The OECD is working with its member governments and (non-members too) across a range of interconnected issues to restore or reinforce trust, because democracies depend on trust and confidence to function. Trust and confidence legitimize decisive and effective action by governments, and encourage citizens and businesses to accept it. Without trust, policy making becomes risk-averse. Furthermore, a fall in political trust can reduce social cohesion. Low levels of trust are particularly problematic when reforms involve difficult and unpopular choices, and when the confidence of markets is critical to restart growth.
Fluctuations in trust, often related to economic cycles, are common, but the current situation suggests a loss of trust in government that is deeper, more prolonged and more systemic than previously, going well beyond mistrust of a particular leader or institution. Good economic management is part of the answer. Trust will increase when incomes rise and jobs are easier to find.
It is not simply the policies themselves or the outcomes of policy that determine levels of trust. The way policies are designed and implemented, and policy makers’ compliance with broader principles and standards of behaviour count too.
A crucial determinant is that government can be expected to take the right decisions without the need for scrutiny. Two of the top reasons cited for a lack of trust in government include corruption or fraud, and wrong incentives driving policies. Governments must act on these issues, building measures to ensure reliability, fairness, responsiveness, inclusiveness and integrity into policy making and service delivery.
Supporting efforts to restore trust is one of the OECD’s missions, and is integral to our efforts to help governments design “better policies for better lives”, and we have a number of unique tools and projects to help make governments (and business) more trustworthy.