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Title: Parliamentary control and government accountability in South Asia : a comparative analysis of the role of parliamentary committees in Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka
Other Titles: Nan Ya guo jia de yi hui jian cha jiao se yu zheng fu wen ze : yi ge dui Mengjiala, Yindu he Sililanka de yi hui jue se de bi jiao fen xi
南亞國家的議會監察角色與政府問責 : 一個對孟加拉, 印度和斯里蘭卡的議會角色的比較分析
Authors: Rahman, Taiabur
Department: Dept. of Public and Social Administration
Degree: Doctor of Philosophy
Issue Date: 2005
Publisher: City University of Hong Kong
Subjects: Legislative bodies -- South Asia
Notes: CityU Call Number: JQ98.A71 R33 2005
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 316-347)
Thesis (Ph.D.)--City University of Hong Kong, 2005
xii, 347 leaves : ill. ; 30 cm.
Type: Thesis
Abstract: Parliaments or legislatures are the keystone of democratic governance and they are critical in securing government accountability. While parliaments were generally stronger in the 1990s than ever before, not all parliaments have been studied in depth. Parliaments in Asia, and particularly in South Asia, have been especially neglected. This study examines parliaments in South Asia by engaging in comparative institutional analysis of the three largest and most important functioning democracies in South Asia: Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka. Within the broader functional jurisdictions of parliaments in these three countries, it focuses on the role of parliamentary committees in securing government accountability. The study is based on extensive fieldwork undertaken by the author in the parliaments of Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka during the period from November 2003 to October 2004. The dissertation consists of eight chapters. The introductory chapter discusses research problems, research questions, rationale and significance of the study. Chapter two explores the core concepts, explains the major theories and discusses the research methods used in the study. Chapter three reviews the major literature on legislatures, in an attempt to figure out the factors determining the strengths of legislatures with regard to holding the government to account. Chapter four makes a review of global literatures on the institutional arrangements of committees to determine their strengths in securing government accountability. Chapters five, six and seven thoroughly investigate the role of parliament and parliamentary committees in Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka respectively in holding the government to account in the light of the theoretical framework backed by primary and secondary data. The final chapter makes a comparative review of the role of committees in the three countries and reports the findings of the study based on the observations and results drawn from the previous chapters. This dissertation presents two major set of findings. One is concerned with the extent to which parliamentary committees in Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka have been able to hold the government to account. The other relates to the methodological approaches of studying parliaments. In general, the dissertation finds that parliamentary committees in Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka do not perform at par with their counterparts in the Western world in controlling the government and holding it to account. They lag far behind other parliamentary democracies in Western Europe and Commonwealth countries in term of institutional arrangements and practical implications in securing government accountability. However, committees’ role in securing government accountability in these three countries cannot be overlooked. They are weak but not irrelevant. Committees’ mere existence in these countries does matter. Committees are there to oversee the executive and they have been successful to some extent to make some impacts on holding the government to account. India has got the most institutionalized and assertive committee system in South Asia. It is clearly ahead of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka with respect to institutional arrangements and real-world implications in holding the government accountable. In terms of ensuring government accountability, the role of committees is largely confined to the initiation and the recommendation stages of committee involvement with limited implications at the implementation level. When comparing Bangladesh with Sri Lanka in terms of committee strengths to hold the government accountable, it is hard to judge which one is better in what respects. Committees’ role in securing executive accountability in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka is largely confined to the initiation and the recommendation stages of their operations with unknown implications at the implementation level. The poor performance of the committee system in holding the government accountable in Sri Lanka emanates from the prevailing political system. In Bangladesh, it is the confrontational political culture which is causing problems for parliament and parliamentary committees to get institutionalized and perform to their potential. This dissertation also has implications for the study of parliaments worldwide. In contrast to the predominantly institutional approach of studying parliaments advocated by many Western scholars, the dissertation argues that the point of departure for categorizing parliaments should be from society, economy, and political regime to intra-institutional political system. In order to investigate the ways in which scholars have sought to capture or measure parliamentary strengths in holding the government accountable, the study presents a series of basic typologies of legislatures. However, as these typologies are rather crude (to appreciate the variations and divergences within a specific category of parliament), it then focuses on additional factors (socio-economic, political and intra institutional) that are relevant in determining parliamentary strengths to make the government accountable. Thus the study offers a blend of macro-societal and microinstitutional factors that determine parliaments’ strengths in holding the government accountable. The dissertation has two additional observations that add value to the study of parliaments, committees and government accountability. The first is that the more governing power is diffused and shared between and among contending veto players regardless of the system of government, the more the system bears the potential of having a strong parliament to hold the government to account. The second is that a strong parliament is a prerequisite for a strong committee system and vice versa, and a strong committee system is a prerequisite for calling the government to account irrespective of whether the political system is parliamentary or presidential.
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