Democracy/Governance / 19.01.2008

Reader Ali Sohail has pointed us to a paper (Second-Best Institutions) by Dani Rodrik of Harvard University that asks why "best practices" are an unhelpful way to think about institutional reform. The paper is about economic institutions but it complements very nicely the theme we explored in the last post regarding governance and pure democracy in developing countries—that the best can be the enemy of the good and that the best is often dangerously innocent of contextual realities. Here are some relevant excerpts from Dani Rodrik’s paper: The focus of reforms in the developing world has moved from getting prices right to getting institutions right… “Governance reforms” have become the buzzword for bilateral donors and multilateral institutions, in much the same way that liberalization, privatization and stabilization were the mantras of the 1980s.  But what kind of institutions should reformers strive to build?  Developing nations are different from advanced countries in...

Democracy/Governance / 18.01.2008

We go back to the quote on the cover of Dr. Ambedkar’s book mentioned in an earlier post: More brain, O Lord, more brain! Or we shall mar, Utterly this fair garden we might win The point we want to emphasize about governance is that the alternative to unadulterated democracy is not dictatorship. But the consequence of reaching for a first-best solution can be the tragic loss of lives we are seeing in Kenya and Pakistan today. Fareed Zakaria in his 2003 book (The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad) has this to say: One effect of the overemphasis on pure democracy is that little effort is given to creating imaginative constitutions for transitional countries. Constitutionalism… is a complicated system of checks and balances designed to prevent the accumulation of power and the abuse of office. This is accomplished not by simply writing up a list of...

Leadership / 16.01.2008

By Anjum Altaf Professor CM Naim has sent us a unique news report on the creation of Pakistan from the Nation datelined November 15, 1947 (Jinnah’s New Republic by Andrew Roth). Amongst other things the report remarks on the nature of leadership in the new Pakistan: With enormous problems, Pakistan has only a very ordinary set of leaders to cope with them. The brilliant Mr. Jinnah, of course, must be excepted, but he is over seventy and has been in poor health since a severe pneumonia attack two years ago. His voice can barely be heard ten feet away, and he chose to become governor general rather than premier partly because it was an easier post. He has repeatedly told subordinates, "I have done my part of the job; I've given you Pakistan. It is up to you to build it." Premier Liaqat Ali Khan is a competent administrator...

Miscellaneous / 14.01.2008

The New York Times carried an article on Pakistan (Ghosts that Haunt Pakistan) in its January 6, 2008 Week in Review. It contains some interesting perspectives and unasked questions. A few quotes can highlight the issues:  For 60 years since its founding in the partitioning of British India, Pakistan has seesawed between military dictatorships and elected governments, and now new hope for stability is being placed on the chance that democracy there can be revived. But while attention is currently focused on the failings of Pervez Musharraf, the latest in a long line of military rulers, Pakistan’s civilian leaders, too, have much to account for in the faltering history of Pakistani democracy. Over the decades, their own periods in office have been notable mostly for their weakness, their instinct for political score-settling, and their venality.  Note the unstated assumption that democracy can work anywhere.  And the thrust of the...

Democracy/Governance / 12.01.2008

Constitutional morality is not a natural sentiment. It has to be cultivated. We must realize that our people have yet to learn it. Democracy in India is only a top-dressing on an Indian soil, which is essentially undemocratic. This is what Dr. B. R. Ambedkar said after the departure of the British from India in 1947. The point for us, as it was for Dr. Ambedkar, is not to be dogmatically pro- or anti-democracy but to note the facts and deal creatively with the reality. Perhaps this was one of the reasons for the different trajectories of governance in the two countries – India dealt with the reality a lot more creatively than was the case in Pakistan. Think of the approach to the reorganization of states as one example. Of course, there were other important differences and we shall elaborate on them as we go along. We will also...

Miscellaneous / 10.01.2008

This is really worth pondering over.  The January 7, 2008 issue of the New York Times has a front-page article entitled “In Musharraf’s Shadow, a New Hope for Pakistan Rises.” This includes such brilliant gems of analysis as the following: “Over the last several months, a little-known, enigmatic Pakistani general has quietly raised hopes among American officials that he could emerge as a new force for stability in Pakistan, according to current and former government officials.” “As he has risen through the military, General Kayani has impressed American military and intelligence officials as a professional, pro-Western moderate with few political ambitions.” “Kayani throughout his career has shown little in the way of political inclination,” said a senior American military official who has worked extensively with him but did not wish to be identified because of the sensitivities of Pakistani politics. “He is a humble man who has shown a...

Aid / 09.01.2008

By Samia Altaf A chat over tea at a government office in Islamabad reveals why billions in aid have done so little for Pakistan’s poor. Not enough nurses. Not enough jobs. Nurses working as “doctors.” Trained nurses being encouraged to leave the country. Untrained and uncertified “nurses” being recruited in sheer desperation by private hospitals. What a strange and paradoxical situation! Yet there is no discussion of these crucial issues. And new training programs are being developed, because there is pressure from international organizations to include more women, supposedly to meet the human resource ­shortage. My companion sat shaking her head. Mrs. S. was starting to look restless. She signaled to the attendant for tea. In a government office, a tea break can become a project unto ­itself. “The problem with women,” Mrs. S. volunteered conversationally, again adjusting the dupatta delicately on her hair as the tea service was laid out, “is...

Miscellaneous / 07.01.2008

“Already, more than 300 Kenyans are dead, 70,000 have been driven from their homes and thousands have fled to neighboring countries.” This is part of an editorial in the New York Times entitled Ambition and Horror in Kenya (January 3, 2008). First, some hand wringing: “It is particularly tragic to see this happening in a country that seemed finally to be on the path to a democratic and economically sound future.” Then some advice: “Mr. Kibaki should renounce that official declaration and the embarrassingly swift swearing in that followed. He should then meet with his principal challenger, Raila Odinga, to discuss a possible vote recount, election re-run or other reasonable compromise.” Followed by a suggestion for some “outside prodding.” “Urgent mediation by the leader of the African Union, John Kufuor, could help bring the two together before the violence gets worse.”  And finally, a hopeful conclusion: “Mr. Kibaki and...

Leadership / 04.01.2008

By Dipankar Gupta Just because we live in a democracy does not mean that we deserve the leaders we get. It is as unrealistic to believe that voters can choose an ideal candidate as it is for a consumer to get that ideal car, refrigerator, washing machine, or whatever. Till the mid 1980s our roads were clogged by historical throwbacks in the shape of Ambassador or Fiat 1100 cars. The car of our dreams, that ideal four wheeler, was nowhere on the horizon. Yet we bought, sold and drove these unwieldy monsters for only these junkyard machines were available in the market place. And there the matter ended. The same principle holds in the political arena as well. It is true we choose our leaders in a highly festive, often carnival like, atmosphere. In spite of the festoons and speeches, posters and ballots, charisma and chicanery, we are...

Democracy/Governance / 04.01.2008

It is important to record the fact (without prejudging it at this stage) that China has postponed till 2020 the date of direct elections (under universal suffrage) to the legislature in Hong Kong. We will take this into consideration when we develop our thesis on governance in developing societies. It is also of interest to record that the British ruled Hong Kong for 150 years without it occurring to them how wonderful it was to be governed through the exercise of universal suffrage. It was only guaranteed in the Basic Law that was established when Britain handed the territory back to China in 1997. So it was a parting gift that China has refused to accept. And this refusal is quite enough to trigger a lot of thinking and rethinking. Let us think before we rush to judgment. But lest we be misunderstood, let us also reiterate that...