Bureaucracy needs a course correction – Journal

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FOR many years, we have blamed Prime Ministers, Chief Ministers and their respective cabinet members for poor governance and the lack of coherent and predictable policies in various areas of the federal and provincial governments.

In my opinion, the bureaucracy is responsible for bad governance for various reasons. Over the past 40 years or so the capacity of the bureaucracy has gradually eroded and these days the bureaucracy just seems to look aside and not get involved in any key area of ​​governance.

The reasons for capacity erosion are well known. One of the main reasons is that Pakistani students who go to study abroad no longer return to the country to join the civil service. Until the early 1970s, a significant number of these foreign university graduates and graduates returned, took the civil service examinations and joined the ministries.

The other reason is the widening gap between the cash salaries of civil servants and what the corporate world and other avenues have to offer. Also, civil servants fear repercussions in the form of transfers, postings, legal proceedings and even arrests if they dare to make the right decisions in the course of their work.

As a result, the various ministries and regulatory bodies do not have the personnel capable of making vital decisions and, more importantly, of daring to challenge the decisions of capricious politicians who are not in the best interest of the country. It was a common feature in the past when bureaucrats signaled to ministers or even the provincial or federal chief executive that the intended decision was not correct, and they effectively ensured that those decisions would not be implemented. artwork.

I have heard many stories about the strong character of officials, judges and ministers in the past, and I would like to share such a story to illustrate my point here.

When President Ayub Khan’s brief recommending himself for promotion to Field Marshal was sent to Finance Minister Muhammad Shoaib in 1965, he reportedly returned it with a comment that the young country like Pakistan could not afford a marshal. The next day, he received a call from the presidency informing him that the president wanted to see him.

He asked when he was to come. He was told that in fact the president would come to his office. Despite polite protests from the Minister of Finance, Ayub Khan went to the latter’s office with the file in hand and told Mr Shoaib that after the promotion to the rank of Field Marshal he would continue to work with him. his current salary as a general.

The Minister of Finance then asked the President to write this on the file under the words of the Minister of Finance the day before. When Ayub Khan wrote what was requested, the Minister of Finance caused another shock and quickly wrote: “Since there is no financial involvement, the proposed promotion does not concern the Ministry of Finance and can be managed by the Ministries of Defense and Establishment”.

Note the strong character of the Minister of Finance taking up a matter in writing with a uniformed military ruler, and also note the dignity of “dictator” Ayub Khan, who accepted all of this in his stride. Many bureaucrats of the time also had similar nerves of steel and could stand up to concerned ministers.

Do we have such personalities today? So back to the main point here, blaming the prime minister or chief ministers for bad governance is not too fair because the real malaise is at the bureaucratic level. We must restore order in the bureaucratic house.

Moin Mohajir
Karachi

Posted in Dawn, March 22, 2022

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