Literate Southasians never tire of complaining about the lack of ‘good governance’ in the region. In their assessment, there is little point in debating about the form of government, what really counts is the function. But the form and the function of government are not independent of each other. What the government does is a result of how it has come into being, for what purpose and who controls its operations.

The easiest definition of governance is something that a government does: the conduct of public affairs. Governance of any kind—good or bad—requires some convictions, a few conventions, a constitution, various institutions and many actors. That’s quite a lot of factors to account for in trying to understand governance.

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