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What are the Cross-Cutting Themes?


Cross-cutting themes that determine the quality of governance, especially with respect to issues where governance seem especially weak.  These themes, which are necessarily interlinked and overlapping, include the following:

Predictability and Formal versus informal:  The degree to which formal rules, regulations and institutions are respected, the degree to which informal channels of decision, influence, control, and access prevail, and the mechanisms for resolving conflicts between formal and informal rules when the latter are important.  For example, regular elections may be held, but the choice of candidates may be controlled and limited to certain groups.  Or competition policy may be well defined, with appropriate enforcement institutions, but informal mechanisms may be used to prevent access to the market by outsiders.


Consultation and contestability:    The degree of access, consultation, and participation by various concerned stakeholders in setting, contesting, and changing rules and regulations, as well as the public officials charged with making and implementing them.


Inclusion and equality of access:[1]   The degree to which rules and regulations treat everyone equally or have been designed to discriminate or to exclude certain groups of society or to protect and privilege certain groups at the expense of others. These inequalities may well denote a failure of governance.  Examples of such results include privileged access to some public services, which are notionally available to everyone, but – in practice – are restricted to those who have the means and the connections to get them – including tribal ties, education, and sufficient income to pay associated costs (school uniforms, for example) or bribes, and the existence of business regulations, taxes and subsidies that give special advantages to some businesses and/or protect them from their competitors.


Meritocracy: Meritocracy is a system of government where appointment and/or advancement is based on a given individual's education, talent, and achievement instead of his or her wealth, family, or tribal connections, ethnicity, religion, class privilege, or political patronage.


Efficiency and Effectiveness: The principle of effectiveness maintains that the goal of government is to produce goods and services as economically as possible given a prescribed level of output.  The principal of effectiveness maintains that government ministries and departments are (or should) make a successful contribution to achieving a broader social objective.


Accountability:  The concept of accountability can have a variety of different uses and meanings.  Within organizations, it captures the view that officials at various levels should be held responsible for producing results that are consistent with the broader goals of the organization and achieved in accordance with specified rules and guidelines.  It also means that their work is effectively managed and overseen by superiors in a series of well defined reporting relationships.  Within government as a whole, it can refer to the use of institutional checks and balances to attain various goals--such as financial probity, in the case of supreme audit institutions and the cours des comptes.  More broadly, social accountability or public accountability can refer to government's ultimate responsibility to its citizenry.


Capture of private sector policies:    Weak contestability and inequality of access often manifest themselves most sharply in a distorted business environment that has been shaped by certain business groups for their own benefit.  This phenomenon – often called “state capture” or “influence” deserves special consideration in this study of governance.[2]   It arises for several reasons.  For example, failure of the state to provide certain basic public goods (such as security, land title, a legal system to provide orderly dispute resolution) may cause certain business groups to capture the state to provide protection for their business investments but not those of others.  In other cases, the absence of check and balances, including contestability, may permit some business groups to hijack public policy for their own ends – i.e., designing public policies and programs that accord them special financial advantages or market privileges.   Studying this phenomenon would mean investigating the extent to which certain business groups use influence or payments to public officials and politicians and the extent to which business groups actually become the political elite, as well as investigating the cost of these practices both to the quality of governance and to the pace of development.


Transparency and freedom of information.   Transparency in the conduct of government and the free circulation of accessible information about public decisions affect the quality of governance across all dimensions.  For example, exceptions to full disclosure of government information and repression of public discussions of any policy point to weaknesses in governance.

[1] Whereas consultation and contestability refers to the degree of access in terms of input into the decision-making process, inclusion and equality refers to the extent to which rules and regulations favor certain groups or individuals.

[2] Joel Hellman, Geraint Jones, Daniel Kaufmann, discuss state capture in the transition economies in their 2000 World Bank paper “Seize the State, Seize the Day; State Capture , Corruption, and Influence in Transition”.  They distinguish two types of monopolization of private sector policies.  First, they define state capture as the capacity of firms to shape and affect the formation of basic rules of the game (i.e., laws, regulations, and decrees) through private payments to public officials and politicians, and second, they define the use of influence as the capacity to do the same without recourse to such payments. Much of the work on this issue is based on conditions in transition economies but the principles apply more broadly.  For example, their experience indicates that whereas firms that use influence are usually incumbents with influence inherited from the past with reasonably secure property rights and close ties with the state, both formal and informal, firms using state capture as a strategy do so to compete against existing influential firms by trying to purchase benefits from the state including protection for their own property and contract rights.

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