Existence of good moral intentions behind every human act is important; especially in the public sphere the value of morally good intent is high because,from the streets to bureaucrats to policy makers,their decisions and actions leave imprints on the life of people.Obviously, it is neither required nor desirable to go looking for their inner motives behind every action; but it is something which should be kept in mind while evaluating public policies. A sound moral foundation of every decision, policy and intervention in the public sphere is important because its absence germinates to the abuse of power, wastage of public resources and social injustice. Immanuel Kant, a renowned philosopher, says that it is important to act rightly only for the reason that it is right to do so and there should be no ulterior motive. According to Kant’s moral philosophy, unlike utilitarian philosophy, morality is not about maximizing happiness or any other end. Rather it is about respecting each individual human being as a rational being worthy of respect. Even an apparently good act is not morally good if the motive is something other than doing good for the sake of good. He elaborates that ‘it is not enough that it should conform to the moral law — it must also be done for the sake of moral law’. Doing good purely for the sake of good, regardless of any other motive, is what qualifies claims of holding high moral ground. If a public official is rendering some public service under public gaze, it is more likely that he will conform to acceptable standards. But if he maintains the same standard of public service even when no one is watching and his actions are guided by an innate desire to help the people, there exists a moral imperative. Presence of a moral imperative in the policy making process is important.If a good deed is not going to help a politician bag more votes, and in the absence of a moral imperative,there will be little incentive for him to do this. Same goes for others. In a situation where international development agencies do not extend help to those poor nations with whom foreign policy objectives of their sponsoring countries are not aligned, regardless of the incidence of poverty and under-development, their claims may falter on a yardstick of morality. If we follow the moral yardstick of Kant, then any public policy, public action or development intervention, which lack an intrinsic motive of doing good to citizens will not qualify as a morally right act. Kant calls all such good work which is actually conditional upon some other motive rather than respect of people as human beings as a ‘hypothetical imperative’. If a street level bureaucrat is providing good service to people only because of the fear of admonishment from his superior, he did good to avoid punishment. This means for him the value of good work was instrumental — it saved him from punishment. But if he is doing good simply because he considers that people are respectable human beings who deserve good treatment than this unconditional good act would be morally worthwhile. Kant names such unconditional good act as a ‘categorical imperative’. A sound moral foundation of every decision in the public sphere is important because its absence germinates to the abuse of power, wastage of public resources and social injustice The absence of categorical imperative in development policy and subsequent selection of development projects has negative implications for society. Visibility takes precedence over sustainability and the long term welfare of people. Often, the outcome of such intent, despite claims of moral high grounds, is the disastrous wastage of public money. It is often said that in public affairs it is more important to be seen doing good, rather than actually doing good. Where the motive becomes to create an impression of doing good for political or professional gains rather than an unconditional propensity to do good, one cannot claim a high moral standing behind any such act. Also read Kant’s unsocial sociability and the US If governance and development policy are driven by a motive of unconditional good or using Kant’s vocabulary — a categorical imperative — the quality of public services and goal of real socio-economic development can be better achieved. This will result in better utilization of scarce resources which are often sacrificed at the altar of ‘visibility’ and personal image building. I will conclude with the words of caution that passing judgment on motives will always remain a controversial subject, however both for development policy practitioners and for citizens; an awareness of looking at public policies from the Kantian perspective would be helpful in enhancing efficacy and accountability. The writer is a development policy analyst Published in Daily Times, August 12th 2018.