Institutions and Institutionalism: Pre-requisites for Sustained Development

Institution without institutionalism is meaningless and, at best, chaotic, in that rules and regulations as well as processes and procedures underlying the very structures of nationhood become dysfunctional and grind to a halt.

In the absence of institutions and institutionalism, personality cult reigns, and hinders nationhood building.

Nonetheless, building strong institutions and allowing them to function (institutionalism) improve the capacity and effectiveness of formal establishments to handle the environment that puts performance demands and pressures on them.

An assessment of institutions and their relative environments reveals stakeholders, civil society, citizens and politics as performance and results demand centres while recognising generally the building of institutions as a political activity, which, unfortunately, has always been ignored and underestimated.

Institutions are considered change-inducing, formal and protecting, innovation-driven, and formal and informal sets of rules, rubrics, and principles.

The building of institutions, however, involves improvement in the functionality of societies through the creation, strengthening or changing “institutional software”; that is, people’s interaction with one another in the public context and activities. Institutionalism entails the working as well as practical and effective manifestation, operationalisation of institutions.

Indeed, no ugly enthralling argument exists against the benefits of institutions and institutionalism in policy-making. Notably, there is a need for economic, social and legal institutions for the support of the market and subsequent economic policy-making that creates a public good as a catalyst for public policy success.

The link between institutions and institutionalism, on one hand, and, development, on the other, cannot, however, be overemphasised. Functioning states institutions frown on petty thievery and financial impropriety.

Thus, in countries where institutions and institutionalism are the pathways for implementing state interventions, corruption is defeated, taxpayers’ money for development goals is safeguarded and used judiciously for results and impacts.

For instance, development partners are eager to release pecuniary resources to countries with functioning institutions because the rules and regulations will be applied in the utilisation of these funds to ensure financial propriety, prudence, and effectiveness of national development interventions.

Besides, a functioning state institution proscribes policy discontinuity, which has eaten deeply into the political governance of most African countries, including Ghana.

Seamless national development is anchored on the continuity of public policies to deliver and meet the wide-ranging expectations of the citizens, stakeholders, and civil society groups.

To the contrary, the rules and regulations underpinning states’ power are dysfunctional, weak, and sometimes non-existent in Africa, and lead to the manipulation of national policy blueprint to suit the power of the day.

As such policies, programmes and projects of national character are neglected for political expediency. It is, therefore, important to allow institutions space and time to grow to become the linchpin around which economic transformation and infrastructural development take place.

Sadly, policy discontinuity is a common fixation and constitutes a potential waste-pipe in financial administration in Ghana and many African countries.

Furthermore, institutions/institutionalism promote good governance and democracy. Ghana and few African countries are lauded to have a strong democratic footprint, yet with weak and dysfunctional state institutions.

This presents a paradox, in that functioning institutions, are the foundation of a functioning democracy. Maybe, the solution lies in political pluralism, which allows and enables broad participation of interest groups in the process of decisions/policy-making, and without the capacity of states to imbibe the values of institutions and institutionalism.

Notwithstanding the above, functioning institutions are a catalyst to the advancement and robustness of the market. Development, which is conceptualised as a synergetic balance between improved social capital and novel knowledge involving complementary investment and public capital, needs institutionalism to nurture innovation for human capital growth and to coordinate competing and multiple paths to development, including interaction among state, private actors and markets in addressing innovation and coordination externality.

It is time Africa decided to build and grow functioning institutions to support the Continent’s economic transformation and harness the needed social capital for the benefit of Africans.

Undoubtedly, therefore, quantifying and measuring the lack of a functioning (institutionalism) institutions in Africa countries will reveal staggering figures the Continent loses annually if such a study were to exist. Maybe, this article presents a critical future academic investigation for African scholars.

The writer is a the Director, Monitoring and Evaluation

Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture


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