12 September 2014   •   no comments   

Essay on political employment

While travelling over the world and consulting government institutes, I observed quite a lot of people having the idea that most top positions in a government institute are taken by friends of one or another political leader, some of them even without the competence of taking this position. This then can create in the minds of the population revolutionary ideas justified by the idea that all people working for the Government are corrupt.  Although I agree that this might be the case in quite some instances, I cannot, but look deeper in the underlying reasons of this and – what is more important – how to possibly change this and make sure the top government positions are held by competent people. So i did some research on this issue in different countries and came to some I hope interesting conclusions and a possible solution.
I decided to use a metaphor of the Maritime world with an imagined country “The United North Pole States” which is a democracy and has a National Assemble with a Governmental Fleet.Imagine thus a Government Fleet from “The United North Pole Federation” which is ready to move south.  In principal this fleet is owned by the National Assembly of the United North Pole Federation.
Every five years the National Assembly votes for a General Staff (Council of Ministers), which gets this fleet on loan for five years.  An agreement has been reached on the number of ships (Ministries) in the fleet and in which direction they set sail. The fleet exists of different ships (Ministries). The ministers themselves determine their individual goals, supplies and crew within the budgetary rules. Some regulations have been prepared (Personnel Law and related regulations) to man the ships in a uniform way. Within the fleet there is one sampling vessel that has the statutory power to unify the crew and to appoint the right man at the right place.  However, this ship has capacity problems – insufficient troops, knowledge, authority – to carry this out successfully.  Also ….. a large part of the active population does not have sufficiently interesting alternatives to earn money ashore – or at least thinks that there is no future within the private sector – and therefore wants to sail with the fleet in order to be assured of an income.
From a positive consideration, we state that the majority of the public officials and politicians is of good will. So, what should a Minister or Secretary with good intentions do in such a case?
He/She takes a large number of people on board, without necessarily care for the mission of these people. In some countries this is called “accommodate”. Consequently, you get ships with people who have the right positions to exercise their duties, on the one hand, and people who wrongly where accommodated, who do not have a clear position, on the other hand. On this ship are also people that have been accommodated by a previous Minister. This leads for some vessels to block, what might frustrate people who are in the right position and who do have a mission to carry out.  In the long-term this leads to de-motivation, frustration from those that have been wrongly accommodated.


As a result, at some vessels chaos arises, where:
·       either everyone meddles with everything;
·       either everyone is doing his/her own thing;
·       either nobody is doing anything.
Several international and national “steersmen ashore” advise that a number of people should go overboard, that clear responsibilities should be distributed, that people should be trained or sell themselves individual toolkits to the Ministers that will resolve all problems. The risk here is that the different Ministries will follow their own directions even more and that the crew will be treated arbitrary and in a non-uniform manner. 
A “every man for himself mentality” will emerge. The sad part is that the above situation is created with good intentions to offer people work and livelihood. But the consequence is pernicious, both for the “accommodated” and the other officials. Taking into account a worldwide average of roughly four persons per household, one can also argue that the wrong accommodation of one person can have a potential negative effect in the long-term on many voters of the Assembly.
The effect of a wrong accommodation is therefore also for the politician, who supported the accommodation, possibly negative. Nobody has an interest in the survival of such a state, neither the politicians, nor the government officials, nor the population.
The situation as described above does nog occur without a reason. Some underlying causes – interests must exist that lead to this situation. These underlying causes, when recognized and dealt with can launch the improvement.  What are these underlying causes? What causes, once recognized and dealt with, can trigger a real change in the direction of the ideal picture?
The obvious slogan: “It is politics again” is too limited as the underlying cause. To demolish any political influence is no solution within a democratic system.
I believe that there are three, also related, underlying factors.
Insufficient attention of the population and its politicians for social and political advantages to assign a clear objective to each Ministry, what ever this objective may be.
The objective can even be: “to put everybody to work” to avoid social unrest, to create an electoral base; as long as the goal is sufficiently clear. The key amid a democratic system lies in clearly stating by majority accepted, practical, measurable, to achieve objectives. If the politicians would pay more attention to clearer communication and monitoring of objectives for the Government – objectives which are accepted by the population – it could have benefits for both politicians and the population.
Insufficient attention of the population and its politicians to the building of a full employment alternative in the private sector.
Social employment has its raison d’être. In the long-term this leads to insufficient appreciation for public officials and private entrepreneurs who do have a clear objective and who are doing a good job. In the long-term this leads to impoverishment of a society and therefore also of its political actors. If the politicians together with the “captains of industry” and the social and academic world really make work of a full employment alternative in the private sector and would take care of the necessary “adjustment”, than the pressure would diminish on people that have been, for social reasons, wrongly accommodated.
Insufficient attention of the political actors on the political benefits to have a clear relation between objective and staff. Understatement of personnel affairs within the government leads to a minor, administrative role for personnel affairs. However, these people keep the machine going; the staff should not only be identified, but should be scheduled in a correct and uniform manner. If you give people no destination, nor responsibility, than the majority of your public officials will assign themselves a (possibly wandering) destination and (ir)responsibilities. On top of this, if your staff is arbitrary rewarded, promoted or dismissed of simply not cared for enough and the public official lets this happen, than you create problems in a country where a large part of the labour population is a public servant.
This has a pernicious effect, per wrongly accomodated official, up to four or five potential voters.
So accommodating people wrongly has a pernicious effect on government, public officials, the population and for the politicians. If the politicians would give more attention to establishing clear objectives per ministry, to the development of a employment alternative and accommodating on the basis of clear formation states – in such a way that the accomodated people have a clear objective and a clear position – then politicians could create a positive effect, not only within the government, but also within their electorate and thus gain politically from better accommodation.  Accomodation would then be based on clear regulation and is broadly accepted.
The mere realization of the social, political and economic benefits of:
·       clearly defined and communicated goals per Ministry;
·       investing in a alternative employment in the private sector;
·       a clearer relationship between objective and staffing (better accommodation);
can motivate people to change something, to improve.
And the social, political and economic benefits of the three changes mentioned above are many. We think of:
·       ministerial services that are clearer, faster and more efficiently be performed;
·       ministerial services that are exercised cheaper;
·       officials with a clear job to do, know where they stand and where to go;
·       officials who are not ashamed of their profession, but are respected;
·       private entrepreneurs who are successful and are happy to recruit people;
·       politicians who are respected more by the population;
·       a population with a purchasing power;
·       a population that has confidence in their politicians;
·       a well served population.

The responsibility of the above mentioned causes and the harvesting of the social and political benefits lies not only by the politicians, but also with the public officials who let this happen, as well as with the whole population.  Something can be done about it!

Let’s do it.
Drs Marc J. de Turck


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