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Old Saturday, January 20, 2007
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Default Good governance —means and ends

Good governance —means and ends

By Dr Mahnaz Fatima


DEVELOPMENT is a multipronged approach targeting economic, social, political, cultural, and administrative issues in an integrated manner failing which area-specific issues are difficult to resolve due to their multi-faceted nature even though they may be having a specific focus.

This horizontal approach calls for good governance across the board otherwise complex area-specific issues will become more so as each spills over to add to the complications of issues viewed and treated specifically in a particular domain. Economic issues cannot be dealt with, in isolation of social, cultural, and political realm.

Similarly, political issues deepen in the absence of socio-economic and cultural uplift. Each may aggravate further if administrative capacity remains weak and vulnerable to leakages and breaches of moral conduct with reasons emanating from the economic, political, social, and cultural arenas. Since each area-specific issue feeds into the other one as it is also fed into from other areas, the fabric of the society will give way unless the binding glue of governance is made effective. What then is good governance?

Is governance about the size of the government? Some of the not-too-old lessons taught to us by the IFIs led by the World Bank included lectures on reducing the size of the government. “Less government,” they said, is at the heart of the solution when the regulatory agencies proliferate in the US to the extent that they are called the 4th branch of the government after legislature, executive, and judiciary. And, in addition to market mechanism, all businesses are kept streamlined primarily through effective oversight and rapid reaction of regulatory agencies to business deviation. These businesses may be as big as the Standard Oil, the Alcoa, the GE, the IBM, the Enron, the World com, the Arthur Andersen, or even the Microsoft.

While the government disposition may sway toward or away from the businesses depending upon the party in office, the very presence of regulation deters deviant practices normally, outlying cases notwithstanding that are but a few stigmatized ones. And, the deviant, if found guilty, may even end up in prison, however rich and powerful they may have been in the corporate world.

Such is the power of governance in the country from where we are told, “less government.” So, good governance does not come from big or less government. Rather, it comes from effective government whose size ought to be a function of country-specific requirements rather than the dictates of the World Bank (WB).

We need someone from within the government to stand up and say the above by using own head instead of blindly following the advice of the WB. The current SBP governor has introduced this tradition by refusing to blindly accept the WB’s advice regarding the devaluation of the Pakistani rupee. She told a parliamentary committee that they should either listen to the WB or to the governor of their own State Bank. If this mindset catches on, we will probably be able to figure out for ourselves as to what good governance is and how to get there.

For, good governance first and foremost requires effective leaders at various helms. Effective leader is the one who is righteous, knowledgeable, honest, and can then gather courage to speak his/her mind. He/she should have integrity and credibility and should operate in a manner that is transparent and above board. Such a leader is accountable before the people and in fact prefers to give account as he/she has nothing to hide. On the contrary, such a leader has a lot to talk about to market his/her point of view. Accountability for such leaders is not a threat but an opportunity to give vent to their pent up thoughts and to share their outlook and vision with the world they would not be able to do otherwise. Accountability, therefore, is not dreaded and is a welcome opportunity to get people on board and carry them towards accomplishment of the goals and realisation of the mission.

So, for those who think that good governance is only about the civil service reform (CSR), and the CSR is only about incremental change and restructuring to fit pegs in holes of their size have a narrow view of what organisational reform is all about. Organizational reform is not just about setting the structure right.

Management thought has advanced considerably beyond perfecting the structure or perfecting the bureaucrat or perfecting the rules and procedures that even Max Weber had gone beyond but little known for other than the rule-bound character of the bureaucracy. Management is not just co-ordination through boxes on an organogram with documents tracing the chains that lace the organisation chart. And, the civil service is not supposed to be delivering only through a set of rules and procedures.

Rather, management is about coordination by ideas and collaboration. Ideas, therefore, acquire centre stage. And, if ideas form the core of the bureaucracy, men and women must be expected to transcend the slots they are kept confined in through repeated attempts at making the structure right.

A well-knit organisation must, therefore, share the ideas and the values around which it should revolve. Getting the organisational members to share values and ideas is the single-most important challenge for the civil service reformers. The CSR is, therefore, first about identifying and ferreting out leaders at various levels who display the traits of honesty, hard work, integrity, credibility, and steadfastness and who are, therefore, ready to communicate intensively and extensively throughout and outside the organization. It will be only then that a civil service will provide access to various stakeholders and will enter into a virtuous cycle of continuous improvement.

Through this intense engagement, it will become possible to build sections, departments, and divisions that coalesce around values this country has been longing for. This would be a radical departure from the closed door “bara saheb/sir” outlook we inherited from our colonial past and that we have not been able to shed as it is in the vested interest of the elite civil service to be the new “masters” of the land who wish to govern without serving much.

The challenge in civil service reform is to reform it to “serve” that can happen only if the mindsets are transformed from one of “masters” to “partners” if not “servants” of the people whose welfare should be enhanced through civil service. This is calling for a sea change given the poor quality of public service that people currently get in various spheres. That is, public service must be delivered with a missionary zeal by the rank and file which radical change requires leveraging at various points and not just aiming at the organogram which change will only be a change in the structure and not in the character of the organization. Character transformation is possible only by relying on the principles of strategic organizational turnaround so as to make the civil service organizations strategically driven with a sense of mission.

Good governance will, therefore, not be possible not until a network of institutions is developed that is ready to interface with the stakeholders, provides them access, and regulates for promoting public interest - all in a transparent and accountable way. By regulatory agencies are not meant the ones that remain captured by the interests they are supposed to regulate. While the aims and objectives of Nepra and Ogra remain unclear, those of Pemra require transformation in favour of public interest.

The effectiveness of a system of governance will always be gauged by the extent to which public interest is promoted through equity promotion, poverty reduction, and opportunity creation for people so that they may enjoy economic, social, and political freedoms. No governance can be called good unless it enables upward mobility on the human freedom index. Governance is good only if it helps people secure their basic freedoms to live and to live happily and freely to realise their reason for being.
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Old Saturday, January 20, 2007
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Old Saturday, January 27, 2007
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