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Economics and dithering decision-making

When the head is in confusion the heart and the body will bleed. {Pakistan is bleeding at the moment actually and figuratively}. In peacetime to be losing our uniform country men should be worrying for us. The policymakers instead are doing everything that they should not be doing. Safety of the self is important but the safety is dependent on an independent analysis of what is going on and not on trying to show loyalty to a family. The excerpts of these politicians should be kept for future reference.

The institutional framework of democracy has broken down and what we see is a lot of dithering policymakers unable to take any final position on any issue. Is it so difficult to take on those that oppose the writ of the government? Is it so difficult to remove the underlying cause of the reasons for the conflict that is taking place? If life for them is difficult in the fast lane what stops them from resigning and handing it over to the other party. By bringing in the entire Punjab bureaucracy PML-N may have made a mistake. The management of provincial affairs is very limited. The range is manageable for minds but when it comes to handling situations in the federal system the variables and the force of these variables is very different. One is thrown into a sea that is turbulent and the forces that work on you require a very mature mind. It is possible to stay with the system and to follow the dictates of the politicians. But then they are not as virtuous as they would have us believe.

The last CJ was instrumental in making some decisions that were very far-reaching. His judgement on the bureaucracy was absolutely excellent for he made it known that those who agreed to everything that was directed by the politicians had to make sure that the orders were legal and not contradictory to the rules and regulations of the federation. There are some rules of thumb that had to be followed but since these were not stated specifically these rules were inherently with the bureaucrat. Since the coming of common civil service system the services have under gone a change for the worst. Common services meant that there were about two to three hundred persons in a group and I remember going to the common academy to deliver lectures. It was almost impossible to handle such a large group. Try anything beyond twenty and you are in trouble.

What the reforms have delivered are bureaucrats at the top who have no basis for decision-making and who look at the masters for advice and direction. The impact of 1973 is upon us. No wonder that the Finance Minister lost his cool and complained of what has gone wrong with the system. Well he may not be to blame but it is people of his ilk that are responsible for what is happening. Politicians are the ones that carried out these reforms. The important aspect that has to be kept in mind is the exponential experience of the person holding the reigns of the government. Most of them are in a different mode. Line of least resistance is the way out of the present predicament for them. Let me disaggregate the system by regulatory and development line ministries. The third formats in the system are those ministries that are what I call, Umbrella ministries. The personnel cannot be inter-changed between these. The development ministries are again subdivided in to conceptual and implementation ministries. The Establishment Division is not making any decisions themselves. They are entirely dependent on the political system that bullies them. So when the last CJ took notice he did so rightly. If one were to look at the ministries then the irresistible conclusion is much worse than what is assumed by the general public.

Indian politicians have in their next agenda declared that there will be no income tax. They feel that the income tax and the federal bureau are full of corrupt personnel and that the cost and the ability to deliver do not match. Does our FBR match this culture? It may even be worse. We have not taken notice of corruption in the manner that they [Indians] have done so. So far we have not had much of success in limiting corruption. One of the basic reasons is that the person considering the corruption at hand must be well aware of the intricacies of the work otherwise the client will work knots around the investigator.

In economics one has to be aware of the local conditions for no outside country can develop us unless we assume that effort ourselves. Davos is case in point. The last time we sent a delegation there we spent a colossal amount and we ended up telling the world how to create growth; fundamentals that were already known to them. We created an awful impression on the world. We know that some of the best minds will go there and we also know that not many amongst us have the scholarship to handle these and such other mind and knowledge situations. It was God send that the visit of our dignitaries was called off.

Who shall head our decision-making? In the early sixties Herbert Simon a non-economist received the Nobel Prize for economics because of his work in decision making. His work needs to be revisited because it was neutral to the culture of a country. Shall we understand the span of control that he speaks of and how that span can be improved. The politicians have to move beyond themselves if they are to govern well and if they are to stave off other competing players who would love to hold power. Power seems to be a source of adding to the assets of the politicians. My initial search into the assets of the politicians reveals much. When false assets are proclaimed then the real assets take a knock. False in little things false in big things. The rule and the test of time are very simple. Try reading Salmond on Jurisprudence and then talk of governance.

Maybe the worst is over but if it is going the way it is then the worst will be apocalyptic. Must we always take the worst and not the best of the policy? Who determines what is worst and what is best. Those that are virtuous. Who amongst us is virtuous? The one who accepts his mistakes and not the one who is in a state of denial. Every act can be justified by any human even a criminal accused of the most dastardly crime. So watch it you may ask to explain your performance before a not-very-sympathetic person. What then-will you look for holes in your socks? Equity and equitable actions are required at the moment; not self-serving actions and policies. Next time the scorecard of losses due to these policies.

Dr Zafar Altaf, "Economics and dithering decision-making," Business recorder. 2014-01-25.
Keywords: Economics , Economic issues , Economic policy , Economic system , Economic growth , Economic planning , Economic crisis , Decision making , Political issues , Political system , Judiciary , Politicians , Pakistan , FBR