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The Good Governance Agenda: Beyond Indicators without Theory


  • Matt Andrews


Effective government matters, but what is it? Good governance indicators go some way to provide a definition, but how much do they say about what effectiveness is, why this is so, and how it matters to development? This article argues that much work on the good governance agenda suggests a one-best-way model, ostensibly of an idyllic, developed country government: Sweden or Denmark on a good day, perhaps. The implied model lacks consistency, however, seems inappropriate for use in the development dialogue and is not easily replicated. In short, it resembles a set of well meaning but problematic proverbs. The good governance picture of effective government is not only of limited use in development policy but also threatens to promote dangerous isomorphism, institutional dualism and “flailing states”. It imposes an inappropriate model of government that “kicks away the ladder” that today's effective governments climbed to reach their current states. The model's major weakness lies in the lack of an effective underlying theoretical framework to assist in understanding government roles and structures in development. A framework is needed before we measure government effectiveness or propose specific models of what government should look like. Given the evidence of multiple states of development, the idea of a one-best-way model actually seems very problematic.

Suggested Citation

  • Matt Andrews, 2008. "The Good Governance Agenda: Beyond Indicators without Theory," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 36(4), pages 379-407.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:oxdevs:v:36:y:2008:i:4:p:379-407
    DOI: 10.1080/13600810802455120

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Stegarescu, Dan, 2004. "Economic Integration and Fiscal Decentralization: Evidence from OECD Countries," ZEW Discussion Papers 04-86, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gaoussou Diarra & Patrick Plane, 2014. "Assessing the World Bank's Influence on the Good Governance Paradigm," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(4), pages 473-487, December.
    2. Matt Andrews & Jesse McConnell & Alison Wescott, 2010. "Development as Leadership-led Change," CID Working Papers 206, Center for International Development at Harvard University.
    3. Lant Pritchett & Michael Woolcock & Matt Andrews, 2013. "Looking Like a State: Techniques of Persistent Failure in State Capability for Implementation," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 49(1), pages 1-18, January.
    4. Cristina Boța-Avram, 2013. "Effects Of Governance On Corporate Ethics: A Cross-Country Investigation," Romanian Economic Journal, Department of International Business and Economics from the Academy of Economic Studies Bucharest, vol. 16(50), pages 3-26, December.
    5. Matt Andrews, 2013. "Do International Organizations Really Shape Government Solutions in Developing Countries?," CID Working Papers 264, Center for International Development at Harvard University.
    6. Bichaka Fayissa & Fahad Gill, 2016. "Revisiting the growth-governance relationship in developing Asian and Oceanic economies," Journal of Economics and Finance, Springer;Academy of Economics and Finance, vol. 40(4), pages 803-816, October.
    7. Camilla Louise Bjerkli, 2013. "Governance on the Ground: A Study of Solid Waste Management in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 37(4), pages 1273-1287, July.
    8. Matt Andrews, 2014. "An Ends-Means Approach to Looking at Governance," CID Working Papers 281, Center for International Development at Harvard University.
    9. repec:unu:wpaper:wp2012-63 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Dogaru Dorin-Madalin, 2015. "Public Policy, Quality Of Intitution And Economic Growth In Central And Eastern European Countries," Annals - Economy Series, Constantin Brancusi University, Faculty of Economics, vol. 2, pages 239-245, April.
    11. Michener, Gregory, 2015. "Policy Evaluation via Composite Indexes: Qualitative Lessons from International Transparency Policy Indexes," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 184-196.
    12. Alexey Barabashev, 2016. "Crisis of State Governance and its Influence on Basic Administrative Paradigms of State and Bureaucracy," Public administration issues, Higher School of Economics, issue 3, pages 163-194.
    13. Andrews, Matt, 2014. "An Ends-Means Approach to Looking at Governance," Working Paper Series rwp14-022, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    14. Ward, Hugh & Dorussen, Han, 2015. "Public Information and Performance: The Role of Spatial Dependence in the Worldwide Governance Indicators among African Countries," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 253-263.
    15. Gisselquist, Rachel M., 2012. "Good Governance as a Concept, and Why This Matters for Development Policy," WIDER Working Paper Series 030, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    16. Woolcock, Michael, 2014. "Engaging with Fragile and Conflict-Affected States," Working Paper Series rwp14-038, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    17. Gisselquist, Rachel M., 2013. "Evaluating Governance Indexes: Critical and Less Critical Questions," WIDER Working Paper Series 068, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    18. Woolcock, Michael, 2014. "Engaging with fragile and conflict-affected states: An alternative approach to theory, measurement and practice," WIDER Working Paper Series 097, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    19. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:2:p:502-:d:131775 is not listed on IDEAS

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