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Governance, State Capability and Public Services: Power reforms in Manipur

by Rinku Khumukcham
0 comment 8 minutes read

Dr. Sylvia Yambem,
ICSSR-Post Doctoral Fellow,
Department of Political Science, Manipur University.

Abstract: Public services and citizens access to public services is an important indicator of the performance of the government. It emphasizes the nature of governance particularly whether a strong capable state or a weak state. This paper attempts to study the reforms initiated in the delivery of power services, to highlight upon the capability of the government of Manipur to deliver public services and the nature of governance prevailing in the state.
State capability and public services, integral to governance
Citizen’s access to basic goods and service is an important indicator of the nature and quality of governance. Public services and the delivery of public services is a primary responsibility of the nation state, particularly a welfare state such as India. In fact, state formation and the rise of governments can be traced to the capability of the ruler to provide security, policing, and protection to its subjects. Mancur Olson thus says that governments particularly in larger groups or societies emerged not because of any divine right or through social contract or even on the basis of any voluntary transactions but “rather because of rational self-interest among those who can organize the greatest capacity for violence (1993, 568). A stationary bandit was much preferred over a roving bandit, because while the roving bandit was only interested in exacting maximum tributes a stationary bandit whilst taking only a part of the income, maintained monopoly over its kingdom by providing security, order and protection to its subjects. In modern states, this active role of the state in public services has widened from the fundamental duty of providing law and order and social justice to ensuring access to basic public goods.1  In the 21st century developmental discourse public goods and services is a fundamental right- a rightful entitlement of the citizen and the duty of the state to deliver.  For instance, Article 21A of the Constitution of India makes the provision of school education upto 14 years of age a fundamental duty of the state towards its citizens.
Citizen’s access to public services consequently indicates the performance capability of the state and the quality of governance. The concept of capability herein implies the administrative capability of the state to implement policies and programmes and its ability to perform its most basic functions such as the delivery of public services, policing, law and order, regulation, etc., inherently a trait characteristic of governance or good governance. The World Development Report defines state capability as the ability to undertake and promote collective actions efficiently (1997, 3). The OECD/DAC discussion paper on “State Delivery in Fragile Situations: Key Concepts, Findings and Lessons” refers to state capability or capacity as “having the core features that enable the state to mobilise resources for such key objectives as economic development and poverty reduction. These core features include territorial control and presence, effective exercise of political power, basic competence in economic management and sufficient administrative capacity for policy implementation (2008, 15).  Fukuyama (2009) refers to state capability as stateness or enforcement, the capability of state institutions to enforce its primary functions. State capability in its most basic understanding thus refers to the capability or incapability of state institutions, to perform its basic core necessary functions, to design policies and be able to elicit the necessary consensus and involvement to ensure the successful implementation of policies and programmes (World Bank 1997, Fukuyama 2009, Soifer and vom Hau 2012, Giraudy 2012).
State capability, as a concept however is multi-dimensional and varies not only across states, but also over the different activities of the state and importantly across time (vom Hau 2012). While traditional theorists such as Max Weber and Charles Tilly viewed state-building as the ability of the state to maintain control over its territory, exercise monopoly over the use of legitimate violence, and the ability to neutralize rivals inside its own territory, in the 21st Century developmental policy discourse state capability is the ability of state institutions to reverse the phenomena of state fragility and strengthen weak state institutions so that the state can effectively and efficiently perform its most basic functions such as law and order, public service delivery, infrastructure development etc., (Weijer 2013). Nevertheless it is manifested in the strength of the state institutions such as its ability to formulate and carry out policies and enact laws, to administer efficiently and with a minimum of bureaucracy, to control graft, corruption, and bribery, to maintain a high level of transparency and accountability in government institutions and most importantly to enforce laws, and not in the scope or even the size of the state (Fukuyama 2009). For instance, one of the most important function of the state is the delivery of public services- which is not just a technical task- but determined by the process of governance, reflecting the quality of governance particularly the nature of the state- whether strong or fragile and state capability to ensure accountability in public service delivery (Rotberg 2002, World Bank 2003, OECD-DAC 2008, Joshi 2010, Chand 2006).
The performance of states in terms of whether they are able to deliver to its citizens the most basic public services such as education, healthcare, law and order, infrastructure etc., effectively and efficiently is an important indicator of the nature of the state, and the quality of governance. For while in fragile or weak states where the state government lacks both the capacity and willingness to perform its most fundamental functions, state capability to deliver public services is poor, restricted and diminishing (OECD-DAC 2008). Thus only a capable strong state as compared to a weak state can ensure the provision of basic goods and services, and provide the rules and institutions to enforce accountability in public services (World Bank 1997).
State capability, a growing concern
State capability has become an important concern of governments around the world. Andrews, Pritchett and Woolcock (2017) employing the indictors of rule of law, bureaucratic accountability, government effectiveness, public services, and corruption1 examined the policy implementation capability level of 102 developing countries. It revealed that:
1. Only 8 of the 102 countries, such as United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Brunei, Qatar, Singapore, Bahamas, Chile and South Korea have attained strong capability
2. 45 countries are in the middle range of state capability— neither weak nor strong. Moreover within this range state capability is variously grouped as: (a) 13 countries facing rapid deterioration in state capability, such as South Africa, Argentina, Morocco, the Philippines, Thailand, and Iran, (b) 18 countries that had negative growth in state capability, e.g. India China. Egypt and Tunisia, Brazil, Mexico, (c) 6 countries with positive state capability but very slow, progress e.g. Kazakhstan, Ghana, Ukraine, Armenia, Russia, and Botswana, and (d) 8 countries for which “business as usual” would produce high capability by the next century i.e. the “years to strong capability”, such as Indonesia (68 years), Colombia (56 years), Turkey (55 years), Algeria (55 years), Albania (42 years), Saudi Arabia (28 years), Uruguay (10 years), and Croatia (1 years).
3.  49 of the 102 countries have very weak or weak capability, and, given these low levels of current capability, the long-run pace of acquiring capability is very slow. Of this 36 countries have experienced negative growth in state capability.
4. Further 12 of the 16 largest developing countries such as China, Pakistan, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, South Africa and India exhibited negative trends in state capability.
Declining state capability is a rising challenge in India. The Economic Survey 2016-17 writes that every city in India faces serious challenges in areas such as basic infrastructure and services like water, power supply, waste management, education, healthcare, transport, safety and pollution (2017, 303). Even metropolitan cities such as New Delhi and Mumbai are ranked at a dismal 47th and 50th positions respectively on the States of World Cities 2012/13 index. Thus the general capability of India to ensure public services is weak, as supported by the report on the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme on access to sanitation, which shows that as against the MDG target of 77% by 2015, India has managed to provide access to only 63% of its population.
According to Pritchett (2009, 27), a major cause of India’s poor state capability can be attributed to the inability of India’s administrative system to transition to administrative modernism- to create capable public sector organizations to carry out the range of functions required in a modern polity and economy from delivering the mail to teaching children to enforcing the law, makes India a flailing state (Pritchett 2009, 27). Consequently while India may have better track record on matters such as democracy, human rights or even strong capability at the state level- such as India has a comparatively better score of 5.4 as compared to Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh or Pakistan on the “Suspension or Arbitrary Application of the Rule of Law and Widespread Violation of Human Rights” index, however on the “Progressive Deterioration of Public Services” index India ranks worse than Sri Lanka or Nepal and only modestly better than Bangladesh and Pakistan. Therefore India’s inability to maintain sufficient control of its administrative machinery particularly its incapability to ensure the effective delivery of public services makes India a flailing state.         (To be contd….)

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