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What really happened to government capability?

Future of government


  • Access to the goods and services required for people and economies to thrive has expanded. So why are measures of government capability lower?
  • Perhaps, governments “flailing” to fulfil all their responsibilities and expectations for governments to do more in more areas of our lives.
  • Experts’ and the public’s expectations have risen.

Relative to the additional tasks they are taking on, governments are under great strain. Although there is support for universal basic services almost everywhere and very often government subsidies (for healthcare and  schools), implementation of universal basic services has halted partway in many countries.  

And according to expert surveys, governments in emerging economies are on average – albeit with several exceptions - getting worse at other aspects of government, including prioritization and finding consensus.

Indicators such as equity of education and health provision have backslid since the 2010s. In particular, many countries in Europe and Central Asia got a lot less equitable between 2000 and 2020 on health

How about if we directly observe what’s happening? Quality of provision has improved incrementally – but often from a very low level, and equity of financing of public service tends to improve as countries attain high-income status.

So: provision has improved but may have become more unequal as countries hit middle-income status. And many facets of and government procedure and performance have fallen behind expert and wider public expectations in many countries.


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