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Governance Indicators and Fisheries Management

May 10, 2012

I want to follow up on yesterday’s post that noted how compliance with the UN Code of Conduct appears to highly correlate with the World Bank’s Governance Index.  I looked back through Agnew et al.’s paper on global illegal fishing and found that they too found a correlation between high illegal fishing volumes and the governance index.  Here’s the excerpt:

Since there are strong economic drivers for illegal fishing and it  occurs  in  situations  of  poor  fisheries  management  and control, we might expect that the level of illegal fishing would be related to fish price, governance and indicators of the control problem, such as the area of a country’s EEZ and the number of patrol vessels at its disposal. We found no significant relationship between illegal fishing and the price of fish or the size of the EEZ or  the  fishery  in  our  study,  but  we  did  find  a  significant relationship  with  World  Bank  governance indicators measured in 2003, which was strongest with the log of illegal fishing level.  This  relationship  was  significant  for  the  whole  dataset (R2 0.400,  p,0.001,  n = 54),  for  Africa,  Europe  and Asia separately (R2 0.393, 0.375, 0.429, p,0.01, 0.05 and 0.01 respectively, n = 16 in each case), and with different indicators of governance  such  as  the  Corruption  Perceptions  index (R2 0.371, p,0.001, n = 50).

Given this, I thought it would be worth highlighting the World Bank’s efforts to measure governance to better understand why such a thing might not just correlate with poor fisheries management, but explain it as well.

The WB defines governance as “the traditions and institutions by which authority in a country is exercised. This includes the process by which governments are selected, monitored and replaced; the capacity of the government to effectively formulate and implement sound policies; and the respect of citizens and the state for the institutions that govern economic and social interactions among them.”

It’s important to pay attention to the definition as there is no widespread agreement on how to define the term.

And to measure such governance, the World Bank reports aggregate and individual governance indicators for 213 economies for six dimensions of governance:

  • Voice and Accountability
  • Political Stability and Absence of Violence
  • Government Effectiveness
  • Regulatory Quality
  • Rule of Law
  • Control of Corruption

The first two dimensions relate to the ‘how governments are selected, monitored and replaced’ component of the above definition.  The second two dimensions relate to the ‘public sector ability to formulate and implement policy’ component. And the third two dimensions relate to the ‘citizen and state respect for governing institutions’ component.

The WB does not actually go out and collect data on these dimensions, but instead relies on available information.  There’s no one indicator for any dimension, because there is no perfect proxy.  E.g. when do people clearly have a voice? When is a government effective?  In 2010, this meant using 31 different indicators coming from variety of sources (see below for a full list) that in turn provide one or more proxies for the governance dimensions. The variety of the sources means that the WB’s governance indicators reflect the perceptions of a diverse group of respondents.

So how do they then aggregate all the data?  The full methodology can be found in this working paper.  The sum of it is that World Bank standardizes and then does a weighted average the various scores.

In general, the international development community has embraced these indicators as robust and revealing.

Looking forward, I’ll be paying quite a bit more attention to the WB Governance Indicators when analyzing fishery management systems within Latin America, particularly when it appears outliers exist and when there’s a need to understand why a fishery management system may not be working.  E.g. a lack of voice or widespread corruption? Looking through the detailed information on how the WB uses the different data acquired from its sources, I also see that there’s an excellent road map if I ever wanted to conduct a study similar to Gezelius and Hauck (detailed here).

(A complete description of each of these data sources, including a description of how each of the individual variables from them is assigned to one of the six broad WGI measures, is available on the Documentation tab of

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