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Trust and Public Policy

How Better Governance Can Help Rebuild Public Trust

image of Trust and Public Policy

Trust plays a very tangible role in the effectiveness of government. Few perceptions are more palpable than that of trust or its absence. Governments ignore this at their peril. Yet, public trust has been eroding just when policy makers need it most, given persistent unemployment, rising inequality and a variety of global pressures. This report examines the influence of trust on policy making and explores some of the steps governments can take to strengthen public trust.

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Regulations, fairness and trust

Citizens’ perception of fairness, in process as much as in outcome, is a critical dimension of trust. People must feel they have a real voice, be treated with respect, and receive necessary explanations. Positive perceptions of fairness lead to greater acceptance of agency decisions, better compliance with regulations, and more co-operative behaviour in dealing with agents of the government. The reverse also holds: citizens are more likely to accept negative outcomes, such as financial penalties, if they feel that they have been treated fairly. In general terms, low trust generates extra transaction costs for citizens, businesses and government. This chapter looks at empirical evidence on the links between good regulatory practice and trust in public policy.

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