, compelling them to justify their actions.  Power is thus constrained, bound not only “by legal constraints but also by the logic of public reasoning.”[1]

Transparency and accountability are thus intimately bound up with a fifth dimension of good governance, the rule of law.  Governance can only be good when it is restrained by the law: when the constitution and laws (including individual rights under them) are widely known, when the law is applied equally to the mighty and the meek, when everyone has reasonable access to justice, and when there are capable, independent authorities to adjudicate and enforce the law in a neutral, predictable, and efficient fashion.  Both effective government and well functioning markets require that there be clear rules about what constitutes acceptable conduct in all realms of economic, social and political life.  All actors, public and private, must have confidence that those rules will be observed. Only under a rule of law can property rights be secure and contracts enforceable.  Only through a rule of law can individuals be secure against arbitrary harm from the state or powerful private actors.

A fifth dimension of good governance consists of mechanisms of conflict resolution.  Participation is one means for doing so.  Development is not only about choice at the individual level but also about making difficult choices at the collective level.  Often there is no clear answer to the question of what is in the public interest.  Only through a process of political participation and dialogue can conflicting interests be reconciled in a way that is deemed minimally fair by all (or most), and that generates broad commitment among the relevant constituencies or stakeholders in the policy arena.  But participation in itself can also stimulate conflict.  Conflict resolution requires as well fairness, justice, and transparency, and often more specific mechanisms to ensure that all groups are heard and included and that power and resources are decentralized and dispersed in a way that gives each community or region some real control over its own affairs.  

Finally, when good governance functions in the above five ways, it also breeds social capital, in the form of networks and associations that draw people together in relations of trust, reciprocity, and voluntary cooperation for common ends. The deeper a country’s reservoirs of social capital, and the more these are based on horizontal relations of equality, the more vigorous is coordination for and commitment to the public good.  Social capital thus not only fosters the expansion of investment and commerce, embedded in relations of trust and predictability, it also breeds the civic spirit, participation, and respect for law that are crucial foundations of political development and good governance.  In other words, it generates a political culture of responsible citizenship.  All of this in turn breeds political legitimacy and stability—further deepening the society’s appeal to investors who must risk capital in the effort to create new wealth.  In many respects then, good governance constitutes a “virtuous cycle” in which the several elements reinforce one another in a dense interplay.[2]

 

The Relationship of Democracy and Good Governance to Development

 

Conceptualized in the above ways, democracy and good governance promote economic development.  Real democracy—that is competitive, open, participatory, and responsive—provides a means for citizens to monitor and evaluate the performance of government, and to remove officials and representatives who do not serve the public interest. By generating and defending broad commitment to the public welfare, a high-quality democracy with good governance—or what I will just call liberal democracy—increases the likelihood that public resources will be used to generate public goods that stimulate investment and commerce and raise the quality of life.  A manifest commitment to the public welfare on the part of government also breeds a civic spirit in society, including a willingness to pay taxes and obey the law.  Ordinary citizens will sacrifice immediate advantages for the longer-term common good only when they believe that their fellow citizens will as well.  When government itself is transparent and disciplined in its commitment to the public good, it provides credible signals to the rest of society about what types of behaviors can be expected.  More capable and knowledgeable government also generates the capacity to enforce the law, mediate disputes, keep order, collect taxes, promote trade, maintain fiscal stability, attract investment, and so foster economic growth.  In defending human rights and property rights, in promoting equal access to opportunity based on talent and effort rather than power, and in providing a fair means for the resolution of disputes, the rule of law generates an enabling environment for economic growth.  In incorporating groups that historically have been confined to the margins of society, good governance mitigates social conflict and harnesses the full range of talent and resources in the society.  In fostering the accumulation of social capital, good governance cultivates trust (in individuals and in government), cooperation, compliance with the law, and confidence in the future.  Social and political confidence also breeds economic confidence, and a willingness to invest for the long run.

By contrast, bad governance, and most specifically rampant corruption, constitute the bane of development.  Extensive corruption discourages private investment, distorts resource allocations, deforms policies, proliferates regulations, swells budget deficits, enervates institutions, diverts resources from productive (wealth-generating) activity, and squanders large amounts of resources.  Funds that could go to educate and inoculate children, pave roads, build markets, dig wells, generate electricity, and otherwise provide an overall enabling environment for growth instead wind up in overseas bank accounts and real estate, or financing the importation of expensive cars and other luxury goods for already wealthy individuals.  Worse still, officials often waste even more money purchasing weapons and building structures the country doesn’t need (and likely will never use) in order to generate an opportunity for kickbacks.  A 2002 report prepared for the African Union estimates that corruption costs the continent $148 billion annually.[3] That is well over a quarter of the continent’s entire Gross Domestic Product.

 

Many think, this all sounds fine in theory, but if East Asia could develop under authoritarian rule, why not Africa?  They say, look at China or Malaysia today, or the East Asian tigers of a generation ago—Singapore, Korea, Taiwan, to a lesser extent Thailand: they all developed without democracy. Indeed, it used to be argued that they developed because they were not democracies, because the concentration of power under authoritarian rule permitted high investment.  This is a completely fallacious comparison.  The East Asian miracles took place in a historic and regional context that is unlikely to be repeated. All of these countries were located in a region that was primed for rapid development by the presence in the region of Japan, with its vast expanding economy, and by the immense geostrategic interest of the United States in stemming the expansion of communism.  Moreover, all of these elites faced an existential threat of communism, with Red China threatening their very survival.  It was develop or die.  So these elites had to develop serious states with a capacity for and commitment to the generation of public goods, because if they did not do so, they were headed for extinction.  Moreover, most of these countries either had or managed to fashion a degree of common national identity that does not exist in most of Africa.  This also bred commitment to the common national project of development.

I submit that this convergence of circumstances that fostered rapid development under authoritarian rule will not be repeated.  Moreover, why would anyone want to repeat it—the repression, the brutality, the loss of freedom, the climate of fear—if it were possible, as the evidence is clearly showing that it is possible, to achieve rapid and sustainable development under democracy?

In fact, a growing body of empirical evidence and statistical research within Africa demonstrates the inseparable link between democracy with good governance and sustainable development.  Only two African countries, Botswana and Mauritius, have achieved a relatively good development performance in the past three decades.  Not coincidentally, these are the only two African countries that have been continuously democratic since independence, and in fact they have institutionalized fairly liberal democracy.

It is difficult to make a case for the economic benefits of democracy by comparing only two small countries with the other 46 in Africa.  Still, the data not only show that Botswana and Mauritius have had dramatically better development performance then the rest.  They also suggest that the African countries that democratized during the 1990s made some development progress during the decade while the lingering semi-democracies and autocracies performed much more poorly as a group and in general, continued to slide backwards.  It is too soon to know if democracies will continue to outperform autocracies on the continent.  Uganda has made significant development progress under a regime that has been only semi-democratic at best.  And the HIV/AIDS pandemic is already beginning to register a staggering negative impact on life expectancy and other aspects of human development throughout Southern Africa, which contains the continent’s largest concentration of democracies, including Botswana and South Africa, which are being ravaged by the disease.  Yet, as Gyimah-Boadi trenchantly argues in a new edited volume, the HIV/AIDS crisis exposes in sharp relief the shortcomings of governance even in the formally democratic countries of Africa, while the crucial elements of democracy—openness, civic organization, political empowerment (particularly of women)—are proving to be vital tools for combating the plague.[4]

Evidence on the link between democracy and development is not only coming from Africa.  Roll and Talbott recently found that among the most significant factors in explaining variations in per capita national income during the 1990s were several different measures of freedom, including political rights, civil liberties, press freedom, and property rights, each of which “has an independent, strong, and positive influence on country income.”[5]  More strikingly, they found that there is clearly a causal effect of democracy on economic growth, as “democratic events” (transitions to democracy or increases in freedom) “have been followed by rather dramatic increases in GNIpc [Gross National Income per capita],” which tend to accelerate further over time if a country sustains the democratic trend, while antidemocratic events are followed by declines in economic growth.[6] Comparing the 176 most democratic leaders and the 179 most autocratic leaders since 1952, Bueno de Mesquita and his colleagues found that the average democratic leader produced a real annual economic growth rate of 3.04 percent, compared to 1.78 percent for the average autocrat.[7] Within Africa, Eifert finds “a large and robust relationship” between political openness and economic growth, both across African countries and over time.  “The difference in political openness between the most democratic and the least democratic African state is associated with a growth gap of over 4.5 percentage points per year.”[8]  Globally, democracy has had a discernible effect over the past half-century in reducing infant mortality, even when controlling for other developmental factors such as per capita income.[9]  And when broadening the analysis to consider a wider range of governance variables (including “voice and accountability” and rule of law), Kaufman and his colleagues in the World Bank find “a strong positive causal relationship from improved governance to better development outcomes.”[10]

One reason why Africa continues to lag so far behind economically is that it lags well behind in governance as well.  In Transparency International’s 2003 global survey, only 17 African countries were assessed, but 12 of these 17 were among the most corrupt half of the world’s states (the other five African states in the survey were all democracies, and relatively liberal ones at that).[11]  Among the major regions of the world, only the Middle East is clearly worse in terms of democracy and freedom. Only about two in every five every African governments are accountable to their people through the most minimal instrument of free, fair, and competitive national elections.  And of these 19 or so democracies, only about five can be said to be liberal, in terms of allowing extensive civil and political freedom. 

The fundamental new insight that is reshaping the political economy of development is in fact a very old one.  Governance matters.  The nature and quality of governance, and the types of policies that governments choose, have a huge impact—apparently, the decisive one—in shaping how economies perform, and whether and how rapidly people will escape from mass poverty.  As William Easterly writes, “Bad governments… can kill growth.”[12] And that is exactly what has happened in Africa.  Growth requires that people reduce present consumption in return for greater income in the future.  Where government policies and actions discourage investment in the future—through policies and practices that generate high inflation, high black market premiums, negative real interest rates, high budget deficits, restrictions on free trade, rotten public services, and massive corruption—investors and producers run for cover.[13] Indeed, Easterly has found that “Africa’s higher government budget deficits, higher financial repression, and higher black market premium explain about half of the growth difference between East Asia and Africa over the past three decades.”[14] 

For a long time, Africa’s leaders and official institutions blamed the continent’s woes on the legacies of colonialism and the injustices of the international system. In some intellectual circles, this type of explanation is still fashionable.  Increasingly, however, Africans are recognizing that the core of the problem now lies in the defects of their own institutions of governance and the distorted incentives they generate.  The 2003 African Development Report is strikingly reflective of this new spirit of candor, and thus merits quoting at some length:

 

More than four decades of independence for many countries should have been enough time to sort out the colonial legacies and move forward.  Thus, Africa needs to look at itself—especially the nature of political power and governance institutions.  In most African countries, the economy is still dominated by the state—with the state as major provider of formal employment, contracts, and patronage while parties are regionally and ethnically based.  And politics in most of these countries is such that victor assumes a “winner-takes-all” form with respect to wealth and resources, patronage, and the prestige and prerogatives of office.  If there is lack of transparency and accountability in governance, inadequate checks and balances, non-adherence to the rule of law, absence of credible and peaceful means to change or replace leadership, or lack of respect for human rights, political control becomes excessively important and the stakes dangerously high.[15]

 

The Imperative of Good Governance Reforms

 

            If the reality of poverty, injustice, and misrule is still very depressing and even overwhelming, this is nevertheless an exciting and hopeful time for Africa, and especially for Ghana.  For several decades, there was a conspiracy of silence between the international donor agencies and the countries they were engaging.  The latter pretended to be developing, and the former pretended to be helping them.  International officials could check off on a box that they had made a loan, built a clinic, or made a grant for a project, and then everyone moved on.  Too many public officials in Africa then took the resources and largely squandered them. 

            This game is coming to an end.  It is not yet at an end, but there is a rising demand, both within Africa and within the international donor community, for us all to get serious.  Getting serious about development and development assistance means, by the logic of everything I have said here so far, getting serious about governance.

            In the quest to get serious, some countries are starting pretty much from scratch, or must overcome, as in the case of Nigeria, Kenya or the Congo, such a pervasive and breathtaking scope of kleptocracy that the challenge simply boggles the mind.  That is not the case in Ghana.  By African standards, Ghana is doing pretty well, not only in institutionalizing electoral democracy, but in the quality of governance.  It is among the less corrupt countries in Africa.  It is among the more democratic, more rule-of-law-minded, better governed countries in Africa.  And so, it has qualified for what we all hope will be very significant new flows of aid from the Millenium Challenge Account.  There is also other growing international donor interest in the Ghana model, and the beginnings of international investor interest, with the prospect of much more.  It is vital that this new opportunity not be squandered, or under-utilized.

            Ghanaians need to ask themselves some hard questions.  Is “pretty good by African standards” good enough to really achieve development?  Can the country live with a certain amount of corruption, so long as it does not reach the grotesque, predatory levels of a Nigeria or Cameroon?  Can the country get by with political and institutional “business as usual.”

            I think the answers to these questions are clearly implied by the logic of my analysis.  “Pretty good governance by African standards” will yield “pretty mediocre development performance” compared to what is possible.  In the current context of international competitiveness for aid, trade, and investment, Ghana really could take off.  It has the location, right on a beautiful and accessible coast, the human talent, the educated elite, the international good will, and some base of infrastructure that could begin to generate East Asian-level rates of economic growth—seven to ten percent per year—if there was a full-scale mobilization of resources for development, a relentless, do-or-die determination to make it this time, to use all available public resources to generate the human and physical capital necessary for development.  With foreign investment could come a rapid expansion of industry, agriculture, and services, including very prominently tourism.  But foreign investment (and I might add foreign tourists) have a lot of options around an increasingly competitive global economy and society.  The only thing that is going to enable Ghana to win the race to development is not “pretty good governance by African standards” but “really good governance, by international standards.”

            There is another reason for Ghana to get really serious about governance at this moment. It is Ghana’s own “do or die” imperative. The HIV/AIDS pandemic which is devastating Southern and Eastern Africa is about to break across West Africa with a vengeance.  Nigeria, where it is estimated that perhaps 7 percent of the population is HIV-positive, is at risk of a full-blown AIDS crisis of devastating proportions, which could see a significant percentage of all the world’s AIDS cases in that one country alone.  Other countries in the West African region, not least Ghana, are at great risk of human devastation that could wipe out all the potential gains of development over the next decade.  Only early, massive social and civic vigilance, education, and mobilization of preventive and public health services will prevent such a disaster.  Only truly good, responsible governance is capable of mobilizing the necessary national will and resources for prevention.

            And so, in conclusion, I appeal to all of you to think about what constitutional, institutional, and legal reforms would be necessary for Ghana to achieve really good governance—the kind that would transform, protect, and finally develop this country.  The key is to ask this question:  What would be needed to control corruption and abuse of power so that they become infrequent and risky activities?  What would be needed to ensure a mass mobilization of all available resources for development?  What would inspire Ghanaians to want to pay their taxes, and to identify with such an exciting national project?

            The institutions of good governance cannot only exist on paper.  They must be funded, staffed, trained, and equipped in a manner that will investigate, expose, and punish corrupt conduc—and thus vigorously discourage it in the future.  The kind of good governance revolution that Ghana needs is going to require financial resources:  to enlarge and enhance the judiciary, to empower the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, the Serious Fraud Office, the Auditor General, and other agencies of horizontal accountability.  But if the will is there, I believe the resources will be as well.  While Ghana is now pondering its submission for development funding to the Millenium Challenge Corporation, I would ask:  what development goal is more important than funding these agencies and making them work?  For if they work, it will leverage all of the country’s other resources toward development.

            We all know, if we are being honest with ourselves, that the challenge is a serious one. Even in a better-governed country like Ghana—better-governed in the African context—the expectation that public resources can and will and even should be used to enrich one’s self, one’s family, and one’s friends, is very deeply entrenched. The tendency to expand the size of government to accommodate these expectations becomes very hard to resist.  Some very dramatic legal and institutional tools are going to be needed to break these entrenched expectations.  Laws will need to be enforced.  Corrupt officials will need to be prosecuted, and if convicted, punished with jail time.  One lesson of a serious counter-corruption campaign is that you need to “fry big fish.”  But laws must be enforced for both the mighty and the meek, and this is going to require a very extensive counter-corruption bureaucracy, with enough investigators, auditors, and prosecutors to mount a truly comprehensive effort.  The statutory bodies in charge of oversight as well as prosecution must also have the legal and political autonomy to pursue and punish wrongdoing, no matter what the consequences. 

I concluded long an effective system of accountability must begin with the way these bodies are appointed.  It just goes without saying that presidential appointment is not conducive to independence of these bodies.  Some new body, perhaps drawn from the judiciary, the parliament, and civil society, is needed to appoint, supervise, and if necessary discipline, and to determine the funding of all of these oversight bodies, what we call “agencies of restraint.”  Such a supreme oversight body could appoint the leaders and high officials of all of these agencies, who could then only be removed for cause by due process.  It could set the budget and staffing of each institution, and the parliament could be required to appropriate the requested funds unless it could (for example) show cause to the Supreme Court why the request was unreasonable.  Needless to say, such a new structure of accountability would require a constitutional amendment, but what better time for that than now?

            If they are going to be able to do their jobs effectively, even if with vastly increased financial and human resources, these agencies of restraint will need the support and help of civil society, including the mass media, and all of these actors will require an environment of political freedom and transparency.  It is very hard to get a grip on entrenched corruption unless public officials file declarations of assets upon taking office, every year thereafter, and upon leaving office, with criminal penalties for deliberate falsification, and unless these assets declarations are made publicly available. Societal actors can and must assess whether public officials have been honest in their declarations, and help the counter-corruption agencies document dishonesty.  A Freedom of Information Act is also necessary to ensure that civil society can monitor what government does, how it makes decisions and allocates contracts, and how it spends public resources. 

            I know this is beginning to sound like a radical agenda, even pie in the sky. And it is awkward to offer it as a Westerner, when the developed West, in its aid and commercial relations with Africa, has been a major part of the problem.  Nevertheless, people who share a common aspiration to see Africa develop, and to see Ghana develop, must break free of the diplomatic niceties and engage in hard and honest analysis.  There is simply too much poverty, too much injustice, too much needless suffering on this continent to continue with the old games of gesturing and pretending.  As one of the better governed democracies in Africa, Ghana has an obligation, to itself and to the continent, to raise the bar, to lead the way, to show what is possible in terms of development when a country gets intensely serious about good governance.  Such an effort in a country as large and historically influential in Africa as Ghana would be a grand experiment.  And I believe its results would not only transform Ghana but would inspire a wave of democratic reforms throughout the continent.

            Thank you.

 


 



[1] Andreas Schedler, “Conceptualizing Accountability,” in Andreas Schedler, Larry Diamond, and Marc F. Plattner, The Self-Restraining State: Power and Accountability in New Democracies (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1999), p. 15.

 

[2] Robert D. Putnam, Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), pp 167-176.

 

[3] African Development Bank 2003, p. 42.

[4] E. Gyimah-Boadi, ed., Democratic Reform in Africa: The Quality of Progress (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2004).

[5] Roll and Talbot 2003, p. 79.

[6] Ibid, p. 82.

[7] Bueno de Mesquita et al 2001, p. 65.

[8] Eifert, 2003, p. 2.  The relationship was tested for African countries during the period 1972-1999.

[9] Zweifel and Navia 2000, Navia and Zweifel 2003.

[10] Kaufmann, Kraay, and Zoido-Lobaton 1999, p. 15.  Each of their six governance dimensions has a large and significant positive effect on per capita incomes and a large, significant negative effect on infant mortality.  For example, “a one standard deviation improvement in governance leads to between a 2.5 fold (in the case of voice and accountability) and a 4-fold (in the case of political stability and violence) increase in per capita income,” p. 15.

[11] Transparency International 2003, pp. 264-265.  Transparency International, Global Corruption Report 2003 (London: Profile Books, 2003).

[12] Easterly 2001, p. 217.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid, 237.

[15] African Development Bank 2003, p. 38.