Modifying the ‘One Size Fits
All’ Good Governance Agenda for Ethiopia
Asayehgn- Sarlo Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Economic
Development, Barowsky School of Business, Dominican University of
advocated by neo-liberal entities, the agenda of good governance is
grounded on democratic principles that create on-going interaction
processes that are supposed to solidify, governmental structures,
functions and practices of the state and its people. As
the a key driver to economic growth to alleviate
poverty in developing countries, the interaction
process of good governance embeds core guidelines that include, the
rule of law, citizen participation, transparency, accountability, and
elimination of corruption.
that the democratization process and the components of good governance are
central to the achievement of development goals for the twenty-first
century (Punyaratabandhu, 2004), it is either naïveté or arrogance not
to defend the concept of good governance. On the other hand, it is wishful
thinking to accept good governance as a guide for all developing countries
because it is based on abstract concepts beyond the capability of some
developing countries for them to create a better public life.
Moreover, because good governance requires a decision-making
process, its agenda of cannot be imposed from the outside. Rather, it has
to be accepted and practiced according to the needs of its stakeholders
from the inside. Otherwise, they remain dependent on the existing
capitalist order that requires hegemony based on apatron-client
A review of the literature indicates that protagonists strongly
claim that the agenda of good governance has worthy goals not only in
itself but also as a means through which it would enable economic growth
and development in less developed countries.
As discussed by Sachs (2015) the three pillars of sustainable
development are economic development, social inclusion, and environmental
sustainability. They require
good governance with rules of behavior to play a central role in order to
achieve sustainable development goals.
Similarly, studying 17 emerging countries in Africa, Radelet (2010)
demonstrates that a shift toward democracy in African countries has been
accompanied by a measurable improvement in the quality of governance.
on theoretical arguments, opponents of good governance critically argue
that the underlying theoretical basis of good governance is based on
Western social order. Good
governance establishes a bondage system between administrators and
citizens. Based on the bondage system that exists between donors and
recipients of aid, pessimists strongly argue that government officials of
developing countries cannot use their own institutions to formulate
pro-poor policies because they are not accountable to their citizens. In
addition, opponents assert that corrupt officials in some developing
countries have the tendency to badly hinder development efforts by
stealing aid contributions or misdirecting the aid money into unproductive
activities (Gisselquist, 2012). Grindle
(2010) also argues that the
“…the elites who dominate such governments are not always interested
in improving governance, as this could easily limit their power and access
to rents and resources.”
enough, even the USAID (2013) that asserts good governance is the cardinal
underlying basis for development, claims that development goals of a
number of developing countries are undermined by the corrosive impact of
corruption. Pursing further
this kind of argument, the USAID (2013) claims that corrupt elites in some
developing countries not only capture state benefits and indulge in
unaccountable governance, but also divert the scarce national resources
from development projects to their private gain because of the lack of a
transparent governance system that does not require accountability to
a methodological standpoint, the opponents of good governance argue that
the concept of good governance is not applicable to sustainable
development because its indicators are formulated in such away to make
that the recipients willingly or unwillingly subscribe to the donors’
normative or value judgments. Going
one step further they claim that neoliberal models introduce political
conditions based on Western liberal values of democracy tailored to
deepen the dependency of the
aid recipient countries (Nanda,2006; Kofi
and Desta; 2008; and
on the assumption that aid donors generally create long lasting dependence
of the borrowing countries, the opponents of good governance argue that
when developing countries borrow or receive assistance from aid-giving
agencies, they are given no choice but to follow the lead of the
neo-liberal Washington Consensus Model (Adetula, 2011). In
addition, opponents argue that without understanding what good governance
is because of the lack of clarity and what it means to different
organizations and participants, and how good governance is measured,
developing countries are destined to pursue the ideals of liberal
democracy depicted for them by the strategies of good governance. Actually,
when developing countries attempt to navigate through good governance,
they could outpace their limited resources and eventually sink into
dependency (Gisselquist, 2012; Grindle, 2008; Schmitz, 2007).
purpose of this case study is to show that since the agenda of good
governance is designed as ‘one size fits all,’ it is not contextualor
compatible with Ethiopia’s cultural realities.
The second part of the paper presents a brief historical review of
current Ethiopian history. The third section of paper presents the
theoretical underpinnings of the model of good governance as set by donors
and the adherents of neo-liberal democratic ideology. Grounded on African
communal consensus–building approaches, section four of the paper
develops the applicability of grass roots democracy or democratic
autonomous self-rule federalism as an alternative to the agenda of good
governance for Ethiopia’s ethno-federal system. The last part of the
paper suggests some desirable and feasible policies for untangling
ethno-federal Ethiopia from some of the malaise of mal-administration and
the developmental problems that it is currently facing.
the collapse of the Military Government in 1991, Ethiopia has undergone
three challenging transformations: ethnic federalism with the right of
self-determination, including the right to secession; a developmental
democratic state system of governance; and a democratic devolution, each
to become the governance system at the grassroots level (woreda)
of its administration structure.
ensure national consolidation, the Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary
Democratic Front (EPRDF) vigorously
redefined Ethiopia’s political landscape into ethnic federalism and
restructured the state into the contemporary Federal Democratic Republic
of Ethiopia.The EPRDF
subdivided the Ethiopian polity into nine asymmetrical, ethnic-based
regional states and two federal city-states that included the city of
Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa. To further assure self-rule and ascertain
confidence in the nation and in the people of Ethiopia, each regional
state was assured the unconditional right to self-determination, including
the right to secession.
the examples of Taiwan and South Korea’s strategy of mapping industrial
policy, Ethiopia established the ground work necessary for a developmental
state with a government planning policy, or designating the intervention
of the government in designing the country’s economic system.
However, realizing that multilateral, bilateral, and donor
countries would not lend aid unless the aid recipient countries agreed to
abide by the blueprints of good governance, the Ethiopian government
slowly revised its socialistic orientation and
undertook a tactical view by openly propagating the idea that it
was possible to achieve developmental state, and the country could
transition into democracy, accepting the agenda of “good governance”
in order to receive assistance from bilateral and multilateral agencies.
In 2001, the EPRDF further
embarked on the devolution of powers and responsibilities of the woreda, or lower level of administration. As highlighted by
Assefa (2015), the 1991 manifestation of decentralization was aimed at
creating and empowering national and regional states of governments,
whereas as the second phase of decentralization extended the devolution of
powers to the woreda.
cursory look at the state affairs now clearly indicates that Ethiopian
politicians and bureaucrats seem
to be ‘playing with the rules rather than
playing by the rules.’As a result, more recently, a number of regional
governments in Ethiopia have been stepping up the assessment of their management
strategies. To curtail some of the mal-administrative practices riddled
with dramatically flourishing corruption for instance, the Tigraye
Regional States summoned a regional conference towards the end of 2015 to
assess the serious administrative challenges and systematically evaluate
the implementation of the agendas for good governance. Citing various
upheavals that occurred in the Oromia Region and in particular the
eviction of the Oromio farmers from their farm lands, Prime Minister Haile
Mariam Desalgne has straight-forwardly stated that Ethiopia was suffering
from the problems of governance, and that by evicting the helpless Oromio
tenants from their land has alienated the social base of the EPRDF Party
(The Guardian, March 9, 2016). To
expedite the processes of good governance that it had previously accepted,
Ethiopia has declared the Year 2015/16 as the “Year of Good
the years, a number of donor institutions and countries have
governance” as a catchy phrase designed to achieve their own goals and
at the same time, improve the quality of the recipient countries.
As shown in Table 1, there is no consensus among donors of a
working definition of good governance that could help to classify which
countries should be classified as well-governed or poorly governed.
Actually, as it stand now, the working definitions and components
of a good governance agenda set by donors may mean different things to
aid-bestowing institutions and the aid-receiving countries.
example, after having studied the economic and political crisis in
Sub-Saharan African countries in 1989, the World Bank suggested that the
conditions of good governance need to be established for bestowing
assistance to African countries. As
a means to explore the Sub-Saharan Africa’s economic and political
conditions, the Bank used the country Policy and Institutional Assessments
(CIPA) index. The CIPA Index was composed of four clusters (economic
management, structural policies, policies for social inclusions/equity,
and the public sector management and institutions), which was further
divided into 20 items. That
is, the CIPA indicator included: economic
management (four items); structural policies (six items); policies for
social inclusions/equity (five items); and public sector management and
institutions (five items). However,
as argued by Punyaratabandhu (2004), since good governance is a floating
concept, “New items may be added to the CPIA index, and old ones
removed, from time to time, but the total number always remains 20 items.”
The major weakness of the CPIA methodology is that the index was
based on assessment by the World Bank staff rather than by impartial
external professionals (Punyaratabandhu, 2004).
As noted above, the quality of the policy was based on staff
assessments, and the assessment technique lacked validity. Three of the
four clusters were related to creating favorable conditions for the
private sector, rather than measuring governance in the sense of the
state’s relationship with civil society. For example, developmental
states were not objectively measured (Schmitz, 2007, Punyaratabandhu,
addition, the World Bank assessment tools seemed to be based on moral
value judgments. The agenda of good governance tries to distinguish
between the good, the bad and the evil.
As stated by Shivji (2003), the good governance concept as used by
the World Bank rests on political conditionality. Its technical tools are
generally administered by global hegemonies which undermine the
sovereignty of African nations. Being the major donor organization, the
World Bank has used its financial leverage to reduce the role of African
states to become functionaries. The result is that it has made Africa’s
struggle for democracy rely on the whims of the donor states and donations
general, instead of identifying and mapping out where the aid recipient
country is currently now and where it is going, the good governance
indices and assessments tools are designed to closely indicate the
interest of the aid donor agencies. That
is, the good governance assessment techniques are not contextually located
and are not made country specific. For
example, though China has been demonstrating a very robust economy for
more two decades, it is likely to be evaluated as having a weak governance
system. Furthermore, the indicators are not operationally defined in order
to ascertain who would decide what the outcomes would be. That is, it
would it be left up to the donor or the recipient to assess the outcomes
of good governance.
short, since the good governance indicators are not derived from a
theoretical framework, the indicators don’t systematically demonstrate
that the underlying processes, mechanisms, institutions, and the end state
of a nation, suggest an appropriate time frame over which the agenda of
good governance needs to be evaluated. For example, the United Nations
strongly argues that good governance deepens democracy in a fragmented
world and assumes that good governance eradicates poverty and promotes
development. Based on this assumption, the United Nations relies on using
seven complex and disjointed indicators to assess the application of good
governance by the aid receiving countries (UNDP, 2002).
At the same time, it is difficult and too absurd to implement good
governance because the directions set for the recipient countries are too
vague in their instructions and don’t elaborate what goals can actually
be achieved, and when.
said by Grindle (2010), maybe good governance is as important as many
other good ideas but it is not a magic bullet. For instance, as set by the
donor countries, the obligations of good governance call for: a) the
institutions in the recipient countries to set the rules for economic and
political interaction; b) decision-making structures in the recipient
countries to determine priorities
among public problems and allocate resources to respond to them;
c) recipient countries to have
management systems, and deliver goods and services to their citizens; and
d) human resources that staff government bureaucracies in the recipient
countries to handle effective interface of officials and citizens in
political and bureaucratic arenas ( Grindle 2010).
the limited resources that developing countries have, a branch of the
United Nations, the United Nation Development Programs (UNDP) focuses on
differentiating between objective indicators, such as economic
performance, and the subjective indicators that reflect respondent
opinions and perceptions (Punyaratabandhu, 2004). The Organization for
Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) uses five indicators that
pertain to good governance, and also forwards goals that need to be
accomplished in the future. Given
its ideological orientation, the United States Agency for International
Development (USAID) on the
other hand gives support to a number of developing countries that are
going through transitional democracy, cherishing the rule of law,
respecting human rights and individual freedom, as well as abiding by the
rules of the free market to achieve their socioeconomic development (USAID,
Table 1: Components of Good
Compiled from Rachel M.
Gisselquist, “Good Governance as a Concept,and Why this Matters for
Development Policy”. United Nations University, World
Institute for Development Economic Research. March 2012.
on their specialty, the African Development Bank (ADB), the Asian
Development Bank, (ADB), and Inter-American Bank (IAB) stress
accountability, transparency, combating corruption, achieving social
policy for equity, assistance for infrastructure, economic development,
and the manner in which a country exercises the management and
implementation of a just, legal and judicial framework, to bestow the
necessary financial aid. In
short, as stated by Parhasarathy (2005), the ADBs and IAB seem to be more
interested in economic governance or a sound development management system
to assess good governance.
summarize, the “good governance” concept has been evolving for many
years. The donor institutions generally assume that promoting good
governance in developing countries is the primary focus of their agendas (Gisselquist,
2012). Nevertheless, as
mentioned before, their stance of good governance is based on normative
value judgments. It epitomizes Western thinking and is based on Western
history and culture. Not only
does good governance as a concept epitomize Western values but knowingly
or unknowingly it is financed to spread neoliberal ideas that might
prolong dependency. Conceptually, good governance is a list that lacks
coherence among its components. As a result, it has created methodological
problems. That is, unless development practitioners
can “… develop valid measurements, they cannot know that the empirical
relationships they observe between variables are meaningful.” (Gisselquist,
argued by Parthasarathy (2005), rather than dismissing non-Western
cultures as anti-democratic and not suitable for good governance, by
hiding their beliefs it seems that the aid donor entities have
been engaged to work with existing institutions, practicing to promote
development, and enhancing choice and freedom for individuals and groups.
Just by ascertaining the fulfillment of political conditionality, the
donor agencies have been busy donating funds and capital to the recipient
countries. With little or no understanding of the establishment of local
cultures necessary for a democratic governance system, nevertheless the
agendas of good governance have been implanted in a number of developing
countries. Given the
intolerable conditions imposed on the developing countries, it needs to be
stated at this juncture that the recipient countries have been accepting
funds from the donor agencies instead of internally generating the funds
specifically, when giving assistance to Ethiopia, the donor entities
should have known in advance that the political culture of the Ethiopian
people is by and large based on communal orientation.
Given this, the neo-liberal Western values couldn’t coexist with
Ethiopian values. Instead of attempting to build a synergy between the
developmental states of the Ethiopian states and the donor agencies, in
the name of good governance the donor agencies have imposed their own
cultural values on the recipient countries (Adetula,2011).
Therefore, if Ethiopia is to
accept Western assistance, it needs to examine critically the Western
capitalist economic theories, because they were developed for a different
social order. Ethiopian policy makers need to modify the ‘one size fits
all’ in order to adapt and use only the most relevant aspects for
Ethiopian culture and its way of living. In the section that would follow
in the future, an attempt will be made to explore the suitability and
feasibility of Democratic
autonomous self-rule Federalism or as it is known in political science
jargon, the Consociationalism type of democracy for the Federal Republic
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