Friday, 16 August 2013

Fix Governance Before It is Too Late



At a time when the country is fighting for survival, our leaders are begging for aid.

The crying need of the hour is governance reform. The country is gasping for breath because of poor governance. Some symptoms:


  • There is a huge law and order problem. Not only is terrorism on the rise, kidnapping and violence has increased.
  • Qabza groups prey on property rights in collusion with the regulators and lawmakers
  • Resources continue to be misallocated in development projects because of corruption and mismanagement.
  • Public service delivery is wasteful and inefficient.
  • Energy is in short supply because of problems in power sector governance
  • Water is running out because the water sector continues to be poorly managed
  • Government policies are capricious and poorly thought out, lacking coherence and continuity.

At the heart of all these issues (and I am sure readers and can add more) lies public sector management. All Pakistanis will denounce public sector management and wish for it to change. For years we have blamed the politicians for these problems. But even with Martial law there has never been any improvement in governance. At the heart of the governance issue is the issue of incentives of the managers of the Civil Service.

Currently our civil service system has 4 major flaws

  • It is a closed non-meritocratic system ie., recruitment is only open to young people at junior grades and promotions are guaranteed and according to age and not performance
  • The National payscales attempt to put the entire government on one uniform scale with the federal government and the District Management Group on top vitiating an form of decentralization and autonomy of institutions.
  • Civil servant salaries especially at upper levels are largely in terms of non-transparent perks which are easy to abuse. This form of payment corrodes ethical standards and nurtures corruption.
  • The current pay system is also complicated by all manner of allowances. It is not inflation adjusted on a regular basis. Instead a series of allowances are used to adjust for inflation. 
  • Every few years a Pay Commission is put in place to deal with the allowances. The Pay Commission does the usual of consolidating a few allowances and giving a few increases leaving the system intact.

The system is antiquated and needs a complete overhaul if we are to meet the challenges we face today.

I wish we could have a serious national conversation on this.