Gov’t, public trust and citizens


Public trust in government is the essence of good governance

In the ancient halls of wisdom, Confucius once pondered the very essence of governance. When asked by Zigong, he responded with timeless clarity: “Sufficient food, a strong army, and the people’s trust … without the people’s trust, no government can survive”. These words echo through the corridors of history, transcending time and space to underline a fundamental truth: public trust stands as the cornerstone of governance.

Recently, the voices of citizens have rung louder than ever, and the call to ‘fix the country’ reverberates across the land. This impassioned cry, epitomised by actions like ‘OccupyJubileeHouse’, encapsulates the plea for a government that embodies not only authority but also trust. It is within the crucible of public trust that the destiny of nations is forged – a pact between the governed and the governing, shaping policies, ideals and the very soul of a nation. No one should thus, in the name of partisan politics, trivialise and downplay the recent calls by citizens to ‘fix the country’ and ‘OccupyJubileeHouse’ – and neither should the other side vehemently squash the counteracting “fix yourself”.

Public trust in government is the essence of good governance. The people want water, affordable food, good roads, good healthcare, reliable energy supply, good education, jobs and equal opportunities among others. Government’s ability to provide these – or give signs of doing them – assures citizens and builds trust. Public trust defines the relationship between citizens and government, and determines the acceptability and effectiveness of public policies. When citizens trust their government, they are more likely to have faith in the long-term benefits of public policies even if they seem counterproductive in the short-term.

Therefore, government needs to be genuinely working and demonstrating actions toward providing the ultimate needs of citizens. However, in turn, it needs to communicate clearly and frequently with all legal means on its popular and unpopular policies, so to demonstrate empathy, concern, partnership and open accountability to its main stakeholder – the citizens.

This by no means implies government should simply listen and execute only the citizens’ popular opinions. Actually, if you were to ask citizens what they want, and then without proper assessment try giving that to them… by the time you got it built, they would want something else. Their goalposts keep changing. So, what can government do, and what can we also do as citizens? The answer is #LetsFixTheCountryTogether.

Today, the one asking government to fix the country sits in a public office; and until palms are greased, will leave your request unattended to or delayed. There are public institutions that internally generate quite a lot of funds but can’t even purchase basic needs for their staff – because those at the top are busy taking their cuts.

We all agree that the onus lies with government, which has the power to create stronger institutions and automate processes in the public space to kill-off these inefficiencies benefiting a few. We are seeing some steps in the right direction, with technological innovations and processes now in places such as DVLA, Ghana Ports and Harbour Authority and Passport Office.

Therefore, I propose first that government can use this opportunity to once again form a public opinions committee and take feedback from its citizens, and embark on a new national development plan that surpasses change of government. Expanding public participation and deliberative decision-making is a necessary growing-pain for reaching a consensus based on rational, fact-based discussion – rather than appealing to the partisan prejudice and antagonism which have long characterised Ghana’s political discourse.

Second, government should establish a dialogue between the private and public sectors to develop a focused agenda and bring about efficient use of national assets.

Third, government should focus on improving the economy and creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive. Government can prioritise industrialisation, digitalisation and entrepreneurship to channel most of its resources in assisting the private sector to create more factories. Subsequently, the companies will create more employment opportunities and accelerate community development.

This note is an initiation of discussion for another national development agenda with a comprehensive outcome.

As we stand at this pivotal juncture of our nation’s journey, it is incumbent upon us to contemplate the words of wisdom from our forebears and the imperatives of our present. We must realise that the trust of our people is the lifeblood of effective governance. The vision for a prosperous and harmonious society must not be confined to the chambers of power alone; it must flow through the veins of every citizen.

In unity, we can bridge the divide and foster a dialogue that transcends partisanship. The clarion call is not merely to fix a nation but leverage its potential to its fullest, collectively seizing the reins of our fate. Let us work hand in hand, marked by a government that listens, a society that engages and a future wherein the dreams of our children find fertile ground.

This is our nation, our abode and our shared aspiration. Let’s make Ghana a home of limitless opportunities; let our voices unite in striving to shape a land where dreams take flight. Let the echo of our unified resolve resound through the annals of history – this, in fact, is the genesis of a brighter tomorrow.

Again, this is our country. This is our home. And since there’s freedom of opinion, I share these thoughts for national development and advancement; and I expect to have diverse contributions and actions from government and the citizens. The import is that we all want our country to be the land of dreams and opportunities for our kids.


Evans is a Chartered Financial Economist, Chartered Accountant, Chartered Global Management Accountant and Lecturer, AAMUSTED

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