Friday, September 24, 2010

Improving governance performance:the case of Lalloo Prasad

Often it is argued that in Parliamentary democracy,ministers come from their districts through popular votes.They are often not well versed with the ministerial tasks they are entrusted with.Consequently a case is made either for the Presidential system in which ministers are not elected but are selected by the president usually on the basis of expertise cum political association.
Or military dictators emerge offering expert ministers as a better alternative.Can ministers deliver in the parliamentary system while lacking in expertise?The case of Lalloo prasad,the former flamboyant Chief Minister of Bihar province in India, proves that ministers can deliver.Lalloo turned around Indian Railways recently,turning a loss giving entity into a profitable organisation and that without increasing the fares.In India ministers have been delivering well over the years despite the so-called cacophony and rambling of democracy.It has been marching ahead on fast track over the last decade with a growth rate of 10% plus as opposed to our boom-bust economy artificially primed by military dictators which often runs into snags thereafter.

There is a strong case for our ministers to improve performance.After all they are a motley crowd of a century plus permitting build up of expertise and specialization.Having large cabinets is often a need of fledgling democracies garnering and building a strong base of support for the government.Only a minister is added.Often the administrative departments are already there
irrespective of a separate minister.If ministers behave frugally,and the whole system is reorganized on frugality and cost consciousness,it can be affordable.So the problem is not with having a large cabinet,it is with the general culture of profligacy.The most frugal government expenditure system is of the U.S.High ranking US officials are found travelling in "tubes" in Geneva .Their Pakistani counterparts often are provided with rented Mercedes.

Similarly much criticized foreign trips and travel could be made more cost effective ,if no extra payments are made other than a frugal daily allowance, and embassies are forbidden to afford extra cost.All legitimate costs can be affordable and justified,if there is efficiency and output.Without output and performance,even a zero cost would be a liability.So buck up Pakistani parliamentary ministers.Introduce frugality,innovation and efficiency.As Iqbal said rightly and slightly too optimistically: sabaq parh phir adalat ka shujaat ka,Liya jaega tujh se kam dunya ki imamat ka.

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