Still facing a tough public health policy test amid the pandemic, governments have to step up efforts to rebuild trust and transparency with their citizens, said a new study.

“Emerging evidence suggests that much more could have been done in advance to bolster resilience,” said Government at a Glance 2021, a new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Building resilience to crises and regaining citizens’ trust in the post-COVID-19 should be a priority for states, it urged.

One of the largest takeaways of the pandemic is that states will need to counter future crises at speed and scale while protecting trust and transparency, the research showed.

“Looking forward, we must focus simultaneously on promoting the economic recovery and avoiding democratic decline,” said Elsa Pilichowski, the OECD’s director of public governance.

“Reinforcing democracy should be one of our highest priorities,” she added.

The report also underlined that amid the coronavirus crisis, countries have introduced numerous public health policies, often on a fast track.

“Some alleviation of standards is inevitable in an emergency, but must be limited in scope and time to avoid damaging citizen perceptions of the competence, openness, transparency, and fairness of government,” it said.

3 areas to boost trust

According to the OECD, governments should level up their efforts in three areas to foster trust and transparency and reinforce democracy.

“Tackling misinformation is key,” it said, adding, as on average only 51% of people in OECD countries for which data is available trusted their government in 2020.

Another important factor is enhancing representation and participation in a fair and transparent manner. “Governments must seek to promote inclusion and diversity, support the representation of young people, women and other under-represented groups in public life and policy consultation,” it said.

The global institution also suggested that strengthening governance must be put in the spotlight to handle global challenges while benefitting from the potential of new technologies.

“In 2018, only half of OECD countries had a specific government institution tasked with identifying novel, unforeseen or complex crises,” it noted.

The OECD also warned states about their spending, saying they must also learn to spend better.

“Governments will need to review public spending to increase efficiency, ensure that spending priorities match people’s needs, and improve the quality of public services,” said the report.

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