Institutionalising political system for development
INTEREST in good governance and development in Bangladesh both in isolation and in combination are commonplace and growing. Much of the scholarly pursuit in has been aimed at initiating a debate on the unexplored theme of governance as a critical variable in the development process. Its main focus centres around delimiting the boundary of the broad concept of governance especially when one attempts to mix it with development.
To some governance means managing affairs of state, focus being on the institutionalization of political system while some others think that it is essentially a reflection of the role of the state giving direction to the development of the country and the political regime which derives authority from the role that the state assigns to itself. There is yet a third perspective of the civil society which is often missing in the traditional conceptualisation and has made evaluation of the status of state-society interaction difficult.
People are of the opinion that politics in greater part of our brief history after the liberation war has been fiercely confrontational that divided our population sharply even on the intrinsic national issues regardless of the consequences that the divide may bring about. This often insulated people of common political belief into isolated segments. Leaders of the parties demonstrated insensitivity towards their opposite number's position on governance and development.
"Assuming that difference or dissent is a normal process in democracy, people of this country who have suffered marginalisation so long, are no longer willing to accept perennial poverty and misery due to irresponsible and erratic political behaviour combined with bureaucratic inefficiency.
Focus of this article is on the nexus among governance, development and institutionalization of organs of political parties. The demand of the hour is to identify the challenges that have occurred in our country to streamline inflexible and inward looking administration responsible to augment the process of development mapped by political leadership.
We are yet to ascertain the status of state-society interaction. Have we to think that governance means functioning under democratic dispensation where civil society hardly has any role except for pointing out where politics has faulted?
Religious extremism and ethnic divide have also thrown challenges to good governance, democracy and development. Initiative should be underway to develop a nexus on the critical public policy areas i.e. governance and development. Pace of economic liberalisation and revolution in global communication is sure to hasten the process of understanding the need for the nexus.
The biggest challenge confronting Bangladesh is government's weak-kneed approach to governance fearing bureaucrats' non-cooperation. This may sound to be an arrogant statement but an evaluation of government's performance manifestly shows that none since independence has sincerely done something substantial to develop people-orientated political institutions to work with commitment to chase out the ills that beset our democratic culture which fuels development.
Indifference of the political leaders will probably continue for the lack of a truly people's welfare oriented precept of commitment to make our country a precinct of peace, protection and prosperity for our people. Lukewarm attitude of the politicians (not directly involved in governance) could have had far less effect in the implementation of government's development schemes had the bureaucracy played the role of an honest broker to guide or to constrain the leader from infringing upon the rules of business.
To be able to ensure even handed governance the political government should mark stamping out corruption as its priority agenda. One does understand that "corruption exists and has always existed, it is pervasive and it has far reaching consequence. It represents one of the most significant obstacles to development and it also distorts proper functioning of democratic institutions".
Although we all hope that political leaders abstain from corruption, a broad majority of our people think it is going to be a gigantic task. In the recent past the government was left with no choice but to withdraw most of corruption cases filed against its leaders by a 'benign' Anti Corruption Commission as the political leaders believably threatened to topple the government by throwing their towels if it did not withdraw the cases.
Political parties should take initiatives to effectively utilise their political institutions to restrain the members from interfering with the activities of the government. One wonders whether the political parties are at all inclined to follow the writs of their institutions. Therefore the institutions should be strengthened and empowered to regulate or chastise those members who show little regard to the norms of the institutions.
To revamp the political institutions, Richard Pelizzo suggests that the parties should consider the following;
Notion of the institution covering a combination of factors like age of the organisation, generational age of the party members, adaptability, complexity, flexibility, autonomy and coherence should be made clear to all.
What kind of notion of institutionalisation can be applied to parties and what it means for the parties to become institutionalised should be mapped after deliberate discussion in the party which will be mandatory for all to follow in letter and spirit.
Level of institutionalisation needed to open the party forum to identify the violators of institutional culture and the 'modus oprandi' to admonish or chastise the defaulters should be ascertained after which the institutions should be given freedom to uninterrupted implementation.
What kind of institutional arrangement can be made to deter the politicians from interfering with the running of the administration.
At this juncture of our national life we are no longer prepared to hibernate and let our destiny be mapped by capricious leadership. In the past it used to be alleged that development schemes were drawn by a band of 'Semeper Fidelis' bureaucrats to translate the wishes of the political leaders or donors whose objectives were not beyond question. Once political institutions are strengthened then people's aspiration will be reckoned with as they will act as formidable pillars to guard against diversions that are anti-people.
Our people too should whip up their conscience to put their act together to involve themselves in a fundamental shift that promises proper institutionalisation of political party organs so that whims of a few are overtaken by collective wisdom. Political leadership should part with duality which is observed in the contemporary leadership to make the foundation of democratic politics formidable and only thus power of the institutionalised politics will pave the way for development.
Z.A. Khan is a former Director General of BIISS.