Transparency: Explaining Policies and Reporting Progress

Governments can increase confidence by explaining policies and reporting progress; people need a wide range of performance data

People need sufficient information if they are to play their part in politics and to be satisfied that politicians are performing competently and in the interests of the population.  There are several ways of providing transparency:

●  Policies should be clearly explained: to provide a rationale and to set clear objectives.  Election manifestos can perform that function in a democratic political system (, although policies may have to change in response to circumstances and may be affected by coalition negotiations.  Leaders in authoritarian political systems can similarly gain legitimacy by being open with the population.

●  Leaders should regularly report achievement against declared policy objectives and other promises made.

●  Governments should provide access to data on anything that is important to people.  The British government’s Research and statistics website is a good example of meeting that need, and politicians are obliged to answer specific questions under Britain’s Freedom of Information Act 2000.

●  Media reporting is another means of publishing performance data that enable people to know what politicians are doing – both successes and failures.  It can also draw attention to malpractice.  This important role requires the media to have considerable freedom to publish what they discover, without fear of reprisals (

●  Donations received by politicians and their parties can be recorded and published, so that people can see whether there are grounds to suspect the disproportionate influence of money (6.4.5).

●  India’s Right to Information Act, for example, can help to prevent corruption because villagers can see how government grants have been spent.

Transparency may motivate good performance by politicians who seek long-term popularity, but it may be insufficient without also having some method for holding them to account, as discussed below (



This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/6851a.htm.