Good Government

Good Government

The Relevance of Political Science

Edited by Sören Holmberg and Bo Rothstein

In all societies, the quality of government institutions is of the utmost importance for the well-being of its citizens. Problems like high infant mortality, lack of access to safe water, unhappiness and poverty are not primarily caused by a lack of technical equipment, effective medicines or other types of knowledge generated by the natural or engineering sciences. Instead, the critical problem is that the majority of the world’s population live in societies that have dysfunctional government institutions. Central issues discussed in the book include: how can good government be conceptualized and measured, what are the effects of ‘bad government’ and how can the quality of government be improved?

Chapter 15: Access to Safe Water

Sören Holmberg and Bo Rothstein

Subjects: development studies, development studies, politics and public policy, international politics, political economy, public policy, regulation and governance


Sören Holmberg and Bo Rothstein On June 16, 2006, The New York Times had a front-page article about Angola. The article is introduced by a large picture showing two young boys and one young girl – a fair guess is that they are about 10 years old – fetching water from a stream that runs through what looks like an incredibly large garbage dump. The article starts with the following words: “In a nation whose multibillion dollar oil boom should arguably make its people rich enough to drink Evian, the water that many in this capital depend on goes by a less fancy name: Bengo. The Bengo River passes north of here, its waters dark with grits, and its banks strewn with garbage”. The article goes on to describe how poor Angolans living in the slums of the capital Luanda have no other option than to use the polluted water from the Bengo river. This is the reason why one of the worst cholera epidemics to strike Africa occurred; it has made over 43,000 people ill and killed more than 1,600 since its outbreak in February that year. Cholera is typically spread through contact with contaminated water and, according to the article, this problem exists everywhere in Luanda’s slums. As the picture shows, “children stripped to their underwear dance through sewage-clogged creeks and slide down garbage dumps on sleds made of sheet metal into excrement-fouled puddles”. The article continues by stating that economists say that the oil boom has...

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