An examination of the relationship between good governance and ...

An examination of the relationship between good governance and ...

An examination of the relationship between good governance and sustainable


Government and Politics Review 2012

Feargal Lynch, BComm III

Graham Lynch, BSc Government III

& Charlotte Maguire, BSc Government III

For the citizens of the diverse Middle East and North African region (MENA), the events of

the past year have been amongst the most turbulent, bloody and treacherous in recent

memory. They have, collectively, entered a period of unrest, whereby people living under

previously dictatorial regimes stood up for their rights, and fought for more democratic states.

The so-called Arab Spring has had a pervasive contagion effect, spreading from Tunisia to

Egypt and onto Libya, while the people of Syria and its political leaders are currently

engaged in a violent conflict over the country’s future. With the Arab Spring comes certain

challenges; how will a new government form after years of oppression? How can the new

government’s attempt to move away the oppression of the past and look towards a brighter

future? How can justice and equality be implemented to foster an environment of sustainable

development for future generations?

This is a fundamental component of good governance; the development of human rights,

legitimacy, and equity, and, most importantly for MENA countries, sustainability. This article

will analyse the relationship between sustainable development and good governance, the

parameters of this relationship and what it can achieve, by analysing the efforts of countries

in the MENA region and the impact of their policies for sustainable development and good

governance. The article considers arguments by scholars across the globe around the issue of

good governance, while referring to a multitude of facts and figures on each country within

the MENA region.

The successes and failures that events such as the Arab Spring have created are compared,

while also taking into account the fact those countries may now be unsure of their current

positioning in light of recent events. With Syria in crisis, a liberated Egypt and Libya

struggling to develop and adapt to the demands of independence and democracy, the region is

very much in a state of flux.

But the question remains; how do people of the MENA know that a bright future is possible

with sustainable development through democratic means? There is a correlation between

good governance and sustainable development as a whole, but this does not mean it always

occurs; and if it does, it may take many years to fully complete.

This article will utilise several comprehensive reports on MENA to create an accurate

portrayal of past and present practices of governance within the region. The decision to utilise

more than one report was taken to broaden the sphere of research, taking in various

perspectives, but also to gain ascertain a greater understanding of the relationship dynamic

between good governance and sustainable development.

The World Bank is one of the primary sources of research material for this paper. This

organisation, which consists of five agencies, is a global connector of knowledge, learning

and innovation for poverty reduction on the African continent. The World Bank provides

capital for countries they perceive are succeeding, or are proactive in taking steps to

strengthen their economies. Their mission statement concise; they seek to help reduce

poverty. This paper will reference reports of The World Bank on MENA countries and

consider their findings. This article will also utilise research material from The Organisation

for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) to quantify the relationship between

good governance and sustainable development.

Despite having reports that reflect the relationship between good governance and sustainable

development in the MENA region, caution must be exercised. First, due to much of the

information utilised dates from pre-Arab Spring, information gathered in advance of these

developments, not giving a true reflection of the current situation and could affect the results

this article set out to achieve. Apart from this, we need to note the potential alteration and

corruption of figures in many of the MENAs’ countries previous to this year. We note that

sensitive issues such as ethnicity or tribal clans just to mention a few could potentially have

offset the accurate figures that we were able to obtain from such reports. This potentially

could prove problematic in providing an absolute quantification of this article’s findings.

Government and Politics Review 2012

Nevertheless, the information provided a solid platform from which to construct an accurate

portrayal of the on-going development of governance within the region, the problems faced

by governments in terms of social, economic and human rights developments and how these

predicators impinge on the implementation of sustainable developments.

The focus of this research will be on the Middle East and North African region (MENA).

Development in this region on policies such as economic, social and human rights have been

restricted by the poor quality of public governance. Despite evidence of an increase in the

provision of services to its citizens, especially in the public sector, the quality of governance

in the MENA region is considerably lower than in other developing parts of the world.

Improvements in human well-being, social and development goals are vital for the region in

particular because countries in the MENA region are developing at different rates. This

evidence is backed up by a number of agencies such as the World Bank and the Organisation

for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). For the purpose of this research, the

article has focused in particular on elements that are most revealing in terms of good

governance and what it can achieve. These areas include child mortality rates, life expectancy

rates, education, employment/unemployment, infrastructure and health.

Figures from the World Bank Development Report (2003) revealed a number of encouraging

developments in the MENA countries. This was not always the case and although the

findings are to be welcomed, they still reflect considerable room for improvement. For

example, the issue of child mortality shows clear societal differences of countries within the

region of MENA. If you take countries such as Egypt and Indonesia, compare them in

relation to the level of child mortality the results are unexpected. The infant mortality rate in

Egypt was recorded at 69 per 1000 live births. When compared to Indonesia at 42 per 1000,

it ranks poorly as Indonesia has only half the per capita income of Egypt. In the region it is

important to note that only the United Arab of Emirates, which is one of the wealthiest

countries in MENA, can compared favourably with a rate of 8 per 1000, which can be seen in

countries such as Latvia and Hungry.

Prior to recent events in the region social indicators such as the average life expectance in

MENA differed greatly from country to country. Currently, the average life expectancy in the

region lies at seventy years for both males and females. There is still a significant gap

Government and Politics Review 2012

etween countries in the region with regard to how long their life expectancy is. According to

the CIA world fact book (2012), studies show that estimated for 2012 people of Israel has a

life expectancy of 81.07. This is rated high in world figures when compared to Yemen,

another MENA country where the life expectancy is averaging at 64.11 for 2012.

According to the World Bank “education is at the crossroads of the future of the Middle East

and North Africa”. A lot of work has been done in order to combat the problem of poor

education in MENA, especially with regards to the problems of illiteracy. For example, in

Morocco roughly one fifth of its annual budget is directed at education, yet problems of

illiteracy are still very much in evidence. Figures indicate that two in five adult males are

illiterate with just over three in five adult females. When compared to countries with less

wealth such as Mozambique there is little difference as 47.8 per cent of its total population in

2008 over the age of fifteen were literate. With considerable investment in education for the

entire MENA region, the average basic literacy rate in the overall region is at sixty six per

cent, which is relatively low. This is indeed low when compared to Eastern Europe, East and

Southeast Asia, as all countries in these regions have literacy rates above eighty per cent.

According to Hammoud (2005) there has been development on this front as “the absolute

number of adult illiterates fell from sixty four million to around fifty eight million between

1990-2000”. These figures show a considerable investment in education for the region, as a

result, primary enrolment has been achieved in many countries. However, basic education

still remains a problem in Yemen. Access to schooling is especially harder for children in

rural areas of the country, particularly for girls. Figures for literacy in Yemen show that about

69 per cent of rural males above the age of 10 are literate, and only about 24 per cent of rural

females. The knock on effect of this is that the number of early school leavers is high, young

Yemeni nationals are not gaining the necessary skills such as citizenship and leadership

needed to enter the local labour market. According to Hammoud (2005) the gender disparity

is very high in this region with women accounting for two-thirds of the illiterate rate. In

relation to UNICEF figures in 2007, Yemen has the world largest gap between boys and girls

in primary school attendance; 87 per cent to 63 per cent. Work carried out by the Social

Fund for Development (SFD) revealed figures that show a 22 per cent dropout rate among

girls between the age of 11 and 12. It is important to note also that the reason for this is

because early marriage is very common in this country and therefore affects not just women

in education but also empowerment and employment.

Government and Politics Review 2012

Cumulatively, findings show action has been taken to address the issue of education in the

MENA region and results show that there has been a distinct improvement in women’s

education. This is evident in the OECD (2009) Draft Progress Report on Women’s

Entrepreneurship and Employment in the MENA Region. It states that “in some countries,

such as Morocco and Tunisia, a higher proportion of women than men is participating in

mathematics or engineering programmes”.

Studies carried out by the World Bank state projections for 2050 in relation to young workers

in the MENA region. It forecasts an increase of 570 million workers between the ages of 15

and 39. Of this, 44 million young workers are estimated to be on order from the MENA

region, compared to 12 million in East Asia and the Pacific. Figures released in January 2011

by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on the Global Employment Trends for 2011

stated that the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has the highest unemployment

rate in the world, at 10.3 per cent. Even those who are working in the MENA region are

earning insufficient wages. According to the ILO study, 40 per cent of the Middle East

working population and 32 per cent of the North African working population live on less than

$2 a day. The issue of youth unemployment in the region is noted by economists as “the

biggest challenge facing the region”. A staggering 60 per cent of the MENA regions youth

makes up its population. Between the years of 1960 and 1980 the MENA region was just

second to East Asia in relation to per capita income growth, averaging at about 3.5 per cent

per year. Effects of the oil boom ending resulted in the regions income growth falling on

average by two per cent per year. Although a lot of the MENA countries are rich in oil

reserve, this does not reflect on their level for unemployment. For example, Saudi Arabia, a

large exporter of oil, has a youth unemployment rate of 25.9 per cent.

The public sector was a field of choice for MENA graduates, but it can no longer absorb

labour supply. From this, in the case for young Yemeni graduates their private sector has not

yet developed in order to offer an alternative to unemployment. Efforts have been made to

create employment for women in the MENA region also. While more than 50 per cent of

women in all other developing regions are employed or actively looking for a job, only 25.2

per cent of women in MENA do the same. Over the last 30 years, female participation in the

MENA labour force has grown at a sluggish rate of just 0.17 per cent annually. A 2010

World Bank survey of Jordanian female community college graduates found that 92 per cent

Government and Politics Review 2012

planned to look for work, with 76 per cent expecting to be working full time. A follow-up

survey of the same graduates in 2011 discovered that only 7 per cent of the married women

were employed, as opposed to 21 per cent of those who were still single, and 14 per cent of

those engaged.

Modernisation of their economy is an essential for North Africa and the Middle East.

According to the OECD “unprecedented levels of infrastructure spending are foreseen”. It is

estimated that over three hundred billion dollars will be invested on infrastructure over the

next ten years in the region. The main areas of infrastructure to be targeted are transport,

telecommunication and power generation, with the World Bank stating that transport in this

region is still extremely underdeveloped. In countries such as Yemen that has twenty two per

cent of its population living within two kilometres of a proper road, access to rural areas is

limited due to inadequate basic transport services. The conditions are describes as the same as

those found in the poorest countries in the world. In the MENA region almost sixty per cent

of its population live in cities, including Tehran and Cairo which are home to more than ten

million. The upgrade of urban transport services is vital for development.

Telecommunication in the region increased between 1991 and 1995. The representative

country in the African region displayed an average of 10 main telephone lines per 1,000

workers. North Africa was the leader with approximately 133 main lines per 1,000 workers.

Because of the fast development in telecommunications, the infrastructure gap in 2001–5 in

that sector declined for most of the African sub regions, although it still remains large. For

instance, the ratio of main lines and mobile phones in North Africa relative to Western

Europe went up from 0.12 between 1991 and 1995 and by 0.22 between 2001 and 2005.

Figures from the World Bank brings good news in this sector also stating that phone lines

increased twenty times in the last decade in Tunisia.

The energy sector plays a huge role in the MENA region with eighty five per cent of

Greenhouse Gas (GHG) coming from energy production. Energy subsidies in 2009 accounted

for almost 7.1 per cent of the region’s GDP. The reduction of these subsidies could increase

regional GDP by two per cent. According to the World Bank the MENA region has the

lowest per capita water resource in the world and it is decreasing fast, fourteen out of the

twenty countries in the MENA region are water deficient. Only 36 per cent of Yemenis have

access to safe drinking-water, compared with all people who live in Kuwait and the United

Government and Politics Review 2012

Arab Emirates. Since 1950 renewable water resources have in significant decline, 75 per cent

is the figure quoted. According to the Pollution Reference Bureau “three-quarters of MENA's

available fresh water is located in Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. The average amount of

renewable fresh water available in Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the

United Arab Emirates, and Yemen is already below 250 cubic meters per person per year”.

Many health issues affect the entire region, however the control of communicable diseases

such as malaria, pulmonary tuberculosis, and measles are responsible for a large amount of

the region’s morbidity. A big issue is the lack of qualified doctors. Iraq has 6·2 doctors per

10000 people, compared with 216·6 per 10,000 in the UK. With the growing population,

lower mortality rate and increased life expectance better quality health service is vital. The

average hospital bed count per 10,000 people in MENA is 21.6. Healthcare costs in the

MENA region are largely shouldered by the state. In Saudi Arabia, one of the largest

economies in the MENA, the government (through the Ministry of Health) finances 68 per

cent of the total cost of healthcare. The share of government expenditure on healthcare is high

in Algeria (86% of total spending), Qatar (80%), Kuwait (76%) and Oman (76%).

In terms of issues of transparency and corruption, the MENA region tends to rank lowly in

the annual indexes complied by Transparency International. Corruption is particularly

rampant both with regards to petty and grand corruption. The vast majority of countries in the

regions scored below five in the most recent index, with Qatar (7.2), the United Arab

Emirates (6.8) and Bahrain (5.1) the exceptions, indicating a serious problem (Transparency

International, 2011). Levels of accountability and access in the MENA region to civil and

political rights and political participation also trails significantly behind other developing

nations. Transparency International (2011) states that “Not a single country in the region

figures in the top half of the world in terms of public accountability, as measured in terms of

access to information or holding leaders accountable for their actions”.

In seeking to evaluate the relationship between good governance and sustainable

development in the diverse MENA region, this report has utilised a framework based on the

universal values of inclusiveness and accountability, whilst drawing on a number of prevalent

predicators of social, economic and human rights developments.

These values are underpinned by notions of equal participation and equal treatment, where

inclusiveness is concerned, and transparency and contestability in terms of accountability.

Government and Politics Review 2012

Collectively, these values provide the essential and fundamental building blocks for the

development and provision of good governance.

There are many positive signs of good governance practices emerging within the region, as

outlined in the research. A progress report on public management policy reforms

commissioned by the OECD (2010: 5) stated that “MENA countries have achieved

impressive results in recent years in reinforcing institutions, modernising legal frameworks

and building capacities for improved integrity”. However, despite the evidence of some

remarkable increases in the provision of public services to citizens, governance in MENA

remains qualitatively weaker than in other parts of the world (World Bank, 2003).

Throughout the course of this article, the research reveals a number of important findings

regarding governance within the MENA region. The primary and logical conclusion that can

be drawn from the research findings strongly suggests that a range of great disparities in

terms of governance and the provision of services are profoundly manifested across the

territorial regions and between its citizens. Progress in governance within the MENA region

has, evidently, occurred at an uneven rate.

There are a number of reasons for this imbalanced development. The most influential factor

in this regard can be attributed to the economic diversity of the region which includes oil-rich

countries in the Gulf and resource-scarce densely, populated states such as Egypt, Morocco

and Yemen. As a result, the region’s development has been greatly affected by the price of oil

in the Gulf States, and the legacy of poor economic policies and an over reliance on large

governmental institutions in the resource-scare nations.

In terms of the social, economic and human rights predicators, there are some strange

anomalies that raise questions over commonly held beliefs. The evidence of stark differences

in child mortality rate across the region suggests that a countries GDP and general wealth is

not the absolute defining factor in determining these statistics. The aforementioned example

of Egypt and Indonesia reveals fundamental differences on the societal level. The case of the

United Arab of Emirates however does imply that a substantial difference in per capita

income correlates positively to low levels of infant mortality rates. However, as with the

average life expectancy, the statistics for the region on the whole have improved dramatically

over the past half-century.

Government and Politics Review 2012

Despite this, concerns arise at the inadequate provision of health service in the region, which

is ill-equipped to deal with this now aging population. Compounding this issue is the fact that

renewable water resources are disproportionately spread out across the MENA Region, with

three-quarters of all available fresh water located in just four countries.

The provision of adequate health service also remains a pressing issue in the MENA region,

particularly given the projected figures for an imminent increase in the population over the

next decade. The increasing life expectancy within the region represents something of a

double edged sword with regards to governance and its implantation of sustainable

development practices. While on the one hand the increased life expectancy rates and

decreasing live birth rates are both positive predicators of improved living standards, they

also carry with them a new set of predicaments for MENA governments. These include

substantial increases in already prevalent lifestyle diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular

aliments and diabetes (Al Masah Capital Management Limited, 2011). One such example is

provided by the International Diabetes Federation (2011) which estimates that the number of

people suffering from diabetes in the region will double by 2030.

In terms of equality and inclusiveness, the focus often falls on gender in the region. This form

of discrimination however often masks other, less discernible examples of a failure to

implement inclusive policies within the MENA region. The urban/rural divide demonstrates

clearly the weak inclusivity policies in certain parts of the region. Rural dwellers in MENA

often have to make do without a fraction of the public services offered in urbanized areas. As

a result, illiteracy levels in the region are amongst the highest of middle-income countries,

despite some encouraging strides forward in recent decades (World Bank, 2003).

The negligence shown towards the rural regions in terms of delivering infrastructure,

education and health services has had a serious impact on employment. MENA has the

highest unemployment rate in the world (10.3 per cent). Some 60 per cent of the youth

population account for the high unemployment levels. Those that do work earn insufficient

wages, particularly in those countries where large numbers of the population rely heavily on

the public sector for employment. Not only is this model unsustainable, it also fosters a

culture of corruption. Evidence suggests that these large, often unwieldy bureaucratic

institutions are viewed as inefficient, non-transparent and prone to patronage (Kawata, 2006).

Government and Politics Review 2012

There are, subsequently, serious consequences as a result of this corruption and the perceived

lack of transparency.

Cultural aspects of individual regions within the countries of MENA play crucial roles in how

effectively governance is implemented. Cultures where patronage, nepotism and tribal

kinships are the norm can have vastly differing public services. This equally has a strong

bearing on attracting business.

Countries in the region routinely fare poorly when it comes to issues of accountability,

particularly with regards to transparency and contestability (World Bank, 2003). The fight

against corruption has, however, become an important issue within the MENA region. A

report by the OECD (2010: 20-21) attributes this to “a shift in the mind-set of governments

from admitting the existence of corruption to recognising that corruption hinders economic

and social development, distorts markets and competition and undermines the legitimacy and

credibility of governments”. The ratification, between 2004 and 2009, of the United Nations

Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) by a high proportion of countries within the

MENA region has also helped to make inroads in overcoming the issue of corruption. The

international binding agreement has pressed MENA countries into assuming stronger

anticorruption and integrity measures.

Certain conditions are often found to co-exist where corruption is most prevalent. Countries

with discrepant information networks are far more likely to foster an environment that is

conductive to corruption. Countries which exercise a strict control over the media, display

contempt for the right to assembly and freedom of speech as well as those found lacking any

suitable means for the measurement of corruption tend to suffer considerably more (African

Development Bank, 2005). This has certainly been true with regards to the MENA region.

The low wages received by government officials is another important factor in this pervasive

corruption. Uslaner (2009: 127-128) stats that; “The roots of corruption are largely not

institutional, but rather stem from economic inequality and a mistrusting culture, which itself

stems from an unequal distribution of wealth”. Failure to rotate government officials and a

lack of information technology, whereby citizens have to rely on personal interactions, also

contribute to corruption prevailing in MENA societies.

Government and Politics Review 2012

The aforementioned factors are closely tied in with the social conditions. Nepotism and ‘gift’

economies are commonplace in certain societies within the region (Montinola and Jackman,

2002). Low literacy and education levels compounds matters, as does a segregated or tribal

society, where discriminations among the population helps foster another layer of corruption.

Ultimately, while the practice of good governance would appear to be on the increase in the

MENA region, there remain some significant stumbling blocks, as outlined through the

statistics in the research findings. In effect, if good governance is to achieve sustainable

development, the delivery of positive governance practices needs to be accompanied by a

number of further improvements. The reduction of long-term poverty requires sustained

economic growth, a factor hindered by the reliance on oil and public service jobs in MENA.

Sustained economic growth will almost certainly depend on further technological

advancements and with that, capital accumulation. However, none of this will be possible

without first addressing the issues of hunger, gender equality, improved health and education.

Many of these factors in turn require further developments of sustainable forward thinking

governance to deliver safer water and sanitation. Only when these factors are in place can a

more productive society produce the results required for the fostering of a more sustainable,

multi-dimensional development model.

Through the in-depth analysis and research this develops some interesting recommendations.

Although not wanting to classify its recommendations into one broad category, the piece

contends that the issue of transparency and corruption is a major stumbling block for

governments of the MENA region, and by extension the development of sustainable

governing practices.

As illustrated through this article’s research, it is noted that governments are aware of the

consequences of corruption, both economically and socially. Many issues of governance have

been amended in the attempt to retaining power in a certain area, which obviously doesn’t

show any form of sustainable development. Also examined has been the UNCAC, a body

established to stamp out corruption in countries while promoting better forms of transparency

for the entire MENA region. While it is doing well in both promoting and implementing

measures, which is reducing the high volume of corruption in the area. It can be argued that

there are areas of the UNCAC that could be further developed to reduce corruption, while this

Government and Politics Review 2012

paper suggests ways of implementing measures that could furthermore reduce these high

levels of corruption.

As stated in the Transparency International website (2010) ‘’ an important

deficiency is that the requirements on transparency in funding of political

candidates and of political parties are not mandatory in the UNCAC. ‘’ this paper

contends that this deficiency should be altered, to promote a fully transparent

region. Although not wanting to portray the UNCAC as being a ‘’Babysitter’’ for

particular regions, it is noted that to gain a full access of information, all areas of

governance figures and findings should be released, to illustrate a fully

cooperating region.

The paper acknowledges that a great deal has been done in terms of regulation

implementation under the UNCAC, such as the recognition of the right of entities

or persons who have suffered damages from corruption, to initiate legal

proceedings for compensation. However it is firmly stated that the only way for

improvement is to keep implementing new policies. We discussed the influence of

the tribal people in the MENA region, and discussed their influence on the

running of the state as a whole. In this instance it could be argued that a whole

new set of recommendations and regulations could be focused on by the UNCAC,

rules that could reduce the corruption that may go on from a tribal to governance

basis, bribery aside.

Finally, this paper argues that there should be the establishment and

implementation of a great deal of sub bodies to the UNCAC. It can be suggested

that the introduction of some form of regulatory body to areas prone to non-

compliance and by doing so, there could be a greater level of cooperation by

governments of the MENA region, which may develop sustainable development

to the region as a whole. It is further suggested that the creation of a legal

document, signed off by the governments and the regulatory body of the region, to

indicate that regulations under the UNCAC are being followed, and that the

transparency of accurate figures and findings are presented to citizens of the


Government and Politics Review 2012

These three suggestions could contribute to the further abolition of corruption in the MENA

region, which could pave the way for better forms of governance throughout the region. It is

acknowledged that some countries may find such measures more difficult to adapt to than

others, one notable example being Syria, given the turmoil in the country at present. Though

these measures may be seen as a substantial surrendering of power for governments in the

region, the perceived loss of sovereignty may increase economic and social benefits for the

citizens of the countries through: better healthcare, infrastructure and education and the

reduction in the level of corruption.

Aside from the UNCAC, the OECD has implemented measures in the aim of reducing

corruption in the MENA region, for the sustainable development of the countries as a whole.

To demonstrate this, we have looked at their business and integrity project, which they have

launches in the MENA region. The OECD report (2011) stated that ‘’its objective is to

encourage governments and companies of the region to develop and implement measures to

prevent and fight corrupt business practices, thus promoting a more level playing field for

businesses operating in the region.’’ We see from projects such as this the importance of the

reduction of corruption in places such as the MENA region. This report indicates a $100

million dollar investment into this project, signifying that it is of high priority to not only the

region itself, but the world as a whole. With this reduction comes potential for new trading

partners; a greater expansion of imports and exports to certain countries resulting to a great

increase in the MENAs’ countries growth domestic products. New partners for the region

create new allies and new trade agreements, which do nothing but greatly help the

development of any country within the region.

To conclude, this article has indicated many issues, highlighting the correlation between good

governance and sustainable development. Through the portrayal of our facts and findings, we

believe that one of the strongest aspects to help develop the MENA region’s development

arises in corruption reduction. It is noted that there are regulations present, but this paper

presented alternative suggestions and recommendations, and contends, that through a

reduction in corruption and greater transparency, the development of the MENA region’s

economic situation could improve significantly.

Government and Politics Review 2012

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Government and Politics Review 2012

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Government and Politics Review 2012

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