GOOD OR NO GOVERNANCE?

SHAMSUL GHANI
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Mar 28 - Apr 3, 20
11

Having cognizance of the human frailties and being unable to invoke good-governance, we now seem to have decided to leave the country to God-Governance. After all, a God-Created country must be governed by God Himself! On a similar occasion, last year, the scribe had written: "Both the parties, on either side of the fence, will have to take blame for the historic disillusionment our masses have suffered from. Till now, there is little the common people can be proud of. The immense economic potential of this country and the unfailing trust in God keep their hopes alive. Experience has taught them that democracy and dictatorship are merely subjective issues that are blown out of proportion by the vested interests. It is only the delivery of social and economic justice to the downtrodden masses of this country that is going to determine the supremacy of one governance system over the other. Their fast diluting purchasing power in the face of a stubborn inflation and the growing sense of insecurity, particularly during the last two years, has made them believe that democracy is nothing more than a catch-phrase. So democrats! do something fast and special for the emancipation of the masses. Give them at least one good reason to believe that you are a better ruler than the dictators. Do it in earnest before you are again out of the picture; this time perhaps, for a longer period of time!"

Our achievements after the passage of one more year of despair are: worse purchasing power of a common man; continuous destruction of educational institutions in terrorist-governed areas; increased government inattention to health sector issues; unabated corruption and government spending wiping off any left-over fiscal space; increased target-killing and growing sense of insecurity across the board; over-occupation of governance capacity by such issues as Raymond Davis, minority imbroglios, non-acceptance of judicial rulings; and finally, the much-awaited ruler-opposition open confrontation. The 'bad governance' has simply transformed into 'no governance at all'.

Unfortunately, the country instead of developing into a welfare state has turned out to be a haven for the pre-partition exploitative forces. Unlike India, we failed at the outset to dispense with the feudal system. With the passage of time, the feudals became the nucleus of power and sucked into their orbit, the bureaucrats, the top businessmen, the politicians and to some extent, the army Generals. The media and the members of the elite society are the latest addition to the cartel of exploitative forces. The masses were left alone to face the consequences of the inept ways of governance of the members of the cartel who have an unwritten agreement to rule the country one after one. These members have their own groups within the cartel that keep on clashing with each other to safeguard their parent group interests. The infighting of groups essentially entails huge loss to the economy as investment and business activities are put on hold. During 2007-08, these groups joined hands to work up a rebellion against the then ruling group. The result was a huge economic cost that was, as usual, passed on to the country and the masses. The economy had performed well during the nine-year tenure of the deposed government, but the uncalled-for clash of the vested interests pushed the country twenty years back.

The recent showdown between the two major democratic groups who played allies for a period of time is pushing the country to the brink of disaster. Those leading the fight never think of the precarious situation the country is already in. The episode has given rise to some serious questions that are boggling the minds of the silent majority who is sincere with the country ( although it has no say in its affairs). The questions are:

* Has the country reached the tolerance limit which normally is 2-3 years for a democratic rule?

* What next? Another army takeover? Is the country atmosphere conducive to an army rule keeping in view the ongoing phase of public discontent in Arab Muslim world and army's not-so-unambiguous stance on various terrorist groups operating in the country?

* Alternatively, are mid-term elections, that will give the rule to a similar set of leaders forming part of the present opposition, the solution this country needs?

Mid-term elections or no elections, the time is for the democrats to realize that unless they upgrade their delivery system, they are not going to survive for a longer period of time. Their inability to do so will only strengthen public view of their incompetence and pave the way for another army takeover. Unfortunately all sorts of pleading and counseling through public forums, particularly the TV reality shows, has so far gone in vain as our hardened democrats pay little heed to such benign suggestions. They are not going to improve their governance unless they are made to do so. In order for us to achieve this objective, we will have to revamp our Constitution by replacing ambiguous generalizations with specific statements of goals and objectives for every elected government. On economy side, the improvement of macro indicators, the soundness and compatibility of monetary and fiscal policies could be aimed at. It should be made incumbent upon the succeeding governments to improve upon the macroeconomic indicators during their period of governance. Quantification of certain economic targets, particularly on health, employment and education side, should also be undertaken, at least in broader terms. For example, the inflation and policy rates are to be kept in line with the average inflation and policy rates in the region. The government borrowing must not exceed a certain percentage of GDP. At least 5 and 3 percents of GDP are to be spent on education and health respectively. The number of ministries is to be kept within a prescribed range, say 15 to 20. Mobilization and exploitation of domestic resources leading to agriculture and energy sector growth may be ensured through setting of realistic and achievable targets.

Mid-term elections or no elections, the democrats will do well to ponder over these immaculate lines from Amartya Sen's book The Idea Of Justice: "The rulers of a country are often insulated, in their lives, from the misery of common people. They can live through a national calamity, such as famine or some other disaster, without sharing the fate of its victims. If, however, they have to face public criticism in the media and confront elections with an uncensored press, the rulers have to pay a price too, and this gives them a strong incentive to take timely action to avert such crises."