The good and bad sides of continuing governance systems and overall benefits

By Masani

Continuity in governance plays a vital role in promoting sustainable development, fostering economic growth, and improving the well-being of citizens in especially, developing countries.  Since clearly to most academicians like myself, we always want to challenge systems and find alternative ways of improving existing systems.

In Ghana we have always made the argument that one of the reasons this country is not progressing speedily is primary because we change governance systems too soon, thereby depriving citizens of needed development. So for example Ghana is replete with examples projects that have been abandoned because of change in government or ruling party.

So since 1992, NDC/NPP have ruled Ghana changing the baton after every eight years. And due to that we have suffered of lack of interest from succeeding parties to continue with existing projects the country stands to benefit, from school blocks, hospital projects with the exception of UGMC, roads, public toilets, refusal to commission completed projects and so on.

So why don’t we for once try continuing with a system for more than eight years, to see how that also goes. And in fact these are some of the things a country gets to benefit if they continue with long-term governance systems.   

Policy Stability: continuity allows governments to maintain consistent policies over time, providing stability for businesses and investors thereby encouraging long-term investment and economic growth.

Institutional Memory: allows governments to retain institutional knowledge and experience, enabling them to learn from past successes and failures and make more informed decisions in the future.

Efficient Implementation of Development Plans: Continuity in governance ensures that development plans and projects initiated by one administration can be continued and implemented by successive administrations, preventing disruptions that could hinder progress.

Continuity in governance builds trust and confidence among citizens, investors, and international partners. It demonstrates a commitment to stability, which can enhance credibility and attract investment.

Continuity allows governments to stay focused on long-term development goals, such as poverty reduction, education, healthcare, and infrastructure development, without interruptions caused by changes in leadership or political instability.

This goes to enhanced International Relations and can strengthen relationships with other countries and international organizations. Consistent leadership facilitates ongoing dialogue and collaboration on issues of mutual interest, such as trade, security, and development assistance.

 Continuity provides opportunities for institutional capacity building within government agencies and ministries. Experienced personnel can mentor and train new staff, ensuring the transfer of knowledge and skills necessary for effective governance. Quick change of systems cannot and does not ensure that.

Continuity in governance can contribute to political stability by reducing the likelihood of abrupt changes in leadership that may lead to unrest, conflict, or instability.

Overall, continuity in governance plays a vital role in promoting sustainable development, fostering economic growth, and improving the well-being of citizens in developing countries.

Several countries have experienced benefits from long-term and continuous governance by a particular party or system. Even though, some of the most powerful countries on earth, like the United States, change their governments every eight years. Belgium does it in months, and Israel and the UK are no exceptions.

Here are some examples:

Singapore: The People’s Action Party (PAP) has been in power since Singapore gained independence in 1965. Singapore’s sustained economic development, efficient governance, and high standards of living have been attributed to the continuity in leadership provided by the PAP.

China: The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has maintained uninterrupted governance since 1949. China’s remarkable economic growth, poverty reduction, and infrastructure development have been facilitated by the long-term policies implemented by the CCP.

Japan: The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has been the dominant political party in Japan for most of its post-World War II history. Japan’s rapid economic recovery and subsequent emergence as a global economic power were facilitated by long-term stability and continuity in governance under the LDP.

Botswana: The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has governed Botswana since independence in 1966. Botswana’s political stability, economic growth, and effective governance have been attributed to the continuity in leadership provided by the BDP.

Malaysia: The United Malays National Organization (UMNO) led the ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional, from independence in 1957 until 2018. Malaysia’s economic growth and development, particularly during the period of Mahathir Mohamad’s leadership, were influenced by long-term policies implemented by UMNO.

While long-term governance systems can offer stability and continuity, they also pose certain risks and drawbacks.

Entrenchment of Power: Long-term governance can lead to the concentration of power within a single party or leader, undermining democratic principles and fostering authoritarian tendencies.

Extended periods of governance by the same party or leader may erode mechanisms of accountability, leading to corruption, nepotism, and abuses of power.

Continuity in governance can inhibit political innovation and reform, as entrenched leaders may resist change that could threaten their grip on power.

Prolonged governance by the same party or system may lead to complacency and a lack of urgency in addressing economic challenges, potentially hindering innovation and competitiveness.

Also, long-term governance without meaningful political competition can breed discontent among citizens who feel marginalized or excluded from the political process, potentially leading to social unrest.

This may also cause institutional decay, thereby extending periods of governance by the same party or leader leading to the erosion of democratic institutions, weakening checks and balances and undermining the rule of law.

These are some insights into the potential negative consequences of long-term governance systems and the importance of political competition, accountability, and institutional resilience in safeguarding democracy and promoting sustainable development. But, it at the same time, illustrates how continuity in governance by a particular party or system can contribute to political stability, economic development, and social progress in various countries.

So, question is, in whose interest have we been running the change of governance system every eight years? And why should we not for once try continuing with an existing system for more than eight years to see how that works for us as a developing and middle-income country?

MASANII is an Organizational Development Researcher

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