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Effective governance is a key factor for establishing public trust for any political democratic dispensation, and governments ensure it through effective delivery systems.

In Pakistan, we have witnessed erosion of public trust in government institutions because in the last few decades successive governments have failed to fulfil promises of establishing transparent, accountable, responsive, equitable and rule-based governance system.

Unaddressed erosion of public trust in the governance system could lead to weakening of the very foundations of our state. The Worldwide Governance Indicators ranks Pakistan’s institutional quality “near bottom among 200 countries” which creates distrust, uncertainty and lack of confidence in our policymaking and implementation institutions.

Our poor economic performance and inability to build an equitable governance system has resulted in widening wealth gap between different segments of society, which is creating a lot of resentment against unfairness and deprivation.

The youth of today is losing hope and trust in the state, and we are witnessing an exodus of not only skilled human capital but also common person for greener pastures. Surfacing of scandals (like recent wheat scandal) in public sector is common phenomenon due to which huge losses to the public exchequer are sustained and taxpayer’s money is either wasted or syphoned off by the cronies of the political elite with the help of bureaucratic machinery without holding anyone accountable which disappoints our masses.

Governance is all about processes, systems, structures, rules and institutions and defines how decisions are made, power is exercised and resources allocated. The law of the land makes public functionaries responsible to ensure that public funds are utilized legally, transparently and that value for money is achieved through attainment of national objectives.

When critical public service institutions such as judiciary, ministries, regulatory bodies and line departments at federal and provincial levels are unable to play effective role in maintaining rule of law and ensuring effective delivery of services, then it depletes trust level.

Public trust plays a crucial role in creating synergy in the system, and it promotes cooperation among different stakeholders and promotes development in the country. The biggest socio-economic challenges of Pakistan cannot be addressed in the absence of a robust governance system, which would establish trust in our public institutions, and minimize chances of political volatility. The effectiveness of our public institutions depends on the trust that citizens and businesses repose in them.

Effectiveness of governance system hinges on its capacity to ensure provision of goods and services to the people and when we apply this touchstone in context of Pakistan, it shows that our systems have consistently failed to deliver.

Good governance system is bound to ensure transparency, accountability, effectiveness, equity, participation and responsiveness, which are pivotal for economic development, social justice and human well-being.

Unfortunately, in Pakistan poor service delivery has played a significant role in governance failure, as public sector continued to struggle to provide effective and efficient services that have created trust deficit in government institutions.

Our poor economic and human indicators pertaining to sectors like finance, trade, energy, health, education, water and sanitation, transport, law and order and general administration portray a dismal picture of performance of our implementing agencies and entities.

Failures of our institutional governance and poor delivery system have created not only sense of disillusionment and mistrust among the citizens, but also promoted culture of corruption and nepotism, which has weakened public institutions.

Effective institutional arrangements could become instrumental in augmenting the public trust in state functioning because citizens trust the public institutions when they deliver services that improve their lives. In Pakistan, for successive governments, maintaining public trust has been a major challenge.

The situation exacerbated due to political instability, weak rule of law and accountability, mismanagement of public resources, corruption and cronyism, poor delivery systems, lack of reforms in public sector, lack of transparency in public decision-making and unmet expectations have disillusioned the public.

Trust is essential for governance, and it is therefore necessary for governments to build it among the public. Successful implementation of policies has direct linkage to the level of trust that citizens repose in their governments.

Citizen’s compliance to government policies is “either assumed or, alternately, achieved via coercion by law and enforcement”. In Pakistan recently we have witnessed failure of FBR’s traders’ registration campaign, which was based more on coercive approach without extensive consultation with the key stakeholder.

It would be easy for trustworthy government to implement its policies and same is possible when the public institutions command the trust of people on basis of their efficient and effective delivery of services. If in Pakistan, we want voluntary compliance to government policies and development initiatives then public trust in government and state would have to be re-established by strengthening our governance systems to ensure delivery of services in every sector of the economy.

Public trust could be established when the people see that their money is well spent on public goods and services, and only then would they be willing to pay their taxes. On the other hand, waste, plunder and syphoning off the public funds with mutual manipulation of corrupt mafia and public functionaries would demotivate the people to pay taxes to the state. There is positive correlation between high confidence in government and voluntary compliance to government decisions and policies, and it is possible when public institutions are functioning effectively.

Our experience has made us aware of inadequacy of current governance style and institutional constraints to deliver effectively. To address the issue of trust deficit, there is need to bring qualitative changes in our governance structures at federal, provincial and local levels through a robust reform agenda to make them lean and smart.

Emergence of destructive technologies and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are rapidly changing the working processes and governance approach of public sector. This transformational wave is posing not only new challenges to the government and the public functionaries, but also rendering the stereotyped working approaches redundant.

Our systems have to be responsive to the needs of time while eliminating inefficiencies, distortions and waste of resources. In terms of building trust in the state, the paramount driver is respect for rule of law along with ensuring effective policymaking and its implementation.

Governance at ministerial and departmental level shall have to be more transparent, responsive, equitable, corruption free with inclusive approach for better delivery systems. The operational inefficiencies need to be done away with by simplifying the procedural and regulatory regime with help of automation.

Public servants need to acquire new skills and competencies to deliver effectively. Public trust is critical to expanding state capacity for the long run and to tackling the challenges, such as revamping of economy, climate change and law and order.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Javaid Jehangir

The writer is a former Auditor General of Pakistan

Comments

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KU May 04, 2024 02:28pm
The time for should and would came and has gone, public sector or servants are the bane of our destruction, and pretty soon we will suffer worst than ever experienced. They should be put behind bars.
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