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Corruption and bad governance


Until the mid-1990s, scholars and practitioners were relatively oblivious to issues of bad governance and corruption. Many of them even argued that some types of corruption could have a functional impact on economic development since they could "grease the wheels". But ever since different indices and measurements became available, such as the World Bank's WGI, numerous studies have demonstrated that government institutions that are reasonably free from corruption and related practices have a strong positive impact on a large set of outcomes related to human well-being. Central to this discussion has been the link between the quality of government institutions that implement policies (control of corruption and the rule of law) and economic development (Holmberg, Rothstein and Nasiritousi, 2009).

Ineffective institutions undermine the provision of public services such as health care, education and law enforcement. When public officials do not act as bureaucrats delivering services as they are expected to do, people can try to obtain these services in other ways. In many countries, people are usually able to access public services without having to engage in any form of bribery, but the same cannot be said for every country. The role of the media in promoting good governance and contributing to perceptions about the quality of governance at the international, national and local level is also worth nothing. For a further discussion on the role of the media, see Module 10 of the E4J University Module Series on Integrity and Ethics and Module 10 of the E4J University Module Series on Anti-Corruption.

The concepts of corruption and good governance have a two-way causal relationship with each other and feed off each other in a vicious circle. If good governance principles and structures are not in place, this provides greater opportunity for corruption. Corruption, in turn, can prevent good governance principles and structures from being put in place, or enforced. Violations of the principles of transparency, accountability and rule of law appear to be most closely associated with corruption. In the end, corruption and poor governance are security challenges which undermine democracy, the rule of law and economic development. For a further discussion on how corruption relates to peace and security, see Module 11 of the E4J University Module Series on Anti-Corruption.

There is a large body of literature that reveals the negative consequences of bad governance, primarily in the form of corruption and lack of property rights, for areas such as population health and people's access to safe water (Swaroop and Rajkumar, 2002; Holmberg and Rothstein, 2011). The perception of poor quality of government, including authoritarian rule, corruption and economic downturn, affect whether people vote and participate in the political process (Hooghe and Quintelier, 2014; Kostadinova, 2009). Råby and Teorell (2010) show that measures of good governance are stronger in predicting the absence of violent interstate conflicts than measures for democracy, and Lapuente and Rothstein (2010) provide similar results for civil wars. Gilley (2006, p. 57) even demonstrates that "general governance (a composite of the rule of law, control of corruption and government effectiveness) has a large, even overarching importance in global citizen evaluations of states". He further states that these governance variables have a stronger impact on political legitimacy than variables measuring democratic rights and welfare gains.

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