Setting Course

Spearhead Opinion – 13.12.2018

Campaign rhetoric raises expectations so an elected government is supposed to come armed with its homework all done, ready to fulfil the promises made. Once in the saddle, reality kicks in and the government tries to gain time and space for delivery—and if it imposes an unrealistic timeline or results that comes and goes, then much effort has to be made to scrape up achievements that can be marketed to prevent loss of credibility. Inevitably fingers are pointed at the team that is at work and doubts raised about competence and capacity. Much is forgiven if the intentions are seen to noble and if there is no real wrong doing. This is the stage at which a reality check should be made, the people taken into confidence and a strategic direction indicated with a blueprint for its implementation. If this does not happen then the Opposition is given an opportunity to go for the jugular unless it is hampered by fractures, fissures and an accountability of past misdeeds. If this is the case then the Government has gained some time to get its act together—if this time is frittered away in trading barbs and insults and threats, then the people cannot be blamed for being lost in a sea of uncertainty and confusion with all activity at a standstill. No government should allow itself to get into such a situation.

When a government does not have a majority in parliament and a thin margin keeps it in power then it has to adopt a strategy of negotiations. Negotiations invariably involve a process of give and take. The government with power at its disposal has the means to brow beat, cow down and threaten the media and opposition but then it cannot legislate nor can it create the joint parliamentary structures for legislation that is in the country’s interest. The government then has to rely on the institutions that wield authority and power to stay afloat and influence trends. This is not a good option for the government, and the institutions that it is relying upon see the space that the executive has left open, because governance is faltering. An institution that has independence like the judiciary could step in to deliver in areas where the government is absent. This may give the government a fig leaf behind which to hide as it acts to deliver what the judiciary is now ordering. No government should allow itself to get into such a situation.

Statements that create impact and effect are good. When the majority thinks that a team has arrived to tackle the problem and is then told by that team that the country’s economy is on life support and in need of a by-pass then the world takes note of this dire assessment. Soon after if the government announces that the crisis the country was facing is over and there is no problem then incredulity is writ large on those at the receiving end. If this is followed by promises of riches flowing in from friends and those riches do not come as per expectation, then uncertainty and confusion start prevailing. If no concrete step is taken to obtain relief and intentions are not spelt out, then this creates the moment of weakness that the enemies are waiting for and they act with a multitude of pressures. The government is then on the back foot fighting the pressure being built up and trying to look macho in the eyes of those who have elected it to power. No government should allow itself to get into such a situation.

Government needs to realize that structures like dams cannot be built through crowd funding. Countries do not recover from a serious economic crisis by relying on populist but quixotic ideas like recovering wealth kept abroad. Lashing out at those who tell us our lapses and weaknesses may look good but it does not solve the problems. Structural reforms and changes that rapidly create the environment for voluntary in-flows into the country have to be put in place and the sooner the better. A dose of humility is also in order—instead of blaming others, we as a country, have to accept the blame for ruining our national airline and our steel mill as well as other entities making losses. We have ourselves to blame for corruption, for money laundering, for allowing loans for projects to fester, for encroachments on state land, for energy shortfalls and for permitting real estate scams of enormous proportions. The law can take its course but once we as a country have accepted our lapses and faults then our leader—the knight on a white charger –who is expected to deliver us, can take the nation into confidence and give it hope by showing us the way forward without glossing over the difficulties and the sacrifices that have to be made. This is the situation that every government must get into as soon as possible.

Before embarking on this course of action the leader must see for himself what the people are going through– How tax payers are being hounded and humiliated by out dated procedures exploited by petty officials, even those wanting to become tax payers are driven to insanity just to get a national tax number, how they are being fleeced at every level as they try to get what is every citizens birthright, how they are treated at hospitals and education institutions , how laws are being flouted and work ethics, discipline and pride in ourselves has all but disappeared– and so on. This can only happen when arrogance gives way to humility and when the realization dawns that you do not become leaders by getting elected and nor do you become leaders by arming yourself with authority and power. You become a leader when you realize that the center of gravity is in the people who have elected you and it is those people that you have to serve, empower and help to stand tall and to make their life as uncomplicated as possible.

(Spearhead Analyses are collaborative efforts and not attributable to an individual)