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Society and Public Administration | Iftikhar Ahmad

What Pakistan needs is an objective evaluation of current socio-political and economic scenario. Street politics and protests are not likely to solve the complexity of problems that have constitutional, legal and leadership implications. The non-serious attitudes of younger political leaders reflect nothing but their lust for power. Leadership of the opposition needs to be objective, innovative, realistic, less royal and inward looking. They need to understand their own weaknesses and failings before pointing finger at others. Need for public approval is important. Both the government and the opposition has to realise this. Accountability is essential. But there is method even in madness. Panama papers have not revealed anything new. Democratic process needs to be strengthened. It needs continuity and stability, a dynamic balance for socio-economic development, especially in the context of terrorism.

For the sake of peace and prosperity the system has to be defended and protected and the Prime Minister must be allowed to continue in office as long as he is not proven guilty. There are rules of conduct that must be followed. Ethical behaviour is essential in politics as in any other aspect of life.

Civil or criminal proceedings against the Prime Minister cannot be launched till such time that he is in office. The National accountability Bureau is supposed to follow that constitutional provision regarding “immunity” to the incumbent Prime Minister. More facts may come to light in this context when the Supreme Court takes up the performance report of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

The tone of politics and leadership skills matter. The social function of public administration has implications for the society. In a democracy the power of the people and the role of the government in directing the mobilisation of the nation’s resources could be read as a lesson for peace as well as war. Winning a war is a goal for which nations close ranks almost automatically. Safeguarding prosperity in the context of the democratic way of life is an equally worthy end, but one for which it has been hard to evolve a generally acceptable organisational pattern.

In the historic perspective there have to be direct and indirect public controls. As the framework of public concern and superintendence had widened, the industrial society managed to narrow the dangerous chasm between wealth and poverty, improved the economic health and raised the national standard of living.

Government, by expanding its functions in the social and economic realms, simultaneously built a floor under man’s feet below which he could no longer drop. Thus broadening the meaning of democracy. This was the “trend toward the service state”. Administrative and political evolution of governments made it possible. The process of bringing about positive, deliberate planned change could continue with uniform national outlook and the vision of honest, devoted and committed leadership. Selfish motives more often happen to be the road blocks. Rationality of decision-making and limits of freedom are our guidelines. It is liberty under law that we need to fight for.

Proper reliance on devices other than regulatory ones is a traditional aspect of the service state. Fiscal policy is a good illustration. As second world war taught democratic governments how to direct the enterprise economy for national purposes, so they learned in the stress and strain to use fiscal policy in its several dimensions – expenditures, taxes, borrowing, and management of the public debt. Appropriate administrative mechanisms are required for each implementing step or action. Each of indirect controls such as those of fiscal policy depended for their success on adequately staffed statistical and research services, and a variety of regulatory mechanisms which can be brought to bear on policy execution.

There is requirement of gradual refinement and perfection of responsive and responsible government. Beyond the question of public confidence – identical in the main with confidence in democracy and democratic procedure – one must not ignore other elementary needs of the service state:

First, the need for resourceful public management. Second, the need for programme planning and continuity of policy. Third, need for conscious synthesis of fundamental motivations-political, economic and social. Training of civil servants and orientation of politicians must stress on understanding of the working of government that involves the interplay of all three branches of government: legislative, executives and judicial. These branches have to operate as a ‘whole’. Cooperation among the three branches and among all levels is imperative. So is civic participation, as prime mover for common needs.

The most distinctive characteristic of the service state is the prominence of public administration. Administration needs direction. It deals with the dynamics of an organic society made up of human beings. Even in routine transactions, therefore, administrative procedure must be alert to the expression of need and change that run through economic and social life. It must ascertain facts without bias, appraise them astutely, bring policy to bear upon the emerging picture, and shape its decisions in wakeful appreciation of the intent of policy and the result to be produced. A consideration of these and other postulates is all we need in order to understand the necessity for securing the highest caliber of administrative stewardship and political wisdom and guidance.

The more it knows, the better government can judge. The importance of public research and analysis and governments intelligence function is much more important now than ever before. It is harder to fool the people when the facts and figures are in the open, thus making wild statements unconformable for their authors.

Public Administration can fulfil its social function only when civil servants keep their eyes on the common good, instead of becoming busy operators enslaved to the apparatus of authority and their own ambition. It is equally necessary that the custodians of political power accomplish their task under representative government. They must combine devotion to the interest of electorate with sensitivity to the rules that govern the exercise of both political and administrative responsibility. At the end of the day constitutional and legal requirements have to be satisfied. Decisions are made by institutions. There is no room for street politics and crowd behaviour if leadership plays its required role with sense of service to the people.

SOurce:http://nation.com.pk/columns/10-May-2016/society-and-public-administration

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