Building Trust in Government: Innovations in Governance Reform in Asia
Author: G. Shabbir Cheema
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What is the role of public trust in government and political institutions? What strategies can help restore and rebuild trust in different contexts? This chapter provides a conceptual framework to look at the relationship between trust and governance. The rest of the book examines how governments in the Asia-Pacific region have tried to improve electoral and parliamentary processes, decentralise governance, and improve service delivery and access. It also reviews civil society engagement, the accountability and transparency of governance, and public sector capacity.
Factors that determine an increase or a decline in trust in government can be divided into five categories:
- Effective policies and implementation mechanisms
- Committed and inspiring political leaders
- Economic growth and economic opportunities available to citizens
- Provision and delivery of services such as water, sanitation, healthcare, and education, because these services affect citizens directly and in most cases immediately
- Good governance and effective public administration.
Key, interdependent, components of good governance that affect trust in government are:
- Public sector capacity
- Decentralisation and local governance
- Electoral and parliamentary processes
- Civil society engagement and partnerships with the government and the private sector
- Accountability and transparency of governance
- Conflict management and recovery.
Lessons learned from government reforms in the Asia-Pacific region include:
- In Northeast Asia, trust in political parties and parliaments remains low in Japan and the Republic of Korea, partly attributable to the higher expectations of well-informed citizens as well as the perceived ineffectiveness of some of the political leaders. In China and Vietnam, public sector reform, civil society engagement, decentralisation and local governance, transparent legal and judicial reform, combined with the notable economic performance, have positively affected citizen trust in government.
- In Southeast Asia, there is greater trust in government and order institutions than in representative institutions. Challenges faced include the need to improve service delivery and access through innovations, to promote better-performing human resources, to emphasize customer satisfaction and transparency, and to place more trust in citizens.
- In South Asia, development performance has been poor, leading to an inequitable distribution of economic benefits and cynicism in government programs, complicated by security problems. Major issues raised include the relationship between trust, legitimacy, and national identity.
- In the Pacific Islands, government reinvention processes involve working with indigenous forms of governance, customs, and leadership.
Lessons learned from country examples with innovation and government reinvention include the following:
- In the Republic of Korea, tax reform was used as one of several instruments to promote trust in government. Previously hidden transactions are now exposed and taxpayer satisfaction is on the rise, which has increase trust in government services.
- In Indonesia, improvements in trust in government have occurred as a result of constitutional change, increased democratisation, decentralisation, public sector reform, and anti-corruption measures. However, there is a need for additional reforms in specific areas, including the establishment of a special institution for human resource management in order to ensure effective, accessible, and efficient public services.
- In Timor-Leste, trust is dependent on the ability of government institutions to maintain security and stability in the country, deliver public services, maintain the transparency and accountability of governmental operations, and protect human rights and the rule of law.
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Cheema, S. G., 2010, 'Building Trust in Government: An introduction', in eds. G. Shabbir Cheema and V. Popovski, Building Trust in Government: Innovations in Governance Reform in Asia, United Nations University Press, Tokyo, ch. 1
Organisation: United Nations University, http://www.unu.edu/