Reforming the Bureaucracy | Editorial

Bureaucrats in Punjab better grit their teeth for due diligence. Dissatisfied with the performance of local governments, the Prime Minister Office has issued seven show-cause notices and 263 warning letters to derelict officials over lacklustre response to public complaints. The PMO should be appreciated for showing no special treatment to deputy commissioners and assistant commissioners whilst directing them to be more vigilant.

Ever since PM Khan had waged a call for better governance in December, his administration is busy coming up with changes that would make the bureaucratic structure more responsive to public needs. The premier had valiantly noted, “We will not transfer a corrupt bureaucrat, but will sack him.” In his crusade against under-performing and corrupt officials, PM Khan has repeatedly pointed to public complaints as an instrument to bring change as well as hold concerned officials accountable.

A dysfunctional and inefficient bureaucracy can only imperil any country’s economic and social goals (as opposed to its Weberian correlation with growth). This is exactly what is at play in Pakistan. A visit to any district or divisional office will lay bare the masses’ distrust in the state’s willingness to solve their problems. Sadly, the British model of governance that we adopted over seven decades ago remains more or less unchanged. Little has been done to date to make the public servants more responsive to public needs. Considering the steel frame of the bureaucratic elite that is resistant to any change whatsoever, the government is at least trying to come up with a new form of local government. Ergo, something worthy of celebration!

Still, whether layers-upon-layers of bureaucracy–clothed in new procedures and jargons–would actually bring positive changes in the lives of citizens is not known yet.

Further, if the government actually aspires to deliver its electoral promise of change, why hasn’t it taken to task the inefficient officers sitting at the helm of various fast-decaying institutes? Once considered the pride of the nation, our flag carrier is now widely notorious for making dreams come true for headline writers. Only fast-track reforms based on training and infrastructural support can enthuse a new life in the airline gasping for oxygen on its death-bed. It goes without saying that these changes can be brought forward by restructuring the institution sans any politicking.

Given the millions who travel on railways, looking after railways is an enormous undertaking. Unfortunately, with over 100 accidents in 2019 alone, nobody seems serious about the incompetence synonymous with the enterprise. Employees that are neglecting their duties are the real culprits of its downfall.

Same is the case with institutional rot plaguing the loss-making Pakistan Steel Mills. Decades of neglect have made our police force incapable of protecting us against crime; something that can only be improved under the guidance of a capable hand. Why are all these institutions still waiting for a swish of the miracle wand?

The ruling party’s good intention behind reforming bureaucracy cannot be doubted but isn’t the road to hell paved with those, anyway! Where are the 200 top professionals that were supposed to lead institutions in Naya Pakistan? Never mind enjoying the expertise of expats fascinated by an opportunity to rebuild their country, the state has not even found their appropriate substitutes at home. There is an increasing reliance on Pakistan’s military in various administrative and executive institutions. Let’s talk about an effective top-to-bottom overhaul instead of cosmetic reforms! *

Source: https://dailytimes.com.pk/724265/reforming-the-bureaucracy/

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