Measuring National Governance During a Global Crisis
Governments are facing a wave of historic challenges. The Chandler Good Government Index offers insights into the capabilities that can help them rise to the moment.
The Patient Journey of Good Governance
Giant redwoods, the world’s tallest trees, regularly grow to more than 300 feet (91 metres) tall. And yet, in a good year, these giants only grow two or three feet (0.6 to 0.9 metres). Though the timeline differs for governments, the same principle holds true: progress that is largely invisible day-to-day, when it is sustained over months, years, and decades, can produce dramatic growth.
Central to our work at the Chandler Institute of Governance are two beliefs. First, that good government plays a deciding factor in whether nations succeed; and second, that good government is built on capabilities. These capabilities are not tethered to any particular ideology or political party, but are instead anchored in concrete skills, systems, and processes which can be tracked, learned, and, with the right investments of time and resources, meaningfully — and measurably — improved.
Measuring Governance in a Time of Crisis
Such capabilities have always been important, but they feel particularly vital at a time when governments are grappling with issues ranging from climate change to COVID-19, inequality to food security. Capabilities cannot “solve” these challenges, but they can arm governments with the tools, talent, and infrastructure to better navigate them.
The Chandler Good Government Index (CGGI) is designed to offer a global, non-partisan, data-driven view of good governance. Measuring the capabilities and outcomes of 104 countries, or roughly 90% of the world’s population, the CGGI is the most comprehensive tool of its kind. Through its data and stories, the CGGI looks to enrich discussions about what good governance means and what it looks like in practice.
The inaugural CGGI was published in 2021, using publicly available data that predated the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s CGGI, published in April 2022, includes data collected during the pandemic (the publicly available data upon which the CGGI 2022 is built predates the war in Ukraine — the effects of that conflict will be reflected in next year’s Index). That means the CGGI can explore in depth how the pandemic has affected certain government capabilities, and the relationships between good governance and COVID-19 outcomes. Even more, the CGGI’s breadth offers insights into the nature of good governance more broadly.
A well-governed country is more likely to be prepared for a pandemic than a country that is simply wealthy.
Good Governance is a Better Indicator of Pandemic Preparedness than GDP Per Capita
A notable finding from this year’s CGGI was that the quality of a country’s governance proved a better predictor of its pandemic preparedness than its income level. A strong relationship emerged when comparing countries’ CGGI scores with their Prevent Epidemics ReadyScore, an assessment developed by Vital Strategies, a global public health organisation based in New York. Put simply, a well-governed country is more likely to be prepared for a pandemic than a country that is simply wealthy.
A similarly strong relationship became apparent when comparing countries’ overall CGGI scores with their rankings on the Global Health Security Index, an assessment developed by the Johns Hopkins Centre for Health Security, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, and the Economist Intelligence Unit.
Such findings, while strong, might perhaps be expected. Both the Global Health Security Index and the Prevent Epidemics ReadyScore focus on preparedness, which is a kind of capability or capacity — and the CGGI itself focuses on government capabilities. Yet in both 2021 and 2022, the CGGI revealed a strong link between a government’s capabilities and the outcomes it produces.
Overall Country Rankings Relatively Stable Despite a Volatile Year
Even amid a historically turbulent year, countries’ overall governance scores remained relatively stable. One third of countries (32) maintained their overall ranking in the CGGI, including the top overall country (Finland) and the lowest ranking (Venezuela).
This relative stability stems partly from the CGGI’s focus on capabilities. Such capabilities are comprised of systems, institutions, processes, and skills — things that take years to build and develop, and which are more likely to gradually erode than abruptly collapse. This design is deliberate; capabilities represent enduring foundations for excellence in governance. They are stable, lasting investments in the present and future.
CGGI Overall Rank
Animating Data with Stories
Each year, the CGGI’s findings are published in a report that analyses the Index’s data and shares stories that bring those numbers to life. The 2022 CGGI report spotlights specific capabilities and initiatives from more than 25 countries, ranging from South Korea’s approach to digital governance to Rwanda’s initiatives to attract foreign investment. These aren’t case studies of flawless governance, but rather real-life examples of governments tackling problems in ways that have much to teach.
Uruguay, for instance, tapped the expertise of doctors, epidemiologists, and other specialists to contain COVID-19.1 At the same time, it also set up a COVID-19 Solidarity Fund to cover the cost of public health emergency measures and payments of disability insurance and unemployment insurance benefits.2 The Solidarity Fund was partially financed through contributions — between 5% and 20% — from the salaries of 15,000 public officials earning above a certain threshold. Private firms also made contributions to the fund, helping to bolster the Government’s pandemic social support.
The takeaway isn’t that practitioners should look to replicate those exact policies and decisions, but rather an invitation to approach problems with creativity and in a spirit of collaboration.
While each of the 26 capabilities included in the CGGI are important(and equally weighted), our analysis found that three capabilities were most closely correlated with a country’s overall CGGI score: rule of law, property rights, and anti-corruption.
Three Capabilities Most Closely Correlated with Good Governance
Such stories provide a close-up look at good governance; the CGGI’s large pool of data also allows a more bird’s-eye view of governance, exploring the trends and patterns that hold true across countries regardless of their income levels, ideologies, or geography.
While each of the 26 capabilities included in the CGGI are important (and equally weighted), our analysis found that three capabilities were most closely correlated with a country’s overall CGGI score: rule of law, property rights, and anti-corruption.
Effective governments, of course, need more than just these three capabilities to succeed, but clearly these three are the cornerstones upon which good governance is built.
The Outcome Most Closely Related with Good Governance: Social Mobility
While the CGGI is capability-focused, it also looks at nine equally weighted outcomes, as outcomes clearly matter in assessing a government’s performance. Those nine outcomes range from education to healthcare, income inequality to personal safety. All are vital components of human well-being and government performance, yet none were as closely related to good governance as social mobility, as measured by the World Economic Forum’s Global Social Mobility Index.
A similarly strong relationship appeared between the CGGI and the Social Progress Index, which looks at 53 indicators to measure “how well a society provides its people with the things they really care about”. Good governance, the research demonstrates, is deeply connected to prosperity and opportunity.
A Headwind to Mobility: Inequality
There is much debate about whether high inequality causes, or is simply correlated with, low social mobility. Whatever the link, it is one with which a growing number of national governments are having to contend: while income inequality between countries has improved in recent years, inequality within countries has widened.3
Among the countries spotlighted in our 2022 CGGI report is Lithuania, one of Europe’s fastest-growing economies. Its effective economic management and liberalised investment environment have improved incomes and generated growth. Yet many Lithuanians have not been able to keep up with the pace of change, and the country faces a significant inequality gap — Lithuania has one of Europe’s highest Gini coefficients, a measure of inequality.4 Lithuanian lawmakers have responded by passing laws on issues ranging from child benefits to providing cash assistance for those in poverty.
They also increased the minimum wage.5 Prior to the pandemic, Lithuania had instituted social insurance pensions and universal child benefit schemes. Those programmes, when coupled with investment from the EU, saw Lithuania provide support for its most vulnerable citizens during the pandemic while its GDP grew throughout 2021, despite the continuing shocks of COVID-19.6 Such steps exemplify how targeted public spending can contribute to reducing inequality while benefiting the economy.
Seeing Both the Forest and the Trees
To say someone cannot “see the forest for the trees” is to imply that their focus on details is obscuring the bigger picture. In governance, it can not only be tough to see the big picture — the forest — clearly, but also individual governments — the trees. The landscape is complex, constantly evolving, and much debated.
Through its data and stories, the CGGI looks to share a new perspective on good governance more broadly, and on the capabilities of national governments around the world. The Index is designed to help bring greater attention to the aspects of governance that in isolation might seem mundane, but which collectively can determine the heights a nation and its people ultimately reach.
Stories of Good Governance
in a Time of Crisis
The Chandler Good Government Index 2022 uncovers stories of good governance from across the globe despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
A capable and effective government can quickly overcome crisis and emerging challenges and deliver on important public services and outcomes.
1. British Medical Journal, 2020. Uruguay is Winning Against COVID-19. This is How. https://www.bmj.com/content/370/bmj.m3575
4. OECD, 2021. Lithuania: COVID-19 crisis reinforces the need for reforms to drive growth and reduce inequality. OECD Newsroom,OECD.org.
5. The European Anti-Poverty Network Lithuania, 2018. Poverty and Social Exclusion in Lithuania 2018.
6. Jankauskaitė, G., 2019. Inequalities in Lithuania: High Levels of Inequality in a Context of Rapid Economic Growth. Global Call toAction Against Poverty (GCAP).
Reporting and analysis by Wu Wei Neng, Christopher Wong, and Dominic Tan Gabriel-Dean, who work at the Chandler Institute of Governance and were part of the team that produces the annual Chandler Good Government Index. A version of this article originally appeared in the Chandler Good Government Index’s 2022 Report.