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Applying a Simple Measure of Good Governance to the Debate on Fiscal Decentralization (WPS 1894)

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by J. Huther and A. Shah (1998)

Applying an index for the quality of governance reveals a surprisingly strong positive correlation between fiscal decentralization and quality of governance.

Debates about the appropriate role, policies, and institutions of the state are often hampered by the lack of a definition for "good government." To provide a quantifiable measure of good government, Huther and Shah develop an index for the quality of governance for a sample of 80 countries. They apply the index to the debate on the appropriate level of fiscal decentralization.

In measuring the quality of governance, the authors develop indices for the government's ability to:

  • Ensure political transparency and a voice for all citizens (the citizen participation index measures political freedom and political stability).
  • Provide effective public services efficiently (the government orientation index measures judicial and bureaucratic efficiency and the absence of corruption).
  • Promote the health and well-being of its citizens (the social development index measures human development and equitable distribution of income).
  • Create a favorable climate for stable economic growth (the economic management index measures outward orientation, independence of the central bank, and an inverted debt-to-GDP ratio).

In relating the index of governance quality to degree of fiscal decentralization for the 80 countries, Huther and Shah are not surprised to find a positive relationship between fiscal decentralization and quality of governance. But the strength of the correlation is surprising.


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