Weekly reflections: Road to institutional development

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By Dr Abdul Saboor

Sustainable economic development of a country is highly associated to the institutional development of public sector organizations and the state organs. There is no country in the world that has climbed the ladder of development without strengthening the public and private sector institutions. While on the other hand, those nations who have been left behind are substantially due to weak institutions and subsequent fragile functions. The failure on the part of social and political institutions further creates cracks and crevices in the economy. The overall nation state system is thus entangled in the crisis of institutional failure. Pakistan is confronting a crisis situation more or less of similar nature. This calls for serious kind of policy and planning dossier for taking a route to institutional development of the country.

We must realize the fact that when institutions are weak, even the best economic policies cannot be implemented in their true essence. The avenues of nepotism and favouritism are opened up; so is the corruption that further ruins the development process. The functioning of democracy is slowed down. Social fabric of the country is deteriorated. Very unfortunately, the rules of law are personified to the tune of extra-judicial activities. Around 300 public sector entities of Pakistan are at the verge of destruction due to institutional failure. A kind of vicious circle of institutional failure appears to add to the worries of development thinkers and policy makers.

It is not an easy task to change the functional spectrum of state institutions because there are plenty of odd forces rigorously at work to keep that situation alive which suits them. A careful reform package is required that may fairly be two pronged. In the first instance, the visible and invisible forces should be curbed which are causing the weakness of institutions, particularly the political ones, through various fraudulent practices and illegal tricks. Then, those who are ruining the pillars of economic institutions, either in the fiscal sector or in the monetary side, with their dishonest and unethical measures should be penalized through promulgating transparent rules and regulations. A strict implementation of regulations may be the best remedy of the problem.

The door to corruption in government operated institutions can reasonably be closed if a sensible and rational use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) is operationalized across the state organs both at provincial and national levels. The traditional way of recording the official data in ill-managed file system may be changed by backing up the whole filing and allied note portions in well-designed ICT based programs. In this way, we can easily avoid tempering of records in the official files which is a common phenomenon. Moreover, it would be difficult to bypass the codal procedures as is a general practice in some state institutions. To this end, anyone trying to do something odd would certainly have a fear of being surveillanced.

The ICT based solutions would further help the allied organs of the state to monitor the smooth functioning of administrative, financial and management related problems. This would enhance the overall profile of efficiency and effectiveness of key economic resources in a particular organization. Moreover, the process of accounting and auditing may become easier with very less likelihood of audit objections. Resultantly, the NAB and court cases; and the ones at Public Accounts Committees (PACs), may conveniently be resolved to further smooth functioning of respective institutions. On quick fix may be in the shape of introduction of more ICT based Portals (Like that of Prime Minister’s Portal Scheme) across all ministries and public sector organizations at national and provincial levels.

Keeping the social and cultural imperatives in view, and to avoid further sufferings of official work, it might be more workable to start a ‘clean sweep operation’ with some amnesty measures. For years, people – inside and outside the state organs – are used to the curse of bribery. They have been victims of corruption considering it taken for granted. So, one time excuse may be accepted but in subsequent affairs, transparent rules should be established in such a way as none of them could escape. In extreme cases, the forensic audit of some chronically administered institutions may also be conducted through a third party for setting the institutional reform agenda one track once for all.  The process of such development may initially be quite slow but it would deliver a sustainable solutions.

At the initiation of institutional strengthening, there is another risk, as one can observe in some institutions, that public men start increasing the rate of bribery by leaving the impression that the things have become more difficult to manage so there would be high prices of doing illegal work. Even sometimes, they start taking money of legal official work taking benefits of ignorance of the public and their urgency problem. So, the role of general public cannot be denied in strengthening of state organs and government institutions. One the one hand, they should be sensitized to pinpoint the elements of illegality and corruption in any organizations. One the other hand, they should avoid being party in corruption with the government officials as they may also be penalized for their act of weakening the institutions.

A comprehensive training mechanism may also be introduced for the youth at college and university levels so as to sensitize them for running the public and state affairs with unswerving commitment and dedication. A good incentive mechanism may also be introduced for stopping the people to opt for corruption and for encouraging the public to be part of government in strengthening the state institutions. The traditional pattern of ‘knowledge based economy’ may be moulded to ‘character based institutions’. If we become able to address the moral character of human resource working in public sector organizations, the journey to institutional development and organizational strengthening could promptly be covered.

A good governance system is the hallmark of institutional development. Down the layer of governance, there is a complex structure of administration and management for implementing the visions and strategy coming from the top leadership. Rather than bureaucratically and politically motivated recruitments, a meritorious arrangement needs to be maintained all across the pyramid of public sector institutions. The sword hanging on the heads of some autonomous bodies may be a stumbling block in the way of institutional development. A great deal of autonomy and independence should be awarded to some public sector organizations so as to enhance efficiency and productivity.

Dr Abdul Saboor is Professor of Economics and Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, PMAS Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi. He can be reached at

drabdul.saboor@uaar.edu.pk