Ibrahim Index on governance: classroom theories, not fact.

Author:Jaisinghani, Nikhil
Position:THIS MONTH'S PRIZE LETTER - Letter to the editor

For a number of reasons, I was disappointed with the article on the Ibrahim Index of Good Governance (Cover story, African Business, November 2007).

As I began reading, I was hoping to see a more informed, more thoughtful approach to measuring governance which would begin by analysing the definition of good governance: "The exercise of political authority and the use of institutional resources to manage society's problems and affairs" (World Bank). Unfortunately, the MIF Index ignored many of the critical elements of this definition.

First, the index is not a measure of current political authority as much as past political authority. Somalia could, with appropriate steps, display good governance in a short period of time; but improvements in education, health, and economic growth are only evident over the long term. The index is a better measure of the quality of political authority over the past decades rather than a measure the quality of political authority now.

Second, the index mixes proxies of good governance with the actual indicators those proxies are supposed to measure. Democracy and the right of participation, I believe, should lead to economic growth, better health, and improved education while corruption, we believe, should lead to their degradation.

But democracy, participation, and corruption are not measures of good governance in themselves. They are elements we assume will lead to good governance. If you are able to measure the quality of governance (which the World Bank definition would argue is captured in economic and social indicators), then proxies do not have any added value--in fact, their inclusion can only reduce the index's accuracy.

Finally, the index is yet another exogenous and rigid measure of something which, from the definition, should be endogenously defined. 'Society's problems' are defined by that society, not by an outside society. Inherently, the measure of governance must be tailored to the priorities of the specific country being evaluated; this index imposes the views of outsiders on a discussion that they are not a part of.


A true measure of governance would relate improvements in the areas that are the priorities of the people the government is meant to serve, not to the priorities of academics in New England.

How much could this affect the ratings? If economic...

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