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Building trust by improving governance: searching for a feasible way for developing countries.


Since trust emerges as one of the most significant elements upon which the legitimacy and sustainability of politico-administrative systems are built, trust has become a major worry for many leaders, scholars and public officials globally. Trust is highly important for government and good governance, but it seems to be declining around the world. People are losing their confidence in governments (Etzioni & Diprete 1979; Fukuyama 1995; Putnam 1995; 2000; 2002; Gambetta 1988; Barnes & Gill 2000; Cook 2001; Hardin 2002; 2004; 2006). Many think that the trend towards lack of trust in the government by the public is not just a national problem; it has become a global phenomenon.

Why is trust in government declining? There are many reasons. Some say that the people have changed through socioeconomic development and the social structure of our lives has changed so that people are more skeptical of government (Etzioni & Diprete 1979; Klingemann et al. 1995; Nye et al. 1997; Hardin 2004; 2006). Others say that the styles of politicians have changed and the underlying politico-administrative issues have also changed in ways that reduce confidence in government, confidence in institutions and confidence in many public organizations (Manin 1997; Hardin 2002; 2004; 2006). Symptoms of declining trust include declining voter turnout (Gray & Caul 2000; Suleiman 2005), youth disinterest in politics (Adsett 2003), decreasing levels of civil involvement (Saul 1995; Putnam 1995; 2000; 2002; UN 2008), and periods of poor economic performance (Blind 2006).

What is trust? While there are numerous definitions of trust, it generally refers to a personal attribute regarding a relationship of reliance, confidence, optimism of a good will, or confident expectation (it is a situational/relational concept). Trust can be summed up in the equation, Trust = f (x), where x refers to multiple variables (Kramer and Tyler 1996; Cook 2001). In other words, trust can be defined in several different ways, including along individual, organizational and institutional dimensions. In terms of organizations, trust can be a function of three major variables: embedded predisposition (a function of managerial philosophy and its structural manifestations); character (dis)similarity, which is affected by organizational actions and structure; and experiences of reciprocity, which are affected by the organizational context for reciprocity and mutuality (Kramer & Tyler 1996; Ostrom & Walker 2002; Kramer & Cook 2004). In sum, trust can be defined as the result of a combination of the characteristic similarity and positive relational experience. It can be positively influenced by increasing the perceived similarities and the number of positive exchanges. Adverse experience can result in a corresponding negative influence and lack of trust.


There are numerous objects of trust in government. For governments to gain trust they must basically govern and perform better; there must be more transparency, accountability, participation, responsibility and responsiveness. The major objects of trust include the government's integrity, the administration, the judiciary, the legislative body, the electoral process and the outcomes.

In deciding on trustworthiness in these areas there are some questions that can be asked (Seligman 1997; Sztommpka 1999; King 2000; Weber and Carter 2003; Hardin 2002; 2004; 2006). In the area of integrity, for example: is it corrupt or deceitful? Does the administration operate efficiently? How does it manage the bureaucracy? Is the judiciary fair, consistent and obedient to the rule of law? Is the legislative body representative and inclusive? Is the electoral process open, transparent and reasonable? Are the outcomes those which are best for the country? These questions about trustworthiness all reflect the characteristics of good governance (Barber 1983; Bianco 1994; Seligman 1997; Braithwaite & Levi 1998; Blind 2006).

The roots of mistrust can be found in various areas: citizens feel that politicians and public officials often abuse their powers in the interest of self-aggrandizement; citizens feel disconnected from government; government service delivery is perceived as inadequate or improper; government systems are poor or malfunctioning; a weakened global or national economy, such as we face very seriously around the world today; the effects of globalization and informatization, such as ICT development; resentment over political scandals and crises; the incompetence of bureaucrats and politicians; rule violation, honor violation, and many others (Nye et al. 1997; Hardin 2004).


How is trust in government built up? Building trust in government can be likened to a billiard game. The target ball cannot be hit directly; it is moved by hitting an intermediary ball first. In the same way public trust cannot be affected directly or in isolation. By targeting legality, integrity, efficiency, effectiveness, involvement, dependability, transparency and fairness, which are all part of good governance, improved public trust will eventually result. In other words, pubic trust is the pinnacle byproduct of foothill goals such as good governance agendas (Goodsell 2006). All of these attributes of good governance rely on public sector capacity, which is essential.

There are two important approaches in building trust in government: the Good Governance approach (GG) and the Good Enough Governance approach (GEG). The core characteristics of GG are accountability, transparency, participation, the rule of law, responsiveness, consensus orientation, equity and fairness, effectiveness and efficiency, strategic vision and possibly others (Kim et al. 2005; Kim & Jho 2005). This is a very idealistic approach, but it may not be practical in all cases (Kim 2009b). While GG calls for improvements on many different areas, and is often too ambitious, it provides no guidance about relative importance, sequences and feasibility.

In contrast, GEG might be a more realistic approach for developing countries. Its core elements are focus, what needs to be done; sequencing, when it needs to be done; approach, how it needs to be done; selectivity, what is essential and what is not; and pragmatism, what is feasible and what is not. (Grindle 2004; 2007).These questions need to be properly investigated to provide effective change and development.

One of key elements of good governance is accountable governance (Kim & Jho 2005; Kim et al. 2005; Kim 2009a). Accountability has numerous meanings and is not always seen as the same thing in every country. Accountability in socialist countries strongly refers to compliance to rules, laws and regulations. This is also the case in many developing countries. Once this is well established, the accountability that people can expect at the next level is relying on an honest and ethical character of public servants by the citizens, and from there move to satisfying the needs and demands of citizens in relation to contract and reporting requirements, as well as the financial and ethical policies and procedures. These are the basic requirements. However, in more developed countries, people may expect higher performance. Beyond the basic accountability and obligation, the development of a full spectrum of policies and processes related to accountability which can be embedded into the culture is required, this in turn is improved upon by demonstrating evidence of policy impacts. Ultimately there is transformation to open, transparent, fully accountable, performance-related governance. Performance related accountability is gaining importance in developed countries, but in developing and/or socialist countries, as well as in countries in transition, performance related accountability may not be a high priority of the people. In this way there is a hierarchy of accountability, from basic to more complex or advanced levels (Kim 2009a).

Good governance also means transparent governance. The dictionary defines transparency as "free from pretence or deceit," "easily detected or seen through," or "readily understood" When people want to have public information, is it accessible? Many developed countries have Freedom of Information Acts, but this is generally not the case in developing countries. Other aspects of transparency in the public service require clarity, that there is integration with other decisions, that it is logical and rational, accountable, truthful and accurate, and open. If citizens have a problem with information, in public service delivery, they may expect an effective complaint channel (Olegario 2006; Kim 2009a). Citizens want to know what public officials are doing and how.

Another aspect of good governance is participatory governance. In the broad range of public participation spectrum (inform-consult-involve-collaborate-empower), citizens want to participate in public affairs and in the policy formulation and decision making processes (UN 2008). For this they need to know what is happening in policy development. More participation may lead to strengthening democracy, assuring efficiency, and increasing transparency. These could lead to building a cooperative structural network which in turn improves trust. This kind of discussion can be continued based on other key elements of good governance, but this is beyond the scope of this paper.


A myriad of surveys have been undertaken by various organizations in order to evaluate levels of trust in the world: the World Bank (the World Governance Indicators), the World Economic Forum, the Institute for Management Development (IMD), the Eurobarometer, the Asia barometer, Latinobarometro, the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), UNPAN, UNDP, Transparency International (TI), Sustainable Governance Indicators (SGI), the Legatum Institute (the Legatum Prosperity Indicator), the Freedom House (2008), the Gallup International, the World Values Survey, and many other organizations. For example, the Worldwide Governance Indicator project is supported by the World Bank.

The Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) project reports aggregate and individual governance indicators for many countries and territories over six dimensions of governance (control of corruption, voice and accountability, rule of law, regulatory quality, political stability and absence of violence and government effectiveness). The aggregate indicators combine the views of a large number of citizen and expert survey respondents in industrial and developing countries. These data are gathered from a number of survey institutes, think tanks, non-governmental organizations, and international organizations. The WGI permits meaningful cross-country comparisons as well as monitoring progress over time. (Kaufmann et al. 2009; World Bank 2009).

Based on WGI information the author produced the chart showing regional averages in percentile rank (Table 1). Percentile rank indicates the percentage of countries worldwide that rate below the selected country. Higher values indicate better governance ratings. The WGI is shown by region and for the nation. According to this information, the OECD countries have the highest levels (80s & 90s) in all six dimensions, followed by the Caribbean countries (60s). The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is a Paris-based international economic organization of 30 countries and most OECD members are high-income economies, which are often regarded as developed countries.

Below the Caribbean countries (60s), the Eastern Europe and Baltic countries (50s-60s), East Asia (40s-50s), Latin America (30s-50s), and the Middle East and North Africa (20s-40s) follow. The lower groups are South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and the former Soviet Union. In Latin America, for instance, the rule of law and political stability and violence are low (33.1 & 35.0 respectively), while in the Middle East and North Africa, voice and accountability are the lowest (23.7). In South Asia, it is political stability and absence of violence that rates the lowest score (19.5). In Sub-Saharan Africa, it is government effectiveness that has the lowest score (26.3) while the former Soviet Union has a low score in control of corruption (21.5) and voice and accountability (21.4).

In the table for Asian countries, from Singapore to North Korea, each country is shown to have a very different situation (see Table 2). Singapore has a very high score in everything except voice and accountability (35.1) which is surprising and shows uneven development since the score is so high in all other areas. Similarly, Hong Kong has high scores in all but voice and accountability (60.6). Another interesting case is Bhutan, which has a low score in voice and accountability (26.0) and regulatory quality (19.3), while other areas have a relatively high score. Malaysia is also another country with a low score in voice and accountability (31.7).

In East Asia, at least three different development models can be identified. The first one is the so-called "Singahong" Model including Singapore and Hong Kong. These two show high government effectiveness, but low scores on voice and accountability. The second one is the so-called "Jakota" Model including Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. These three countries are leading countries in East Asia and share a substantial degree of cultural similarities although a degree of differences exist among them. The third one is the China model, which defies the premise of good governance. China is a socialist country which lacks democracy and governance, but China's government effectiveness is substantially improving over the years. Accordingly, one might roughly label the China case as "growth without governance and democracy."

According to Table 2, China has very low voice and accountability (5.8), followed by Laos (6.3) and Vietnam (6.7). Interestingly, Timor-Leste has relatively high score for voice and accountability, but all other indicators are quite low. Countries with extremely low scoring for political stability are Afghanistan (1.0), Pakistan (1.4), Sri Lanka (2.9), Nepal (7.7), and Bangladesh (9.6). Finally, most scores in three countries (Afghanistan, Myanmar, and North Korea) are very low. This information shows that the weaknesses of the countries are not uniform across the region (Sampford et al. 2002).

Less developed countries are often advised by many experts from advanced societies to improve overall good governance agendas. Based on the previous discussion, should fragile countries aim for GG? That is, should all areas be improved? Alternatively, should certain areas be focused upon for improvement as in the GEG approach? These questions are not too complicated, but implications of these questions effects are critical in choosing the path for the development of many developing countries. GG is a rosy model for them, but it may not be workable. Matt Andrews (2008; 2010) asserts that the good governance version of good or effective government is a "hollow" one imposing a false one-best-way model on developing countries. Accordingly, GEG might be more suitable for these cases than GG. Realistically speaking, the sequencing approach might work better and make more sense in developing countries than a comprehensive approach because developing countries have many problems and they cannot deal with all the problems at once (Kim 2009b).

There is a marked relationship between government effectiveness and the GDP per capita (Kaufmann et al. 1999). In general, the more GDP per capita a country has, the higher the government effectiveness (Kaufman & Kraay 2002). Since correlation does not indicate clear causality, however, some say that this may be a spurious relationship. Accordingly, we need to utilize an alternative guide such as the Legatum Prosperity Index produced by the Legatum Institute (2009). The Legatum Prosperity Index is the world's global assessment of wealth and wellbeing and produces rankings based upon the very foundations of prosperity and ranks 104 countries, according to their overall abilities to foster the nine drivers of prosperity. According to the 2009 Legatum Prosperity Index, Northern European and many OECD countries have a high score. However, when we look at the nine drivers of prosperity (economic fundamentals, entrepreneurship and innovation, democratic institutions, education, health, safety and security, governance, personal freedom, and social capital), we can find a number of exceptional cases.

China, for example, has a relatively high score on economic fundamentals (ranked 29th among 104 countries) and entrepreneurship and innovation (ranked 38th), but a low score on governance (ranked 93rd) and democratic institutions (ranked 100th). Another interesting case is Singapore, which has a high score on economic fundamentals (ranked 9th) and governance (ranked 4th), but a low score on democratic institutions (ranked 86th). On the other hand, Bangladesh has somewhat higher score than China on democratic institutions, but Bangladesh's economic fundamentals are far less than China (see Figure 1). Furthermore, both China's and Singapore's cases imply that that some countries can gain economic growth without being democratic. In that case, someone may exaggerate such phenomenon as "growth without democracy." Kaufman and Kraay (2002) also used the term "growth without governance," when a country gained economic growth, while its governance level was low. Overall, good governance seems to provide the fundamental basis for economic development, but it is not the automatic result of development. Good governance requires continuous political will and commitment, and exacting work. However, clarifying a relationship between political and economic development is beyond the scope of this article.



Since governance reform and public sector reform have become buzzwords for bilateral donors and multilateral institutions, there is currently great pressure on developing countries to adopt a set of "good policies and good institutions" to foster economic development in an era of good governance and reform (or innovation and the like). Wherever we go, the terms "governance" and "good governance" seem to be widely used and sometimes overused (also, misused) around the world (Brinkerhoff & Goldsmith 2005; Arndt & Oman 2006). Major donors and international financial institutions are increasingly basing their aid on the condition that reforms ensuring good governance or the optimal level are undertaken.

When some developing countries show reluctance in adopting them, however, the proponents of this recipe often find it difficult to understand these countries' rigidity or inflexibility in not accepting such a well known recipe for development (Chang 2002). Since good governance defines an ideal type of governance, it is an attractive ideal. However, the real problem is that it is difficult to achieve in its totality, particularly in developing and least developed countries.

Consequently, there have been heated debates on whether these recommended policies and institutions are appropriate for developing countries. Some say that advanced countries should not kick away the ladder that allowed them to climb where they are (Chang 2002). Others say that developing countries may adopt the "second-best approach rather than the "first best" one (Rodrik 2006). In other words, developing countries need to cautiously climb the ladder step by step: sudden attempts to jump to the top would be very difficult for developing countries.

Along this line, this paper proposes a reasonable stepwise development process or path: the feasible objective for developing countries needs to be changed from GG to GEG. If the objective for these countries is reformulated from GG to GEG, then the expectations are somewhat lowered to more realistic and achievable goals. These goals can include making the connection between growth and poverty reduction, which is a serious problem in many developing countries; consulting country cases and history (i.e. fix major weaknesses); learning from what is working well enough; accessing priorities strategically and what is politically possible (Chang 2002; Grindle 2004; 2007).

It is also important to think of various innovative alternatives including the second-bests. The orthodox recipe does not always work well in developing countries and there can be no best practice policies that everyone should use (Chang 2002; Rodrik 2008). Everything cannot always be included so it is essential to "select and concentrate." A select and concentrate policy is a combination of political, economic and administrative strategies of the development by breaking up many issues into a few selective areas and concentrating on them instead of targeting a broad range of issues. Wildavsky (1973) said "if planning is everything, maybe it's nothing." Simply put: trying to do everything achieves nothing. Planning must be focused and realistic.

In this regard, as Merilee Grindle (2007) proposes the development of a hierarchy of reform, it makes sense that different states require different governance priorities. Countries with collapsed states, personal rule, or minimally institutionalized states, need the basics first in the form of conflict resolution and systems in place and functioning; and widespread agreement on the rules for succession. As well, the government needs to be able to carry out basic administrative tasks and ensure basic services to most of the population. Where the basic service delivery is not made, for example, the emphasis on citizen satisfaction (or customer satisfaction or customer delight) may not be a realistic goal.

States that have developed successfully, as mentioned in various literature (Chang 2002), have pursued different development strategies at different times: for example, first they pursued agrarian reforms and then shifted their attention to industrialization and then to the technology and services sectors. This kind of sequential approach might be more practical and feasible for developing countries. So rather than aim for best practice in all areas, it is suggested that developing countries should focus on what is needed and what is feasible and possible.

Should "best practices" in line with OECD countries be the immediate aim or the long term aim with good enough governance the short-midterm aim? Some best practices may be possible immediately, and while it is good to aim for the best it is not always possible for various reasons. Some best practices may be applicable; some may not be applicable all the time. Social and cultural elements and limited resources may restrict swift movement to GG, but improvement in selected areas might be possible. In this way developing countries are very different from developed countries. OECD and newly industrialized countries (NICs) may aim for the best practice of GG. For developing and underdeveloped countries, however, they should take the more "feasible, doable and relevant" ones rather than the ideal options because good government looks different in different contexts (Andrews 2010).

With this in mind, Dani Rodrik (2008) suggests a four point "second-best institutions," like the good enough approach (Grindle 2004; 2007). Firstly, developing nations are different from advanced countries in that they face both greater challenges and more constraints. Secondly, "appropriate" institutions in developing countries might differ from those that prevail in advanced countries. Thirdly, a focus on the best practice institutions can lead to overlooking reforms that might achieve the desired ends at lower cost and can also backfire. Finally, dealing with the institutional landscape in developing countries requires a "second-best approach," utilizing the good enough practices from neighboring countries. Rodrik (2008) asserts that real-world reformers operate in a second-best environment of their own, which means they need to keep an eye on how proposed solutions result in multiple distortions. For instance, for some Indochina countries to borrow ideas from neighboring South East or East Asian countries might be more relevant than following ideas from OECD countries.

Forty years ago, Charles Lindblom (1959; 1979) showed a similar view on the second-best approach. Lindblom's approach is related to the work of Herbert Simon (1957) and his concept of "satisficing" as bounded rationality rather than "optimizing." Satisficing attempts to meet criteria for adequacy and relevancy rather than to identify an optimal solution. Simon (1957) points out that most people are only partly rational. According to Lindblom's well known article entitled "The Science of "Muddling Through," he presented two approaches: (1) the rational-comprehensive (root) method where analysis is comprehensive and every important relevant factor is taken into account; and (2) successive limited comparisons (branch) where analysis is drastically limited and important alternative potential policies are neglected:

"Assuming that the root method is familiar and understandable, we proceed directly to clarification of its alternative by contrast. In explaining the second, we shall be describing how most administrators do in fact approach complex questions, for the root method, the "best" way as a blueprint or model, is in fact "not workable" for complex policy questions, and administrators are forced to use the method of "successive limited comparisons (branch)'"

Developing countries face additional challenges which developed countries do not. Notably they need economic growth and strong political will. Economic growth is important because poverty is a major obstacle to good governance and in most developing countries in Asia, Africa and South America, poverty is a big problem.

Abraham Maslow (1943) has formulated a "Hierarchy of Needs", which is a key issue for motivation. It has physiological needs as the basis; safety above this. Social needs are placed on top this, with esteem higher and self actualisation at the peak. From the Maslowian perspective, while these are equally important for national development; when countries are so poor they are lacking physiological or biological needs, a high form of customer service might not be a really relevant or appealing message. In countries with severe poverty, providing basic physiological or biological needs might be the most important and urgent issue. Thus economic growth is a very important issue for developing countries in the developmental process. For example, several Asian countries (China, Japan, Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan) have substantially utilized the growth-first policy for many years in the past.


We are now living in an era of new governance and good governance; this sounds good, it sounds democratic, but there are many challenges to overcome, particularly for developing countries. A good governance model is costly and expensive; developing countries have to pay a lot to follow it. For example, good governance can lead to increasing costs of governance for more collaboration and communication among various stakeholders, which can then lead to large burdens to carry out and weak governability because stakeholders have their own voice, their own demands like pluralistic politics, while lacking coordination or integration mechanisms for the time being. When developing countries promote political development, the spectrum of political ideology will be widened. Consequently, this can cause ideological conflict, much diversity and complexity. Furthermore, where there is ideological conflict then there will also be policy conflicts based on a broad range of ideological and political perspectives. In addition, there will be a growing demand for openness, transparency, and participation. All these become a serious challenge to governability of developing countries. If all stakeholders understand the nature of good governance and collaborate with each other, things run smoothly, but this is usually not the case in reality. Thus it is fair to say that we need to transform our perspective from riding a general two-wheel bike to maneuvering a multiple-wheel octopus bike: a general bicycle has two wheels and the rear wheel simply follows the direction of the front wheel. However, an octopus bicycle has several seats and wheels for multiple numbers of riders. If people take an octopus bike, all riders need to co-operate with each other in setting the direction of the bike.

The nature of current public affairs is also becoming more complex, more diverse, more fragmented, more interdependent, more time-consuming, more transparent, more blurring, more decentralized, and more stakeholders with a resulting increase in conflicts and dilemmas or trilemmas. In developing countries, capacity is quite limited, but the while challenges are really daunting, the public sector capacity has declined over the years because of the shrinking role of the states, more complex problems, a lack of resources in an economic crisis, and the increasing cost of governance. At the same time, the number of critical citizens is increasing and there is also an increasing resistance culture with an aggressive voice (Norris 1999). Additionally, more needs to be done, and it needs to be done better with less, so that there needs to be a reduction of the capacity deficit (deep gap) between new demands and existing capacity; both institutional and personal. There is currently a public capacity deficit which needs urgent strengthening. Capacity building needs to be done not only at the individual level, but also at both the organizational level and the system level.

In developing countries, there needs to be cultural change and a proactive attitude to change, instead of being reactive or inactive, or fatalistic or cynical, and there needs to be a move away from the existing "box", to find new ways; to see outside the box. An important element here is a change of mindset from a fatalistic or "nothing we can do" mindset to an "it's possible" or adaptive "can do" mindset. Negativity is a serious handicap to progress. There is a need for optimizing resources relative to the constraints. The human mindset is often limited, even rationality is limited therefore the scope of human rationality needs to be expanded, from a narrow focus to a more broad but strategic focus. There needs to be more flexibility and creativity in terms of adapting new ideas, for new changes, and to open up for further developments, to become more flexible etc.

Therefore, there is a need to be more realistic; to set priorities, follow sequences. As mentioned earlier, in order to improve public trust we need to be practical. GG is a very idealistic goal, but it doesn't provide realistic guidance. Accordingly, as a middle ground between reality and the ideal, a GEG approach, the second bests (or the branch method), or incremental (stepwise) governance might be more practically relevant by taking a look at each country's unique situation with regard to key characteristics of GG (legality, integrity, efficiency, effectiveness, involvement, dependability, transparency and fairness). GG characteristics cannot all be improved but each situation should be assessed, a set of priorities be strategically selected and those issues for development be concentrated on (Kim 2009b). Accordingly, it is essential to "select and concentrate."

Another thing to be considered is the choice of words in the governance discourse. The terms "good enough governance" and "the second-best practice" could make sense for developing countries, but such words might generate unnecessary problems in terms of the people's sentiment. Since good enough is never enough, the term "good enough" could signal a somewhat negative sentiment to the people in developing countries as a secondary class. The term "second-best practice" is self-explanatory along with the first-best practice, but it may not be comfortable for the people in developing countries to accept the second-best option because such a term could negatively stimulate the sentiment of the people in developing countries. Therefore, it might be better to use value-neutral terms such as "incremental or stepwise" governance.


Prescriptions for governance must change to jointly identified sustainable development strategies. A transformation is necessary from separate sectoral work to a fairly holistic (mixed scanning), multi-sectoral approach to governance. Another change should be away from the ideal world of best practice to the real world of the fit enough (Darwin 1869; since the phrase "survival of the fittest" is not consistent with the actual theory of evolution so that a more accurate characterization of evolution would be "survival of the fit enough").

In general, governability depends on governance, and governance is important for the development of trust and confidence. Governance relies on wealth and wellbeing, which in turn may lead to trust and confidence. It follows then that there is a need to transform from "governance for the sake of governance", to "governance as a means of greater growth and development." Moreover, good governance needs to be established in government because it provides good menu items, but good governance should not be treated as a principle. Instead, it could serve as a proverb (Simon 1947; Andrews 2010). Furthermore, it is also necessary to further examine whether we should pursue good corporate governance (GCG) or good democratic governance (GDG) in the public sector.

Various kinds of international aid assist the development of many less developed countries. Nonetheless, the donor-driven approach is not always working well in the developing countries so that there needs to be an effort towards indigenization (or localization) and ownership building in developing countries. Each developing country needs to find their own solution based on their individual importance of need. A localised solution that draws on localised knowledge and regional experience. Each country should build their own best fit and with it take pride and ownership in their achievement, and not solely rely on imported (or imitated) international trends or donor-driven best practices. We have witnessed that injecting a copy of the best practices to developing countries is not working well (Rodrik 2006).

Donors as international development partners should and could assist developing countries in their further development, but each country should feel they have ownership and in doing so they can have further sustainable development. Building trust is not an easy task, and it is more difficult in developing countries. Developing countries have more constraints than advanced countries therefore they cannot do everything; they must select a few things which urgently need doing, which can be achieved, and concentrate on them. The idealistic approach might be informative for developing countries in developing reform measures, but it is unlikely to work well, so the alternative is the sub-optimal incremental approach which is more feasible, or doable or relevant for developing countries. Governments can learn a lot by looking at what works and does not in other settings. In other words, by being allowed to adopt policies and institutions that are more suitable and feasible to their conditions, the developing countries will be able to develop faster. This will also benefit the developed countries in the long run, as it will increase their trade and investment opportunities.

Moreover, various facts about the historical experiences of the developed countries should be more widely publicized to developing countries because advanced countries have also had a difficult time with a lot of constraints in the past, which they often forget. Therefore, many developing countries need the ladder to climb up for further development (Chang 2002). If someone asks a developing country to suddenly jump to the top, it cannot easily be achieved. Ideally, an expert could recommend a target agency to jump to the top, but it is truly not a realistic option. If a person considers the history of the developed countries, he/she could understand the developmental path of many advanced societies was protracted rather than immediate. The developed countries took a long time to develop their institutions in the earlier days of their development, but people in developed countries may often forget their past experiences. It is necessary to remember the fact that institutions typically took decades and sometime generations to develop.

In sum, this article proposes to utilize a "middle ground" between the reality and the ideal for the realistic development of developing countries. For example, a neighbouring country's successful case in the region might be a more relevant and/or practical choice to benchmark rather than the far-distant best practice. However, one thing should be emphasized: more trustworthy leadership might be needed in order to utilize a middle ground approach in developing countries. In other words, taking a sequential or stepwise approach (branch method or GEG) requires more ethical and more persuasive leadership in developing countries in order to gain public confidence (Uslaner 2002; OECD 2000; 2005). Otherwise, the general public may not fully support public leadership. Instead of utilizing shortsighted political maneuvering or tactical political engineering, top leader's genuine willingness also becomes a highly critical matter for pursuing sustainable development in addition to economic growth and governance reform in developing countries.


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Yonsei University, South Korea
Table 1
Comparison of the Worldwide Governance Indicators,
2008 (Regional average in percentile rank)

    Region       Control of      Voice &       Rule of   Regulatory
  (Regional      Corruption   Accountability     Law      Quality

OECD                90.2           90.6         90.2        91.2

Caribbean           68.0           68.3         63.9        62.0

Eastern Europe      59.1           63.3         58.5        69.2
and Baltics

Latin America       44.1           52.1         33.1        48.3

East Asia           45.1           49.9         52.9        42.1

Middle East
and                 48.3           23.7         49.4        46.3
North Africa

South Asia          34.0           30.0         36.6        29.2

Sub-Saharan         30.8           32.6         28.6        28.9

Former              21.5           21.4         23.5        34.0
Soviet Union

    Region        Political     Government
  (Regional      Stability &   Effectiveness
   Average)      Absence of

OECD                81.9           88.7

Caribbean           65.2           67.6

Eastern Europe      56.1           61.3
and Baltics

Latin America       35.0           44.8

East Asia           59.4           46.5

Middle East
and                 37.3           46.7
North Africa

South Asia          19.5           35.6

Sub-Saharan         33.5           26.3

Former              35.8           31.5
Soviet Union

Source: Kaufmann et al. (2009).

Table 2
Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGIs) across selected
Asian Countries, 2008

               Control of      Voice &       Rule of   Regulatory
Country        Corruption   Accountability     Law      Quality

Singapore         99.5           35.1         93.8        99.5
Hong Kong         94.2           60.6         90.9       100.0
Japan             85.5           76.0         89.5        86.5
Bhutan            74.9           26.0         60.8        19.3
Taiwan            72.9           68.8         73.7        81.6
South Korea       69.6           65.4         74.2        72.9
Malaysia          62.8           31.7         64.6        60.4
Sri Lanka         54.1           33.7         54.5        44.4
Fiji              46.4           29.3         35.9        24.6
India             44.4           58.7         56.5        46.9
Thailand          43.0           32.2         54.1        59.9
China             41.1           5.8          45.0        46.4
Maldives          32.9           36.1         49.3        37.2
Mongolia          32.4           55.3         34.9        43.5
Indonesia         31.4           44.2         28.7        45.4
Nepal             29.0           25.0         24.9        26.6
Philippines       26.1           41.3         39.7        51.7
Vietnam           25.1           6.7          41.6        32.4
Pakistan          24.6           19.2         19.1        34.8
Timor-Leste       19.3           52.9         11.0        6.3
Bangladesh        10.6           30.8         27.3        20.8
Papua N.G.        9.7            51.0         18.2        30.4
Cambodia          8.7            22.6         13.4        34.3
Laos              5.8            6.3          20.1        9.7
Afghanistan       1.4            11.1          0.5        3.9
Myanmar           1.0            0.0           4.8        1.0
North Korea       0.5            0.5          14.4        0.5

               Stability &    Government
Country        Absence of    Effectiveness

Singapore         96.2           100.0
Hong Kong         86.1           95.3
Japan             79.4           89.1
Bhutan            77.5           59.2
Taiwan            71.8           79.1
South Korea       59.8           86.3
Malaysia          50.2           83.9
Sri Lanka          2.9           46.9
Fiji              41.1           16.1
India             16.7           53.6
Thailand          12.9           58.8
China             33.5           63.5
Maldives          39.2           44.1
Mongolia          57.9           27.5
Indonesia         15.8           47.4
Nepal              7.7           24.2
Philippines       10.5           55.0
Vietnam           56.5           45.5
Pakistan           1.4           25.6
Timor-Leste       13.9           12.3
Bangladesh         9.6           22.7
Papua N.G.        27.3           20.4
Cambodia          34.4           19.4
Laos              43.5           17.5
Afghanistan        1.0            8.5
Myanmar            9.1            1.9
North Korea       58.4            0.5

Source: Kaufmann et al. (2009).

Table 3: The Choice of Words in Governance Discourse

Good Governance           Good Enough Governance (Grindle
                          2004; 2007)

The First-Best Practice   The Second Best Practice (Rodrik

Optimal                   Sub-optimal governance

Root                      Branch (Lindblom 1959)
                          Satisficing (Simon 1957)
                          Ladderwise (Chang 2002)
                          Incremental governance
                          Stepwise governance

Source: compiled by the author
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Author:Kim, Pan Suk
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Date:Sep 22, 2010
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