Need to teach the country management

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Need to teach the country management

Thursday, 16 November 2023 | Prafull Goradia

Need to teach the country management

Not a single institute in the country teaches the art and science of managing a nation. Time we have specialised institutes for the country management

Approximately, there are 4,000 management institutions across the country, specialising in finance, human resources, modern communication, marketing, etc. Yet, not a single institution teaches management of the country. National management should have been considered the most important, affecting every citizen.

Management science emerged about a century ago, during World War I when German army officers analysed their army’s efficiency. One study revealed an important fact—there were four non-combatants operational for one frontline soldier. In contrast, the British frontline fighting soldier had ten non-combatant personnel supporting him. Organisationally, the Imperial German Army was two-and-a-half times more efficient than its British counterpart.

Other militaries also carried out similar studies, from which the phrase “tooth-to-tail ratio” was born; the teeth being the fighting soldier. Later, this entered the commercial world where employees were divided into revenue-earning staff and others with general tasks.

Business management schools began taking off, especially after World War II, proliferating in the 1970s into hospitals, hotels, colleges and schools. Teachers became headmasters, professors became principals and doctors became superintendents. Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai was the first medical institution to be planned according to management principles.

For a long, administration was conflated with execution and/or management, with little realisation that the former’s focus is discipline, whereas the latter’s is result(s). This lack of awareness has brought down many countries’ economies. More countries are mismanaged than managed properly. Bharat too was unaware, until 2014 that it had to be managed—call it governed—and not merely administered. India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru deserves credit for being conscious of planning. He did not wait for the first parliament to be elected and established the Planning Commission by a cabinet fiat. Yojana Bhavan functioned somewhat like the Gosplan of the (former) Soviet Union.

Bharat was governed better than countries in our immediate neighbourhood; most are on the verge of bankruptcy. China’s example is unique. Its growth and development on the morrow of Mao Zedong’s passing away have been undoubtedly phenomenal. His successor Deng Xiaoping’s tenure was outstanding by any measure, but somewhere down the years, the exertions of the regime in Beijing violated a fundamental management principle. No economy should produce anything indefinitely unless there is a market. China believed its economy could grow by pegging its fortunes on the real estate industry. Its regime began with roads and airports and ended with residential apartments.

This building spree increased the need for cement, steel, bricks and other goods, also employing a large number of people as workers. Real estate became an engine of rapid growth and was pursued with gusto. Exports were built up with the growth of apparent financial surpluses.

Some national assets were exchanged in return for hard currency, but the Chinese regime ignored this. Multinationals and non-residents jumped onto this bandwagon. Money was borrowed through banks, through deficit financing. The sale of millions of new residential apartments rested on hope rather than demand. Unsold apartments cannot go on propelling the economy beyond a point.

The ruling elite of Pakistan showed no interest in understanding economics. They took no note of the fact that neither wing of their country, east or west, had much industry. During the Ayub Khan regime, Pakistan had some 22 elite and rich families who could supposedly propel the country’s economy. But 14 of these 22 families were Gujaratis; Memons or Khojas, who had migrated there after Partition, with little local talent.

Pakistan’s politicians were busy with their intrigues and took little interest in industrialisation. Pakistan’s first president Iskander Mirza understood this situation. He believed the government should steer clear of religion or the military. Religion led to bias; while the military was meant for defence, it had no understanding of civilian economics. Unfortunately, Pakistan made both these mistakes. The country jumped to the American call to join the Baghdad Pact, later called the Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO). Foreign aid into Pakistan began flowing and imports were liberal, making indigenous manufacturing unnecessary. By 2016, aid from the USA virtually dried up and the generals did not know where to look for aid, except China. Beijing demands interest plus guarantees, including forfeiture of territory in the event of non-repayment.

Sri Lanka’s story is different, but its government did violate fundamental rules making the country suffer. Myanmar has been under military rule since 1958. Bangladesh has an inherently weak economy, while Nepal is yet to experience full development. Shining national management sagas are Germany and Japan after WWII. Singapore is the brightest jewel, although a small one, sculpted by the legendary Lee Kwan Yew. Bharat has today been the best government since its independence. Before we conclude, we should draw readers’ attention to the USA, a systemic rather than managerial success. Its constitution has given the country a unique structure with a separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers such that, within reasonable limits, no matter the quality of the individual governor(s), the country has kept flourishing for over two and a half centuries. This merits a separate study.

(The writer is a well-known columnist, an author, and a former member of the Rajya Sabha; views expressed are personal)

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