Modifying the ‘One Size Fits
All’ Good Governance Agenda for Ethiopia
Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Economic
Development, Barowsky School of Business,
Dominican University of California
As advocated by neo-liberal
entities, the agenda of good governance is
grounded on democratic principles that create
on-going interaction processes that are supposed
to solidify, governmental structures, functions
and practices of the state and its people. As
the a key driver to economic growth to
in developing countries, the interaction
process of good governance embeds core
guidelines that include, the rule of law, citizen
participation, transparency, accountability, and
elimination of corruption.
that the democratization process and the
components of good governance are central to the
achievement of development goals for the
twenty-first century (Punyaratabandhu, 2004), it
is either naïveté or arrogance not to defend the
concept of good governance. On the other hand, it
is wishful thinking to accept good governance as a
guide for all developing countries because it is
based on abstract concepts beyond the capability
of some developing countries for them to create a
better public life.
Moreover, because good governance requires
a decision-making process, its agenda of cannot be
imposed from the outside. Rather, it has to be
accepted and practiced according to the needs of
its stakeholders from the inside. Otherwise, they
remain dependent on the existing capitalist order
that requires hegemony based on apatron-client
A review of the literature indicates that
protagonists strongly claim that the agenda of
good governance has worthy goals not only in
itself but also as a means through which it would
enable economic growth and development in less
As discussed by Sachs (2015) the three
pillars of sustainable development are economic
development, social inclusion, and environmental
They require good governance with rules of
behavior to play a central role in order to
achieve sustainable development goals.
Similarly, studying 17 emerging countries
in Africa, Radelet (2010) demonstrates that a
shift toward democracy in African countries has
been accompanied by a measureable improvement in
the quality of governance.
on theoretical arguments, opponents of good
governance critically argue that the underlying
theoretical basis of good governance is based on
Western social order.
Good governance establishes a bondage
system between administrators and citizens. Based
on the bondage system that exists between donors
and recipients of aid, pessimists strongly argue
that government officials of developing countries
cannot use their own institutions to formulate
pro-poor policies because they are not accountable
to their citizens. In addition, opponents assert
that corrupt officials in some developing
countries have the tendency to badly hinder
development efforts by stealing aid contributions
or misdirecting the aid money into unproductive
activities (Gisselquist, 2012).
Grindle (2010) also argues that
the “…the elites who dominate such
governments are not always interested in improving
governance, as this could easily limit their power
and access to rents and resources.”
enough, even the USAID (2013) that asserts good
governance is the cardinal underlying basis for
development, claims that development goals of a
number of developing countries are undermined by
the corrosive impact of corruption.
Pursing further this kind of argument, the
USAID (2013) claims that corrupt elites in some
developing countries not only capture state
benefits and indulge in unaccountable governance,
but also divert the scarce national resources from
development projects to their private gain because
of the lack of a transparent governance system
that does not require accountability to local
a methodological standpoint, the opponents of good
governance argue that the concept of good
governance is not applicable to sustainable
development because its indicators are formulated
in such away to make that the recipients willingly
or unwillingly subscribe to the donors’
normative or value judgments.
Going one step further they claim that
neoliberal models introduce political conditions
based on Western liberal values of democracy
deepen the dependency of
the aid recipient countries (Nanda,2006;
Kofi and Desta; 2008;
on the assumption that aid donors generally create
long lasting dependence of the borrowing
countries, the opponents of good governance argue
that when developing countries borrow or receive
assistance from aid-giving agencies, they are
given no choice but to follow the lead of the
neo-liberal Washington Consensus Model (Adetula,
addition, opponents argue that without
understanding what good governance is because of
the lack of clarity and what it means to different
organizations and participants, and how good
governance is measured, developing countries are
destined to pursue the ideals of liberal democracy
depicted for them by the strategies of good
when developing countries attempt to navigate
through good governance, they could outpace their
limited resources and eventually sink into
dependency (Gisselquist, 2012; Grindle, 2008;
purpose of this case study is to show that since
the agenda of good governance is designed as
‘one size fits all,’ it is not contextualor
compatible with Ethiopia’s cultural realities.
The second part of the paper presents a
brief historical review of current Ethiopian
history. The third section of paper presents the
theoretical underpinnings of the model of good
governance as set by donors and the adherents of
neo-liberal democratic ideology. Grounded on
African communal consensus–building approaches,
section four of the paper develops the
applicability of grass roots democracy or
democratic autonomous self-rule federalism as an
alternative to the agenda of good governance for
Ethiopia’s ethno-federal system. The last part
of the paper suggests some desirable and feasible
policies for untangling ethno-federal Ethiopia
from some of the malaise of mal-administration and
the developmental problems that it is currently
the collapse of the Military Government in 1991,
Ethiopia has undergone three challenging
transformations: ethnic federalism with the right
of self-determination, including the right to
secession; a developmental democratic state system
of governance; and a democratic devolution, each
to become the governance system at the grassroots
of its administration structure.
ensure national consolidation, the Ethiopian
Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF)
vigorously redefined Ethiopia’s political
landscape into ethnic federalism and restructured
the state into the contemporary Federal Democratic
Republic of Ethiopia.The EPRDF subdivided the Ethiopian polity into nine asymmetrical,
ethnic-based regional states and two federal
city-states that included the city of Addis Ababa
and Dire Dawa. To further assure self-rule and
ascertain confidence in the nation and in the
people of Ethiopia, each regional state was
assured the unconditional right to
self-determination, including the right to
the examples of Taiwan and South Korea’s
strategy of mapping industrial policy, Ethiopia
established the ground work necessary for a
developmental state with a government planning
policy, or designating the intervention of the
government in designing the country’s economic
realizing that multilateral, bilateral, and donor
countries would not lend aid unless the aid
recipient countries agreed to abide by the
blueprints of good governance, the Ethiopian
government slowly revised its socialistic
undertook a tactical view by openly
propagating the idea that it was possible to
achieve developmental state, and the country could
transition into democracy, accepting the agenda of
“good governance” in order to receive
assistance from bilateral and multilateral
2001, the EPRDF further embarked on the devolution
of powers and responsibilities of the woreda,
or lower level of administration.
highlighted by Assefa (2015), the 1991
manifestation of decentralization was aimed at
creating and empowering national and regional
states of governments, whereas as the second phase
of decentralization extended the devolution of
powers to the woreda.
cursory look at the state affairs now clearly
indicates that Ethiopian politicians and
to be ‘playing with the rules rather than
playing by the rules.’As a result, more
recently, a number of regional governments in
Ethiopia have been stepping up the assessment of
strategies. To curtail some of the
mal-administrative practices riddled with
dramatically flourishing corruption for instance,
the Tigraye Regional States summoned a regional
conference towards the end of 2015 to assess the
serious administrative challenges and
systematically evaluate the implementation of the
agendas for good governance. Citing various
upheavals that occurred in the Oromia Region and
in particular the eviction of the Oromio farmers
from their farm lands, Prime Minister Haile Mariam
Desalgne has straight-forwardly stated that
Ethiopia was suffering from the problems of
governance, and that by evicting the helpless
Oromio tenants from their land has alienated the
social base of the EPRDF Party (The Guardian,
March 9, 2016).
To expedite the processes of good
governance that it had previously accepted,
Ethiopia has declared the Year 2015/16 as the
“Year of Good Governance.”
Over the years, a number of donor
institutions and countries have conceptualized “good
governance” as a catchy phrase designed to
achieve their own goals and at the same time,
improve the quality of the recipient countries.
As shown in Table 1, there is no consensus
among donors of a working definition of good
governance that could help to classify which
countries should be classified as well-governed or
Actually, as it stand now, the working
definitions and components of a good governance
agenda set by donors may mean different things to
aid-bestowing institutions and the aid-receiving
example, after having studied the economic and
political crisis in Sub-Saharan African countries
in 1989, the World Bank suggested that the
conditions of good governance need to be
established for bestowing assistance to African
a means to explore the Sub-Saharan Africa’s
economic and political conditions, the Bank used
the country Policy and Institutional Assessments (CIPA)
index. The CIPA Index was composed of four
clusters (economic management, structural
policies, policies for social inclusions/equity,
and the public sector management and
institutions), which was further divided into 20
is, the CIPA indicator included:
economic management (four items);
structural policies (six items); policies for
social inclusions/equity (five items); and public
sector management and institutions (five items).
However, as argued by Punyaratabandhu
(2004), since good governance is a floating
concept, “New items may be added to the CPIA
index, and old ones removed, from time to time,
but the total number always remains 20 items.”
The major weakness of the CPIA methodology
is that the index was based on assessment by the
World Bank staff rather than by impartial external
professionals (Punyaratabandhu, 2004).
As noted above, the quality of the policy
was based on staff assessments, and the assessment
technique lacked validity. Three of the four
clusters were related to creating favorable
conditions for the private sector, rather than
measuring governance in the sense of the state’s
relationship with civil society. For example,
developmental states were not objectively measured
(Schmitz, 2007, Punyaratabandhu, 2004).
addition, the World Bank assessment tools seemed
to be based on moral value judgments. The agenda
of good governance tries to distinguish between
the good, the bad and the evil.
As stated by Shivji (2003), the good
governance concept as used by the World Bank rests
on political conditionality. Its technical tools
are generally administered by global hegemonies
which undermine the sovereignty of African
nations. Being the major donor organization, the
World Bank has used its financial leverage to
reduce the role of African states to become
functionaries. The result is that it has made
Africa’s struggle for democracy rely on the
whims of the donor states and donations given.
general, instead of identifying and mapping out
where the aid recipient country is currently now
and where it is going, the good governance indices
and assessments tools are designed to closely
indicate the interest of the aid donor agencies.
That is, the good governance assessment
techniques are not contextually located and are
not made country specific.
For example, though China has been
demonstrating a very robust economy for more two
decades, it is likely to be evaluated as having a
weak governance system. Furthermore, the
indicators are not operationally defined in order
to ascertain who would decide what the outcomes
would be. That is, it would it be left up to the
donor or the recipient to assess the outcomes of
short, since the good governance indicators are
not derived from a theoretical framework, the
indicators don’t systematically demonstrate that
the underlying processes, mechanisms,
institutions, and the end state of a nation,
suggest an appropriate time frame over which the
agenda of good governance needs to be evaluated.
For example, the United Nations strongly argues
that good governance deepens democracy in a
fragmented world and assumes that good governance
eradicates poverty and promotes development. Based
on this assumption, the United Nations relies on
using seven complex and disjointed indicators to
assess the application of good governance by the
aid receiving countries (UNDP, 2002).
At the same time, it is difficult and too
absurd to implement good governance because the
directions set for the recipient countries are too
vague in their instructions and don’t elaborate
what goals can actually be achieved, and when.
said by Grindle (2010), maybe good governance is
as important as many other good ideas but it is
not a magic bullet. For instance, as set by the
donor countries, the obligations of good
governance call for: a) the institutions in the
recipient countries to set the rules for economic
and political interaction; b) decision-making
structures in the recipient countries to determine
priorities among public problems and
allocate resources to respond to them;
c) recipient countries to have
administrative management systems, and
deliver goods and services to their citizens; and
d) human resources that staff government
bureaucracies in the recipient countries to handle
effective interface of officials and citizens in
political and bureaucratic arenas ( Grindle 2010).
the limited resources that developing countries
have, a branch of the United Nations, the United
Nation Development Programs (UNDP) focuses on
differentiating between objective indicators, such
as economic performance, and the subjective
indicators that reflect respondent opinions and
perceptions (Punyaratabandhu, 2004). The
Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development (OECD) uses five indicators that
pertain to good governance, and also forwards
goals that need to be accomplished in the future.
Given its ideological orientation, the
United States Agency for International Development
on the other hand gives support to a number of
developing countries that are going through
transitional democracy, cherishing the rule of
law, respecting human rights and individual
freedom, as well as abiding by the rules of the
free market to achieve their socioeconomic
development (USAID, 2013).
1: Components of Good Governance
Rules of law
that can combat corruption, price systems.
Capable, Effective & efficient
legislation, independent judiciary
or look forward,
Social, responsive, equity to its
from Rachel M. Gisselquist, “Good
Governance as a Concept,and Why this Matters for
Development Policy”. United Nations University,
for Development Economic Research. March 2012.
on their specialty, the African Development Bank (ADB),
the Asian Development Bank, (ADB), and
Inter-American Bank (IAB) stress accountability,
transparency, combating corruption, achieving
social policy for equity, assistance for
infrastructure, economic development, and the
manner in which a country exercises the management
and implementation of a just, legal and judicial
framework, to bestow the necessary financial aid.
In short, as stated by Parhasarathy (2005),
the ADBs and IAB seem to be more interested in
economic governance or a sound development
management system to assess good governance.
summarize, the “good governance” concept has
been evolving for many years. The donor
institutions generally assume that promoting good
governance in developing countries is the primary
focus of their agendas (Gisselquist, 2012).
Nevertheless, as mentioned before, their
stance of good governance is based on normative
value judgments. It epitomizes Western thinking
and is based on Western history and culture.
Not only does good governance as a concept
epitomize Western values but knowingly or
unknowingly it is financed to spread neoliberal
ideas that might prolong dependency. Conceptually,
good governance is a list that lacks coherence
among its components. As a result, it has created
methodological problems. That is, unless
can “… develop valid measurements, they cannot
know that the empirical relationships they observe
between variables are meaningful.” (Gisselquist,
argued by Parthasarathy (2005), rather than
dismissing non-Western cultures as anti-democratic
and not suitable for good governance, by hiding
their beliefs it seems that the aid donor entities
been engaged to work with existing institutions,
practicing to promote development, and enhancing
choice and freedom for individuals and groups.
Just by ascertaining the fulfillment of political
conditionality, the donor agencies have been busy
donating funds and capital to the recipient
countries. With little or no understanding of the
establishment of local cultures necessary for a
democratic governance system, nevertheless the
agendas of good governance have been implanted in
a number of developing countries.
Given the intolerable conditions imposed on
the developing countries, it needs to be stated at
this juncture that the recipient countries have
been accepting funds from the donor agencies
instead of internally generating the funds
specifically, when giving assistance to Ethiopia,
the donor entities should have known in advance
that the political culture of the Ethiopian people
is by and large based on communal orientation.
Given this, the neo-liberal Western values
couldn’t coexist with Ethiopian values. Instead
of attempting to build a synergy between the
developmental states of the Ethiopian states and
the donor agencies, in the name of good governance
the donor agencies have imposed their own cultural
values on the recipient countries (Adetula,2011).
if Ethiopia is to accept Western assistance, it
needs to examine critically the Western capitalist
economic theories, because they were developed for
a different social order. Ethiopian policy makers
need to modify the ‘one size fits all’ in
order to adapt and use only the most relevant
aspects for Ethiopian culture and its way of
living. In the section that would follow in the
future, an attempt will be made to explore the
suitability and feasibility of Democratic
autonomous self-rule Federalism or as it is known
in political science jargon, the Consociationalism
type of democracy for the Federal Republic of
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