The basis of good governance is the ethical and moral values that we
advocate : solidarity, justice, social peace, in our preferential option for the
poorest. Nevertheless, we must recognize that these concepts are distorted
by the system in place.
Some countries, forced by the neo-liberal logic that deregulates the legitimacy
process of countries, and their sovereignty, would like to impose
democracy on others through war; others advocate a development that
would eliminate entire population layers to build industrial or tourist mega
Thus, how can we talk of good governance when thousands of people
lose their lives or are thrown out of their living space, when the natural
environment is destroyed and biodiversity seriously threatened?
It is so self-evident to many people that good governance is a reality to be
made concrete, that we run the risk of no longer asking ourselves if it really
truly functions. And to not wonder on what is the meaning of good governance.
This concept is « a proper management of the public sector ». We
thus see that everything will depend on the meaning to be granted to the
word « correct ».
So Much Wealth and so Many Poor
Corruption is a severe problem which hinders the development of many
societies, but it is essentially considered as a problem due to the governments
of the South. In fact, corruption has structural causes: the weaker the
political sphere and the more the economy is dependent on international
organizations’ « good governance », the stronger the possibility of corruption.
Corruption violates all categories of Human Rights. It is a universal phenomenon
and even an institution in itself in some countries. It could be compared
to a cancer. It is still one of the main obstacles to running a country in
all honesty and transparency and it thus goes against good governance.
Another aspect that goes against good governance as « a proper management
of the public order » is the meaning given to this concept by international
organizations. The World Bank (WB), the International Monetary Fund
(IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) have their own concept on
good governance, which they impose on the poor countries through
«Poverty Reduction Programs ». A single example allows for understanding
how these organizations implement their good governance.
First, Create the Poor
Let’s take the exemple of Sri Lanka. In 1996, a World Bank document estimated
that rice production needed to disappear from Sri Lanka, because
production of this cereal there was more expensive than buying it from
Vietnam or Thailand. Sri Lanka was thus to specialize in export agriculture,
which would allow it to accumulate more funds. Because the objective of the
WB was to accumulate funds to repay the external debt; it is thus obligatory
to produce for exportation. Little did it matter that this country has been producing
rice for more than 3000 years, that rice is a staple food for the country
and is thereby part of what the country needs to reach food sovereignty,
that 80% of small farmers produce rice, that rice is part of the country’s history,
culture, literature, poetry, landscape, basic food of the country and in this way integral part of its food sovereignty.
In order to reach that end, the World
Bank established three measures to
be implemented : eliminate State
bodies which regulate the rice market,
impose a tax on irrigation water
so that small farmers could no longer
produce in profitable way and give
ownership titles to each of them to
allow them to sell at a low price a
land that had ceased to be profitable.
In view of the slow implementation of
these reforms, the World Bank blocked
international loans to the country
for a year.
A new neo-liberal government set up a response to the World Bank plan,
meeting its requirements. It estimated that these measures were favorable
to the country’s development. The country was going to attract foreign capital
thanks to cheap labor. But since this policy had been implemented for
nearly 40 years and as the working classes had gotten organized and led
social struggles, the cost of labor had increased, social security had improved
and pension schemes had been set up. As a result, foreign capital is
now leaving Sri Lanka in order to invest in Vietnam or China, where labor is
cheaper. The only solution is thus to decrease the price of labor, lowering
real salaries and weakening social standards.
This « pro-poor growth » policy, as the World Bank called it, led Sarath
Fernando – leader of the MONLAR farmer’s movement to say : « It is strange
that in order to implement growth in favor of the poor, first you need to
make people poor ». In fact, this is in line with the logic of capitalism, and the
Sri Lankan government obeys the standards of good governance. Such a
logic obviously takes its toll : the suicide rate among small farmers is one of
the highest in the world.
Francois Houtart, Taejon, South Korea 2006.