The central duty of government is instituting governance procedures that meet the fundamental needs of its citizens; the government is the custodian of the policies aimed at enhancing social well-being. The systems of government have to work in tandem in order to avail resources and opportunities to the people; without feasible policy implementations, providing the much needed resources to the people will be a far-fetched idea.
Employment opportunities, affordable health services, decent housing and quality education are pivotal social-wellbeing features that governments should provide to citizens. Provision of such services calls for accountability and transparency on the part of the government. Governance is a dynamic and imperative enterprise that governments need to uphold in order to service the provision of equitable, quality and long-term services to their citizens. Democracy is a significant catalyst in pushing governments to avail the required social well-being benefits to citizen (King, 2010).
Developed countries have recorded significant efforts in providing social welfare services to their citizens; the ability to integrate systems and strategically prioritise their policies has played an instrumental role in their progress (Agénor, Alejandro and Henning, 2007). Conversely, most developing nations are still lagging behind in their effort to improve the social well-being of their citizens. Health standards, education opportunities, employment rates and housing facilities are at the brink of collapsing in most developing countries. Lack of good governance and the enactment of democratic processes have primarily contributed to the flawed systems of social well-being to the citizens.
Most countries in Africa, South East Asia and Latin America have continually demonstrated their incapacity adequately to meet the fundamental needs of their citizens. From the contemporary and historical trends in developing countries, this study questions: Are developing country governments able to provide long-term social well-being benefits to their citizens if those governments are not democratically accountable? According to King (2010), a vibrant democratic process, especially the system of “check-and-balance”, is an important impetus for governments to provide the necessary social well-being services to citizens, without which, they will fall short of the much-needed growth index.
The 21st century ushered in great opportunities as well as tremendous challenges for the developing world. The break of the century offered tremendous breakthroughs in technology, economic, social and political spheres.
However, as it stands, more than a decade, since the inception of the 21st century, developing countries are struggling in the mud of poor governance and failed state systems. For instance, the African continent had the largest number of civil wars in the last ten years. This trend not only affects the international image of such countries, but also the social welfare of the citizens.
The Second Civil War in Sudan (1982-2005), which is arguably the longest civil war in recent history, brought devastating effects on the social standing of the Sudanese people. The war, primarily precipitated by lack of democratically accountable policies by the government, sacrificed the social well-being of the people at the altar of autocracy. Consequently, the citizens could not get access to basic social amenities. This is a reflection of many developing countries without the ability to put in place sustainable social development structures because of lack of democratic accountability.
Lack of proper housing is a major problem in developing nations and especially in the African continent. Studies show more than half of residents in the Sub-Saharan region of Africa do not have access to adequate housing facilities.
According to Bhargava (2003) this trend has continued to plague the African region because of inadequate and inconsistent housing policies. Binett and Fernando (2005) agree with this point by reiterating that urbanest poor in developing countries live in shanty towns, which lack the basic housing amenities; they live in slums and poorly conditioned houses. There is a high propensity for insecurity in these places because the resources are scarce; people are resigned to poor living standards.
Dijk (2006) further adds that this situation emanates from the porous government structures that do not recognise the housing needs of the people. In emphasising the level of housing degradation in developing countries, Cheema and Shabbir (2005) assert that countries in the South East of Asia have an influx of people migrating into the urban centres, resulting into massive congestion in the town centres. For instance, rural-urban migration has forced the urban poor in Vietnam to live in dilapidated slum houses, which expose them to hazardous conditions; lack of government initiatives to provide housing solutions to urban Vietnamese has become a big concern (Mitlin and David, 2013).
According to Datta and Gareth (2002), the government has the sole responsibility of putting in place feasible platforms of housing the increasing number of migrants into city life. Unlike the developed countries, most developing countries fail to enact democratic systems of providing social benefits to their citizen (Nagel, 1998).
Education is an imperative social element in the growth and development of any nation. Virtually every country in the world is putting efforts to ensure that the level of education rises high to accommodate the increasing need of the phenomena. Despite the universal nature of education, it is sad to highlight that the levels of education are not at equilibrium; developing nations have not put enough efforts to eliminate illiteracy.
Studies show that 40% of the youth in Africa do not have sufficient educational background to enable them be competitive in the dynamic world of the 21st century (Glewwe and Nisha, 2004). In Indonesia, the rate of primary school enrolment in poor districts is below 60%, with slow improvement in secondary school enrolment (The World Bank, 2013). In addition, according to The World Bank (2013), the 11.6% rate of higher education enrolment is still down in Indonesia compared to its neighbours. The staggering levels of education deprivation are a reflection of the incapacitation of governments in developing countries to invest in the education sector. Failure to maintain accountability in managing education resources has contributed in the dismal performance of education policies.
Educational potential in developing countries has been draining; poor academic standards in the third world court immense challenge for most of the citizens. Evidently, education has a stratified structure in countries with equitable education policies. King (2010) highlights that the levels of education in the rural areas are way too low compared to the urban areas.
The stratified education systems stem from the poor governance in developing countries that have transited for years (Parrillo, 2008). Without equal representation of education in the part of the government, the social well-being of citizens will certainly continue to face challenges. This implies that in most developing countries, education is not a mainstreamed agenda in the governmental front; education policies are still lagging behind in the third world nations. Lustig (2001) argues that education delivers social benefits that are of extreme significance to the nation. So, there is a need for governments to demonstrate political will towards providing equitable education services to its citizens (Binetti and Fernando, 2005).
According to MacDonald (2005), employment is an important factor in availing the much-needed social benefits to citizens. In virtually every election, job creation is usually among the top agendas for implementation by a political regime. However, the rate of unemployment in developing countries has continued to raise eyebrows; poverty is driving people to social evils, which can be avoided through the creation of job opportunities.
Nagel (1998) asserts that without economic endowment, people cannot be in a position to meet their social obligations; employment opportunities provide the thrust needed to acquire social benefits. A typical example of unemployment in developing countries is in Bangladesh. The current statistics of unemployment is estimated at 30 million people (Islam, 2014).
According to Islam (2014), unemployment is a huge concern in Bangladesh, with educated people not utilizing their full potential in the job market; they are either unemployed or working below their standards. The textile industry in
Bangladesh recorded the lowest wage earnings in the world in 2010 (Islam, 2014). Instead of finding ways of providing job opportunities to their citizens, governments in developing are drenched in widespread corruption that erodes the integrity of citizens; corruption and lack of transparency have contributed in the rising cases of unemployment (Parrillo, 2008). Governments are mandated to streamline its policies towards providing solutions of unemployment. With the level of poverty rising in the developing nations, it is certain that the citizens of those nations will continue to face enormous challenges in meeting their social needs.
Developing countries do not give adequate priority to health care services as their counterparts in the developed world. Provision of health care services and benefits to citizens is not a question of wealth, but the ability for governments to prioritize on the issue, and provide the required funding. The tragedy with most developing countries, as Maclean (2013) puts it, is that they spent less of providing medical facilities to their citizens, while spending more on other political issues.
The World Bank (2011) points out that the government of Philippines does not invest adequate resources in the health sector. Inadequate distribution of health facilities and medical practitioners in the country by the government has jeopardized the capacity of citizens to receive proper medical attention. This is ultimately undemocratic, as it deprives citizens of their social well-being at the expense of dubious political projects. Without access to quality medical care, citizens, especially the poor will not be in a position to enjoy their social well-being. The rich have access to private health care in their countries and can also find medical care from foreign countries during the middle-class struggle with the results of weak political process (Maclean, 2013).
From the literature review, it is evidently clear that there are many political flaws in governments in developing countries towards providing social benefits to their citizens. The ability of the governments to meet the needs of the people is wanting. Yes, economic endowment in developing countries is not comparable to the developed world, but is that the problem? Are the governments doing enough to ensure that their citizens get access to the fundamental social benefits? This is a dilemma that raises many questions on the ability of developing nations to propel their growth and development agenda. A socially alert and vibrant nation means that the government is investing intensely in securing social benefits for its citizens.
In gathering information on the prevailing trends in developing nations, a case study is essential in providing the needed data and evidence. A critical analysis on a case study is valuable in knowing whether governments in developing countries have the ability to provide long-term social benefits to their citizens. The case study, involving housing policy in a developing country will seek to unearth the prevailing housing trends and needs in the developing world. Moreover, the case study will candidly display the actions of governments in developing countries towards providing social benefits to their citizens.
Vietnam is a country in the South East of Asia with a population of approximately 89.2 million people; it is a developing country with an ever-increasing population in the urban cities; hence raising the demand for housing facilities in the country’s urban centres (Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 2008). According to studies in the housing sector in Vietnam, the demand for housing in Vietnam does not match the number of housing facilities available (Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 2008). The influx of people in the cities because of rural-urban migration causes problems in respect to the living standards of the people.
Vietnam is among the developing countries facing severe cases of poverty, causing a large part of the country’s population to lack proper housing and basic housing amenities. Housing is still an issue among the urban poor in Vietnam. Low-income citizens do not have enough capital to own decent homes; they have to borrow capital to their household (Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 2008).
The living conditions for the low-earning Vietnamese have been declining because of the lack of the government in providing the necessary incentives to improve urban housing. Implementation of housing policy has been a major policy by the government of Vietnam, but slow implementation processes have triggered an outcry among the urban poor and middle-level earners. Based on the housing problems evident in the Asian country, the government has put plans to secure housing facilities for the urban dwellers.
The housing policy in providing affordable housing among the low-income earners in the country has constantly faced major setbacks because of the lack of adequate funding to build quality-housing facilities. Slow disbursement of funds by the government to spearhead housing policy in Vietnam has been a major hurdle in the eradication of housing problems. The government recognises that housing the increasing population in cities is significant, but the efforts by government structures are wanting. The political impetus to meet the social needs of the people is lacking in the part of the government (Mitlin and David, 2013).
According to Glewwe and Nisha (2004), a survey conducted in 2009 showed that a third of the city dwellers in Vietnam lived in borrowed houses, a reality that exposes the level of housing insecurity in the developing country.
United Habitat estimations indicate that approximately 9 million Vietnamese in the urban centres live in slums; this is approximately 41% of the total population of urban dwellers in the country (Mitlin and David, 2013).
According to Marshall Cavendish Corporation (2008), there are an increasing number of people living in make-shift houses with dilapidated living conditions. The slum dwellers argue that they live in shanties because they do not have alternative sources of housing; the poverty levels in the country push them to live in poor living conditions. The poor living conditions in the slums expose the people to hazardous situations. Poor health and high levels of insecurity are among the characteristics of slum life in the urban area (Glewwe and Nisha, 2004).
Privatisation is a factor that is fuelling the scarcity of housing among the urban dwellers. It is becoming expensive for the urban poor to gain access to affordable houses in the cities; hence, worsening the housing problem in Vietnam.
The lack of government control in controlling the housing sector is a major setback in the provision of housing services in the urban centres. The urban middle-class and the poor are not in a position to own decent homes because the privatisation policy takes hold of public housing; most of the public houses are sold to tenants, who happen to be governmental officials and war veterans. The corruption in government contributes in the creation of inequality in the acquisition of housing facilities. The housing policy does not end up benefiting the urban dwellers, but the political and economic connections in the country. Lack of proper monitoring and evaluation strategies of the privatisation process by the government has disadvantaged a large part of the urban population, and denied them a chance to have decent housing structures (Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 2008).
Indeed, this is a huge problem facing the urban population. Housing management is also a serious issue in Vietnam. Housing services on the part of the government are poor, and houses are left to deteriorate without proper care. The
level of negligence and poor governance by government institutions is not a recent phenomenon, but a trend that has been in existence for years. Solving the housing problem in the major cities of Vietnam calls for the concerted efforts of all stakeholders in the housing sector in order to provide viable housing alternatives to the deserving citizens; without such efforts the urban dwellers will continue to face acute housing shortages.
Based on the literature review and the case study, it is evident that the biggest problem for developing countries is the lack of adequate efforts by the government in providing social benefits to the citizens. As discussed above, the government is responsible for providing the necessary incentives required in meeting the social needs of the people.
The resources needed in streamlining the social structures of the country come from the government apparatus. In this respect, it is not the people, but the government that has the power to either raise the banner of growth, or subject the people to the point of lawlessness.
In reference to the information gathered, country governments in developing countries cannot provide long-term social benefits to their citizens if they are not democratically accountable. From a critical level, governments without democratically accountable structures cannot deliver long-term benefits to their citizens because of various fundamental reasons.
Firstly, equal representation of social services to the people is widely compromised if governments fail to follow the right channels in offering services. As evidenced in the case of Vietnam, lack of equitable housing facilities is largely responsible for the make-shift houses in the cities; corruption and allocation of housing facilities without following democratic channels are factors that jeopardise the capacity of providing long-term solutions to citizens. Inequality is a major trend that characterises the allocation of resources in developing countries; deep-rooted autocracy among government officials reduces the chances of according social benefits to deserving citizens. Therefore, it is ultimately important for governments in developing countries to put forward the required measures in enhancing equitable distribution of resource (Lustig, 2001).
Democratically accountable governments involve their citizens in the formation of development agendas. Thus, the inability of the developing countries to involve stakeholders in the provision of social policies erodes the capacity of long-term benefits. This implies that the people have a chance to decide what works for them, and the government is supposed to implement viable policies aimed at fostering social growth among the citizens. A critical analysis of the information presented in the research shows that most developing countries do not prioritise on the basic social benefits of the people. As King (2008) puts it, most governments in the developing countries prioritise on political interests that do not benefit the people. This is a serious breach of the democratic process, which undermines the interests of the people.
The 21st century experiences enormous challenges that call for governments to institute feasible processes that recognize the needs of the people. Health care is an important social policy that has seen governments putting less emphasis on it; access to health care is still a problem in many developing nations especially in Africa. The problem is not external, but inherent in the arms of governments who are not willing to pay the price for quality health services. This demonstrates a failure to have accountability in the mandate given to governments by their citizens.
Therefore, with the trend of less priority placed on significant elements contributing to the social well-being of the people, it is without a doubt that there can be no long-term social benefits to citizens in the developing world (Dijk, 2006).
Allocation of resources and personnel in the implementation of policies is important towards the attainment of social well being. The implementation of social policies calls for the provision of funds, by the government in order to enable the smooth implementation of such programs. Developed countries have been able to foster the growth of social well-being because of their ability to allocate the necessary resources for the attainment of economic and social growth. On the contrary, developed countries have not followed the trend, but evidence of mass corruption and illegal allocation of resources have made it impossible to achieve long-term social benefits.
According to Binetti and Fernando (2005), the poverty levels in developing countries do not stem from the lack of economic endowment but the misappropriation of the existing wealth in the countries. This shows that developing countries have great potential to provide long-term benefits to their citizens but the failure to place resources to the right policies in a democratic way has continued to plague them. Without the countries being democratically accountable, the governments will not be able to provide social benefits to the citizens (Dijk, 2006).
Lastly, a democratic process that avails social benefits to its citizens results from having the right leadership in place. Weak states are characterised by poor leaders without the qualities that can propel the people to high levels of growth (Agénor, Alejandro and Henning, 2007).
Agénor, Alejandro and Henning (2007) further add that most nations in the third world countries have failed to enhance the social wellbeing of the citizens because they lack the capacity to drive social policies to completion. A critical analysis of this point shows that democratic leadership is missing in many countries. Leaders, fail to execute a participatory approach in implementing social policies. For instance, the levels of autocracy in developing countries forces government leaders to work in seclusion; hence, disregarding the input of other stakeholders (Bhargava, 2003). This is an undemocratic practice that jeopardises the capacity for citizens to have social growth. Yielding too much power at the expense of the needs of citizens is a serious problem. Therefore, it is truly difficult for developing countries to meet the social needs of their citizens without democratic accountability.
In conclusion, the research paper unearths significant points about the role of the government in providing social needs to the people, and the need to uphold good governance by the relevant authorities. The research paper brings about a comparison between the developing and developed countries in respect to the provision of services. For years, the trend of poor governance in developing countries has eroded the much-needed social mobility among the citizens of those countries. The research reveals that governments in developing countries have been a huge stumbling block in the development of social policies. The lack of democratic processes in the implementation of the social policies has forced the third world to remain in the dark patches of the past.
Poor health care, low education standards, poverty and dilapidated housing are among the social issues that have been a thorn in the flesh of many in the developing world. It is imperative for the concerned authorities to establish the most feasible means of meeting the needs of the citizens; without equitable and quality social services, the society will be devoid of its fundamental elements. Just like their counterparts in the developed countries, governments in the developing world should capitalize on democratic principles to avail the essential resources to the citizens. This will enhance the ability of the citizens to pursue personal and communal goals. There is hope for the developing world; long-term social benefits can be achieved, if only democratic processes and procedures are followed in the journey to attain such goals
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- Bhargava, G. (2003). Urban problems and policy perspectives. New Delhi: Abhinav.
- Binetti, C., and Fernando F. (2005). An unequal democracy? seeing Latin America through European eyes. Washington, D.C.: Inter-American Development Bank.
- Cheema, G. and Shabbir, G. (2005). Building democratic institutions: governance reform in developing countries. Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian Press.