Pakistan’s Weak Institutional Environment: Can it be Fixed?

    Mostly, when one talks of the socioeconomic depression of a state, one tends to erroneously impute it on the corrupt political elites who are at a loss to maintain moral and ethical standards. But there are many precedents which explain that this is not true. The authors provide some instances in the book Candles in the Dark. According to the book, some agencies achieved and maintained high professional standards even during the most corruption-ridden periods of the 19th century USA. To substantiate this point, we take the example of the Civil Services Commission established in 1883 to replace the ‘spoil system’. In fine, the socioeconomic betterment of any state depends on the institutional strength of a state, as explained by Acemoglu and his associate in the book Why Nations Fail. Undoubtedly, political representatives of a country cannot be absolved of the blame as appropriate governance is in their hands, but the ultimate cause of a country’s downfall is its institutional weakness. The same is the case with Pakistan.

    In the context of Pakistan, feeble governance and a gradual but perceptible decline in institutional capacity are its main problems in sustaining macroeconomic stability and delivering public services to the poor. This highlights the conflict and collusion among the country’s various power structures happening simultaneously. This state of affairs is facilitated by the elitist nature of the state. Moreover, a lack of capacity to implement policies has exacerbated the already-grim situation. The implementation of policies in a robust manner depends upon three elements:

  • the responsible political leadership,
  • the competence of the civil service,
  • the strength of public institutions.

All these are in absentia for the most part in Pakistan.

    To rectify its state institutions, Pakistan needs to focus on the following characteristics that are needed for strong institutions and guarantors of national prosperity.

    A successful organization’s mark is that it develops tasks that are identifiable to staff and relevant stakeholders. Furthermore, the mission can be realized through defined outcomes and results. Such organizations dispense with superfluous and extraneous tasks that can cause digression from the main objective.

    A critically important factor that catapults an organization to success is the ability to attract competent staff. Apart from merely attracting them, it can retain them and invest in their skill development. Such an organization can improve their team’s performance by dint of specific process that they develop. Access to training and international exposure are components of such a process.

    The continuity of tenure of top leadership and senior management is a critical success factor. The reason is that management and staff turnover leads to overall setup disruption. This also causes a loss of human capital. As a result, it takes a considerable amount of time to get real traction for certain essential items on the agenda of organizational leaders.

    Financial autonomy is the most extraordinary factor in determining the institution’s managerial autonomy. Government institutions heavily dependent on private or outsider’s funds tend to favour their investors’ decisions more. In a successful organization, its resources provide to cover the expenditures.

    Good internal communication and employee participation are substantially essential characteristics. Successful organizations have suitable information-sharing mechanisms. Furthermore, such organizations hold regular meetings to get rigorous feedback on various projects. This helps to improve the team morale and allows them to voice their concerns to senior management.

    In a successful organization, there is a visionary leader who plays a decisive role in handling matters and mobilizing funds. Strong leaders are fully committed to the organization’s success and command respect from all key stakeholders. Although party politics is always there in any organization, strong leadership wards off such distractions and remains entirely focused.

    Innovative and risk-taking behaviour is encouraged in successful organizations to provide better results. These businesses also give employees the instruction and resources they need to work more effectively. Additionally, it provides methods for incorporating continuous learning through routine evaluations, appropriate modifications, and eliminating activities that don’t produce the desired effects. Finally, employee morale and motivation are increased by providing participation, understanding, and self-development opportunities.

    Employees that work in successful firms frequently hold similar values, morals, and standards of conduct. These cultural elements reveal our perceptions and the meanings we assign to symbols, logos, rituals, and practices. These organizations’ leaders formalized their ideas into statements, emphasizing essential points about the organization’s goals and history through tales about individuals and events. When a group accomplishment is recognized, it keeps employees engaged with the business.

    Organizations that are able to resist political pressure (such as pressure to disregard established eligibility requirements) and prevent strain on management to evade processes and procedures are more successful. In this process, institutional leadership is a crucial buffer. Some organizations are able to withstand the pressure by operating under the “political radar” and forming coalitions of support.

    One essential quality of a successful institution is its capacity to raise funds to carry out its mission. Additionally, an institution’s total performance is highly impacted by its ability to demonstrate efficacy, communicate outcomes, and win external recognition.

    Suffice to say, in the case of Pakistan, insufficient institutional capacity and weak governance are the key obstacles to maintaining macroeconomic stability and providing public services to the underprivileged. But this vicious cycle can be ended through appropriate reforms that will ensure prosperity and well-being of the masses. Pakistan’s current poor performance on various social indicators manifests that it is the need of the hour. It is time to work it out before it is too late.

Action is the foundational key to all success 

–Pablo Picasso 

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