Saturday, 11 January 2014

Should we only blame the Politicians?

Who do we blame?

We spend all together too much time blaming politicians and our incumbent leaders for their failure to deliver. Is that fair?

I have seen even when politicians want to make reform, the system stymies them. Technocrats have been invited by all governments to make reform but all of them have been chewed out by the system and made totally ineffective.

Mahbub ul Haq came here with many ideas but the civil servant group led by GIK obstructed him in every way and finally sent him out of the country. They ganged up on him to preserve the status quo!

Many have come and gone like Dr. Haq to see if they can help develop the country. They come with new ideas. They work hard to give this country something. Even some politicians try to develop new ideas and wait around for some good results. Unfortunately all their ideas too are implemented in such slipshod fashion, that be it an education program, or a youth scheme, or a social protection program, the result is the same, no real progress or a programs that we can be proud of.

At the beginning you see plush offices, big cars and a smartly dressed DMG official running the show, giving slick presentations even arranging big conferences with lots of foreign delegates. But this is while the donor funding lasts. After the funding dries up, the DMG official moves on, the office becomes decrepit and all the good people leave. And all we have is another derelict outfit waiting to be killed.

Meanwhile, government remains beset with old familiar issues: buying commodities, managing crises that arise out of long unaddressed problems, chasing donors for funding to preserve the status-quo! Any thing to keep reform at bay.

Even when a reform like monetization of cars is approved by our leaders, it is left for the beneficiaries to develop and implement for themselves. It is implemented badly and then used as an example of why this country is not ready for reform. The people who implemented the reform move away like ghosts and no opprobrium visits them. Instead they become the loudest voice in the room where change is being discussed arguing against change.

Occasionally leaders will call a meeting for change. There will be one hapless technocrat and many secretaries. One after the other they will all speak about how we must be careful to change a system where they have all power as well as many perks and opportunities to get perks and plots. Typical refrains are “sir, we must be careful and go slow”. Why because we implemented previous reforms badly. The implication is that all change is bad. Not that the implementers have a problem with change since they are so heavily invested in status quo of perks/plots/protocol.

They are also quick to point out how “local conditions”, which of course they know best will not allow the best ideas to work here. I am always amused to see these people sitting their in their western finery with their kids in American universities, arguing that Pakistanis are not ready to change. In a society that is now deeply globalized through migration, these people are still arguing for how people want to remain local.

The rules of business make all our leaders beholden to secretaries. But this control by people who will do all that is in their power to maintain the status quo from which they benefit is holding the country back.

Politicians have to face the electorate and can be sent home and lose their perks and privileges. Bureaucrats have royal perks and privileges and are permanent serving all governments with their usual refrains for the status quo! Without their perks and privileges they will be human and want change that benefits as they will be a part of the general good.

We would all do well by ensuring that our bureaucrats are in the same boat as us. Right now they live in a different world living in gated enclaves, have private clubs, utilities are constant and well paid for. Every thing is too convenient and exclusive. Whether the rest are experiencing difficulties does not concern these people.


Humanize the people with the power and break the status quo. At least place the blame where it is due! At least the politicians try! There is a group that merely wants to preserve privilege.