Government Versus Governance
Government (noun): The group of people and/ or organisations with the authority to govern a country or a state.
Governance (noun): The action or manner of governing a state.
The advent of Narendra Modi on the national stage has popularised the term “more governance, less government”. On the face of it there seems to be a contradiction. Government is what delivers governance, so how can diminishing the doer; improve what is to be done.
The resolution to this contradiction can be found in a witty exchange between Sir Humphrey Applebee (cabinet secretary) and Bernard Wooly (private secretary to the PM) in the British tele-series Yes Prime Minister:
“Sir Humphrey Applebee: Bernard, what happens at the moment if there is some vacant land in say, Nottingham and there are rival proposals for its use?
Bernard Wooly: Well, we set up an inter-departmental committee: Department of Health, Department of Education, Department of Transport…Treasury…Environment etc. Ask for papers, hold meetings propose, discuss, revise, report, redraft, report back…
Sir Humphrey Applebee: Precisely, months of fruitful work, leading to a mature and responsible conclusion. But if we have regional government, they would decide it all in Nottingham, perhaps in a couple of meetings…the complete amateurs.
Bernard Wooly: It is their city.
Sir Humphrey Applebee: …and what happens to us?! Much less work!…so we have much less power…and if the right people don’t have power…you know what happens…the wrong people get it….ordinary voters!”
Clearly the problem arises when the government (noun) becomes an organism of self preservation rather than a mechanism of delivering governance as it should have been. It is at this point that governance declines and the size of the government increases. And like with any other organism interested only in self preservation as the body of government grows it requires more resources, gets an ego to match and sets up mechanisms and processes that further only its existence at the cost of its true function.
For example, in 1985 India had 55 secretaries and 42 government ministers. Today after no less than 30 commissions have studied downsizing (1947-2007), the government has swollen to 79 ministers and 145 secretary and secretary equivalent positions.