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Rethinking National Competitiveness: A Critical Assessment of Governmental Capacity Measures


Scholars, policymakers, and media have increasingly focused on national competitiveness in the context of globalization and economic growth. This heightened attention underscores the importance of the many indices ranking government performance and effectiveness across countries. The four indices, government efficiency, public institutions, government effectiveness, and quality of government, have dominated this field. However, we found serious limitations they reveal, in terms of analytical soundness and policy relevance and usefulness. This paper systematically provides such a critique and lays the groundwork for thinking about government capacity in a new way: in terms of government competitiveness. So doing, this paper contributes to the literature about national competitiveness, governance quality, administrative reform, and development studies.

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  • 30 March 2017

    An erratum to this article has been published.


  1. 1.

    This proposed definition is however a rough draft, as the first step toward a complete and final definition of GC. After examining limitations of existing indices measuring government capacity and performance, it will be more improved in the future research.

  2. 2.

    For more information on single source bias, see Campbell and Fiske (1959) and Podsakoff and Organ (1986).

  3. 3.

    Iqbal and Shah (2008) estimate the cost of purchasing access to the WGI’s commercially provided sources is about $90,000.

  4. 4.

    For the specific debate about the World Bank WGI, see Kaufmann et al. (2007).

  5. 5.

    In his study (2013), Fukuyama uses output and outcome interchangeably.

  6. 6.

    For the IMD and WEF measurability issues, see Van de Walle (2006), Lall (2001), and Ochel and Rohn (2006); for the World Bank’s WGI, see Arndt and Oman (2006), Langbein and Knack (2010), Thomas (2010), and Weiss (2000); and for the QGI’s QoG, see Agnafors (2013) and Fukuyama (2013).

  7. 7.

    Including only output sides would be more serious problems when we consider how hard to separate the role of government from other factors, such as the role of markets, civil societies, etc.

  8. 8.

    Unlike other indices, the QoG does not provide the rankings of each category, in fact. With the average values of the 106 QoG variables (4 missing data), we calculate the rankings.

  9. 9.

    The QGI dataset is most disaggregated in order to make researchers easily select the sub-variables which fit into their studies.


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Author information

Correspondence to Youngmi Choi.

Additional information

An earlier version of this study was presented at the 76th Annual Conference of the American Society for Public Administration, Chicago, IL, USA, March 6–10, 2015 and at the 2015 Korean Association for Public Administration International Conference, Sangmyung University, South Korea, July 16–18, 2015.

An erratum to this article is available at

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Im, T., Choi, Y. Rethinking National Competitiveness: A Critical Assessment of Governmental Capacity Measures. Soc Indic Res 135, 515–532 (2018).

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  • Government competitiveness
  • National competitiveness
  • Government efficiency
  • Government effectiveness
  • Quality of government
  • Comparative public administration