C ivil society, Social Protection and the Role of Governments: In Search of a F ramewor k 1 Sharif N As-Saber Department of Management Monash University A bstract The advent of globalisation has created a lot of opportunities for businesses, society and governments. Simultaneously, it has generated numerous challenges to the members of the global community. In this regard, the role of the government stays controversial. Growing dependence on the private sector in key areas such as health, education and aged care is restricting the capacity of the government to offer these services. In addition, with the declining tax rate, governments are patronising corporate entities and high income earners while deliberately reducing their own capacity of offering assistance to the deserving poor. The various civil society groups are now questioning the wisdom of government policy frameworks in alleviating the social divide and augmenting social protection for the poor and disadvantaged. This paper attempts to examine the role of the civil society to create awareness about this important issue and to persuade governments to frame and implement more effective social protection policy without undermining the need for a viable social security net. It also calls for a consultative approach conforming to democratic norms and principles. A tentative framework has been introduced linking government policy, social protection and civil society. A set of implications for civil society organisations, corporate entities and governments follows. K ey Words: Social protection, Civil Society, Consultative approach, Globalisation, Social Capital
Introduction The world, no doubt, is plagued by a major problem, the problem of widening gap between the rich and the poor. This problem is exacerbated by a declining level of social security available to the poor and disadvantaged. Despite the endless opportunities created for businesses, society and governments, the marketisation of the global economy together with the increasing
Presented as an invited paper at the International Conference on Progress, Problems, and Prospects of Governance and Evidence-Based Government of Asia organised by the Graduate School of Public Administration (GSPA), Seoul National University on 12 February 2007 (Proceedings of the GSPA Conference, pp. 53-69). 53
power of global corporations and declining role of government agencies are making the problem even worse. As competition is intensifying and becoming ruthless among global players and the social disparity increasing, an important challenge of protecting the vulnerable and the weak remains as an issue of immense significance (As-Saber, et al., 2004; Rodrick, 1998). Unfortunately, the role of the government in this regard, remains controversial. As deregulation and privatisation are giving way to market forces, the survival of the weakest is becoming increasingly difficult. Growing dependence on the private sector in key areas such as health, education and aged care is making the situation worse for people on low income. In addition, with the declining tax rate, governments are patronising corporate entities and high income earners while deliberately reducing their own capacity of offering assistance to the deserving poor (Gemmell and Morrissey, 2005). Although developing economies are suffering the most, developed industrialised countries are not immune to this problem. In general, with the gradual and systematic withdrawal of government support, the poorer segment of the population is becoming more vulnerable to natural disasters and social disorders. The onslaught of tsunami in Asia and the devastation of hurricane Katrina on the Southesat American shore have unravelled the importance of this issue which had not been adequately understood in the past. The tsunami-hit regions in Asia lacked preparedness to immediately tackle the situation primarily because of the lack of resources. Nonetheless, Thailand coped...
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