Governance and Public Service Delivery in Asia

October 10, 2013 • 7:30 – 9:00 pm EDT

Three decades of impressive economic growth has tripled developing Asia’s per capita GDP in purchasing power parity terms—an unparalleled achievement—with simultaneous reductions in poverty rates. Yet, this convergence with more advanced economies in economic terms has not been matched by improvements in governance. Developing Asia lags along several dimensions of governance, even among its developing economy peers. This raises a key question: What role has governance played in Asia’s development story?

The concept of governance is multifaceted, comprising aspect of the state’s capacity—such as rule of law, regulatory quality, government effectiveness, control of corruption, and political stability—as well as the degree to which the state is accountable to its citizens. The theme chapter of the Asian Development Bank’s flagship report, Asian Development Outlook 2013 Update, explains that the effectiveness of the various elements of governance depends on a country’s initial conditions and institutions.

As the Update also notes, many in developing Asia see effective public service delivery as synonymous for good governance. Reforms in civil services, public administration, and regulatory regimes may entail improving the legal framework, updating rules and procedures, and extensive training of service providers. Governments will have to draw upon a package of complementary and reinforcing interventions, resulting from experimentation and creative local solutions to build a more dynamic and prosperous Asia.