Comparative Governance Reform in Asia: Democracy, Corruption, and Government Trust: Volume 17


Table of contents

(16 chapters)

As the 21st century moves ahead, it is increasingly evident that globalization and democratization are strong forces playing crucial roles in shaping public sector transformation around the world. For Asian countries, the key questions are, how should selected reform ideas from other countries be diffused, and which parts of one's traditional government and culture should be retained? A common choice among Asian countries is to replace government with governance. Transforming bureaucracies from government to governance involves the acceptance of certain democratic principles such as accountability, openness, transparency, integrity, corruption-free, and high performance standards (Bowornwathana, 2006, pp. 667–680).

The import of the idea of “governance” into the Thai polity has resulted in several competing interpretations. The body of knowledge on governance in Thailand is not yet well developed. Chaos and contradictions are characteristics of the field of study. First, the author explains the six interpretations of governance: the new democracy or democratic governance, good governance, the efficiency perspective, the Ten Guiding Principles for the King, the Thaksin system, and the ethical issue interpretation. Second, the author discusses the four reform consequences arisen from the import of governance: the difficulty in determining which is the correct prototype of governance, the problem from cloning deformed hybrids, the confrontation among competing hybrids, and the appropriate level of analysis for the concept of governance.

In this chapter I trace the evolution of Hong Kong's political and administrative systems from one dominated by the bureaucracy to one dominated by the political executive. The change has had profound consequences for governance arrangements in Hong Kong and on reform capacity. I illustrate the impact of the change on the institutional arrangements in one policy domain, food safety.

An important agency of the government is its civil service or bureaucracy. The civil service has the potential to empower a government to achieve a country's goals, that is, to improve its citizens’ standard of living. The ability of a civil service to successfully support the government depends heavily on the characteristics of the civil service. In the case of Indonesia, the civil service is slow; lacks transparency, accountability, initiative; and is sometimes corrupt. Therefore Indonesia's civil service is badly in need of reform, both in relation to its institutional aspects as well as in relation to moral issues.

Despite an intensified anti-corruption campaign, China's economic growth and social transition continue to breed loopholes and opportunities for big corruption, leading to a money-oriented mentality and the collapse of ethical standards, and exposing the communist regime to greater risk of losing moral credibility and political trust. In Hong Kong, the setting up of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in 1974 marked the advent of a new comprehensive strategy to eradicate corruption and to rebuild trust in government. The ICAC was not just an anti-corruption enforcement agency per se, but an institution spearheading and representing integrity and governance transformation. This chapter considers how mainland China can learn from Hong Kong's experience and use the fight against corruption as a major political strategy to win the hearts and minds of the population and reform governance in the absence of more fundamental constitutional reforms, in a situation similar to Hong Kong's colonial administration of the 1970s–1980s deploying administrative means to minimize a political crisis.

Corruption is a serious problem in many Asian countries, judging from their ranking and scores on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). To combat corruption these countries have relied on three patterns of corruption control. The first pattern relies on the enactment of anti-corruption laws without a specific agency to enforce these laws. For example in Mongolia, the Law on Anti-Corruption that was introduced in April 1996 is jointly implemented by the police, the General Prosecutor's Office, and the courts (Quah, 2003a, p. 44)1. The second pattern involves the implementation of anti-corruption laws by several anti-corruption agencies. In India, the Prevention of Corruption Act (POCA) is implemented by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), and the anti-corruption bureaus and vigilance commissions at the state level (Quah, 2003a, p. 66). Similarly, the Philippines has relied on 18 anti-corruption agencies to enforce the many anti-corruption laws since the Integrity Board was formed by President Quirino in May 1950 (Batalla, 2001, p. 47; Oyamada, 2005, pp. 99–101).

Reform of government regulation of private business has been considered a cornerstone of good governance and a necessary condition for economic growth. Part of regulatory reform is reducing and streamlining administrative or procedural regulations imposed on business by government bureaucracies. Such regulations impose burdens on firms in terms of the time and effort required to file forms, delays in processing documents and applications and in granting approvals, transactional costs if charges are levied, and obstacles resulting from arbitrary decisions by government officials during the process. The chapter will consider the burdens on business caused by regulatory procedures imposed by bureaucracy in the countries of Southeast Asia, and how the reform of such procedures has varied across region, with a particular focus on certain key business functions, viz. starting a business, importing and exporting, paying taxes, and constructing a commercial building. The chapter will posit explanations of why such variation exists and will discuss links between reform of regulatory procedures and the level of social and economic development of a country. In conclusion, the scope for reform of regulatory procedures in those countries where they remain especially burdensome, will be examined, with consideration given to what reforms are necessary and feasible.

Although the “Administrative Reform Program” was initiated by former Premier Lian Chain in 1993, the comprehensive “Government Reinvention” programs which emphasized the notion of entrepreneurial government were proposed and implemented by former Premier Vincent Shiew in 1998, and similar reform strategies and designs have been followed by the DPP administration since 2000. Despite the continuity in reform efforts, full-scale reform assessment based on concrete empirical evidences is still difficult to be found. The proposed study attempts to evaluate the results of government reform in Taiwan's local government by focusing on one major question: Have local governments in Taiwan become “smaller and better”? This question will be addressed by looking at indicators in three areas: changes in the size of local government in terms of human and financial resources, changes in the level of corruption, and changes in citizen's evaluation of the performance of local government. It is argued that the progress of government reform at the local level is slow, and the tentative evaluation show warning signals.

Since South Korea gained a substantial degree of political and economic development, the South Korean government has tried to eradicate corruption by introducing institutional frameworks in addition to a number of new laws and institutions. As a matter of fact, the Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index score of South Korea is improving over time, but it still far behind other leading countries. The purpose of this chapter is to review the South Korean government's efforts at curbing corruption. This chapter first reviews the development of major anti-corruption infrastructure such as the anti-corruption legislation and the South Korean government's independent agency for anti-corruption, followed by discussion of the development of major anti-corruption measures, the international evaluation on corruption, and the role of civil society in curbing corruption. After that, there is a discussion of policy implications and the conclusion.

The purpose of this chapter is to investigate citizen attitudes toward control of corruption, their trust in government, and the relationship between trust and corruption in order to determine whether these factors are conducive to governance reform. The sample consists of 3,600 respondents surveyed in late 2005–early 2006 in the north and northeast regions of Thailand. The findings indicate that almost three-quarters of the respondents said that petty and routine corruption was unacceptable; only one-third said they trusted or somewhat trusted public officials. Trust and control of corruption attitudes are positively, although weakly, correlated. The findings suggest that citizen attitudes toward corruption and their levels of trust in government are not antithetical to the notion of good governance. The data reveal considerable variation, however. Using partial correlation analysis, education and urban–rural distinctions are identified as key: persons with higher educational attainment and urban inhabitants are more likely to state that petty and routine corruption is unacceptable, and they are less likely to trust public officials, than persons with less education or persons living in rural areas. Gender and age have surprisingly little effect.

The decline of trust in government has been a critical issue in many parts of the world. Various surveys have indicated that the public cast suspicious eyes on their government and become less trustful of performance of their public sector. The OECD labels trust in government as a fundamental element of the democratic “contract,” while its decline may have significant impacts on government activities. Likewise, the UN also refers to trust as the foundation for good governance; therefore, improving trust would help strengthen sound governance in any polity. As these examples demonstrate, trust in government has increasingly become a central concern for government reformers.

In Japan, for a long time, bureaucrats have been perceived to be trustful social agents and they have enjoyed more confidence than those of party members. However, a series of scandals involving high-ranking bureaucrats, in addition to several policy failures and severe financial difficulties, have deteriorated the trustful image of Japanese public officials. Confronted with the problem, both central and local governments in Japan have attempted to improve their public perceptions and tried to rebuild trust in government by resorting to various types of administrative reform. However, the identification of reasons for the decline of public trust in government appear an awesome task and hard to come. While some of the reforms have helped contributed rebuilding trust, others have further eroded the level of government confidence.

Against these backgrounds, the chapter aims to show the current level of trust in government, specifically in Japan. It tries to assess government efforts of rebuilding trust by discussing different government reforms at both the central and the local levels.

This study utilizes World Bank Governance Indicators to investigate government effectiveness in Asia, both regionally and across sub-regions. Several factors seem to influence the level of government effectiveness: accountability and voice, control of corruption, and wealth and income. The presence of a democratic form of government does not seem to be an important factor, but we note that more sensitive measures of democracy might produce more positive results. We then comment on the strengths and weaknesses of the dataset and offer some suggestions for future research.

Bidhya Bowornwathana is associate professor at the Department of Public Administration, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand. His research interests are on governance and administrative reform. His writings appear in journals such as Governance: An International Journal of Policy and Administration, Public Administration and Development, Australian Journal of Public Administration, Asian Survey, Public Administration Quarterly, Public Administration: An International Quarterly, Asia Pacific Journal of Public Administration, Asian Review of Public Administration, and Asian Journal of Political Science. He has written several books in Thai on administrative reform and public administration. He co-edited a book with John P. Burns on Civil Services Systems in Asia (Edward Elgar, 2001). He also has chapters in recent books such as in Christopher Pollitt and Colin Talbot, eds., Unbundled Government (Taylor and Francis, 2004), Ron Hodges, ed., Governance and the Public Sector (Edward Elgar, 2005), Eric E. Otenyo and Nancy S. Lind, eds., Comparative Public Administration: The Essential Readings (Elsevier, 2006), and Kuno Schedler and Isabella Proeller, eds., Cultural Aspects of Public Management Reform (Elsevier, 2007). He was Chairman of Department of Pubic Administration, Chulalongkorn University. He has served several times as member and secretary of the national administrative reform commissions appointed by Thai governments.

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Research in Public Policy Analysis and Management
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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