This article by my friend Ali Ehsan agitated me to write this blog. Seeing the state of governance and governing politicians in Pakistan we always come to the question, what the heck is wrong with us? I am just reading a book by Parag Khanna titled ‘The Future is Asian’. Page 240-251 carry a part on, ‘Singapore: A Technocratic Role Model’. I shall recommend this to all concerned Pakistanis. Its eye opening and magnificent. Once PTI came to power and seeing the devastation done to our institutions, I felt convinced that there was a need to rebuild our broken systems from scratch. To this end, I would have recommended a technocratic government for initial two years to raise the buildings and then handover to politicians. However, prudence didn’t dawn then and PTI has come to that, after wasting 9 months. However, it’s never too late. Parag opens debate with, ‘The idea that too much democracy can be dangerous is not Eastern idea. For Plato, the essential ingredients of a successful polis were an educated and engaged citizenry and a wise ruling class…..democracy with neither of these attributes will lead to free but dangerously anarchic society vulnerable to tyranny. To ward off against such decay, his preferred form of government was a committee of public spirited “gaurdians”. Today we call such a system as technocracy.’ Please relate all this to our governance. Parag has amply explained thoughts of Lee Kuan Yew. Singapore institutionalised its technocracy before allowing democracy to unfold fully. Politics is about positions, policy about decisions; democracies produce compromises, technocracies produce solutions; democracy suffices, technocracy optimizes. Parag says where as western democracies today have wish lists, Asian technocraices have strategies. He quotes Philip Tetlock, who said, ‘full transparency over political deliberations can lead to decisions aimed at being popular rather than correct.’ Please relate to Pakistan. He says in Singapore government is run like a spiral staircase: with each rung a civil servant learns to manage a different portfolio, gaining first hand experience and building a broad knowledge base. By contrast US politics is like an elevator: one can get in on the bottom floor and go straight to top, missing all learning in between. In Pakistan one just needs to be born in blessed family and you are on the top floor from first day, what we call as Parachuted Leadership. Parag has highlighted pitfalls of US and UK democracies. He says, ‘even a meritocratic technocracy like Singapore needs to be careful not to slip into an oligarchy alienated from its people. He says technocracy is well suited to Asia’s more differential cultures.
Once Future is Asian, we should not be left behind in good practices of Asians else we might be banished as so far we continue to be.