Making Development Work: The Quality of Government Approach

This report aims to summarize the results of research from the Quality of Government approach in terms of its importance for development and aid policy. In the report, Professor Bo Rothstein and Marcus Tannenberg from the University of Gothenburg, synthesize the current knowledge on why some countries have developed into prosperous societies while others have not, and put forward conclusions for development policy. They show that so called quality of government factors – such as control of corruption, the rule of law, and administrative competence – have a strong positive impact on most standard measures of human well-being (e.g., infant mortality, life expectancy and child poverty) and that good quality of government is central for development.

Institutional development and corruption have been a major concern in international development cooperation for decades. In the report, the authors address the question of why the development agenda has failed, and what donors should do to get it right. They argue that there is a need for a better understanding of the magnitude and the nature of the problem. If the goal is to improve human well-being, they argue that more focus should be put on improving the quality of institutions that implement public policies. Democratization is not necessarily a safe cure against low quality of governmnet. The authors show that Swedish support for public administration constitutes a relatively small part of the Sida portfolio today, and that it has declined over the past ten years. Hence, they recommend increased resources to strengthen the quality of government and the capacity of the public administration. In the report, the authors outline five distinct institutional factors which have been shown to influence the perceived quality of life; a functioning and legitimate system of taxation, meritocracy, universal education, gender equality and ”good auditing”. These are factors that development cooperation could address in order to promote transformative change.