Tuesday, June 18, 2024

How productive are we?


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By Lawrence Pherliam Sumer

If we are asked the above question in the caption of this article the answer would be a resounding ‘NO’. If we are to ensure a robust economic growth that supports a more inclusive economy we need the policy makers as well as the business and civil society leaders to work together and in doing so they must be respectful of the environment. In other words the social and environmental aspects must be looked at holistically while considering any growth and development agenda.  Economic and social agenda must go hand in hand and focus on reforms that will render economic productivity and open up new and better job opportunities for all segments of society. The key to success for any economy are strong institutions, available talent and a high capacity to innovate. These elements will be even more essential in the future.
In order to achieve higher productivity, new actions in terms of engaging in much needed structural reforms and productivity-enhancing investments are required. Recently our State Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Peregrine Guarding Services (PGS), a subsidiary of Mortice Ltd, for training and placement of candidates as security guards around the country. As someone who has spent a good amount of years in a corporate set-up in a metropolitan city and having dealt with many such Security Agencies, I can say this MOU is no big deal. Our State Government is doing this security agency a favour rather than the other way round. Using big terms like blue chip corporations as clients of this agency does not make any difference as the work conditions are the same.
Such job opportunities for our youths will render them unproductive and I can assure you that many will not be able to cope with the work environment that they will encounter. These Private Security Agencies are hyped up simply because they are run by retired army officers but the ground reality proves otherwise. You do not need a state government to sign an MOU for such jobs; any Tom, Dick and Harry can place anyone in any Security Agency across the country. How about signing an MOU with a manufacturing unit or a Retail unit instead? Maybe, we will not attract the big players, as various factors here are not conducive for business yet but why not start with the small players who would bring the much needed expertise and tap the rich talent that we are not short of, thereby providing meaningful job opportunities. Why would we allow our youths to go and guard someone else’s properties when our own state is having shortage of policing manpower?
Presently we do not have many options apart from government jobs and as such we cannot blame our parents for having the “government job mentality” for their kids. Most government departments / institutions are a liability, most are unproductive and if these would have been private entities they would have closed shop long time ago. It is an open secret, at least for those who have to deal with such departments regularly that there is an acute absence of work culture. When the work culture is not in place, where is the question of productivity? No wonder the biggest achievement that our State governments’ can claim is how much Central funds they can bring in year after year? I am glad to have come across one news item recently which highlighted the disapproval of the new DoNER Minister Gen (retd) V K Singh on the NE CMs requests for enhancement of central fund allocations. Instead, he directed them to generate self-revenue (ST, Sept 05th). To put it the other way, he is asking our NE CMs to do away with their “beggar mentality”. It goes without saying when you want to help somebody who is in need “you do not give him the fish but the fishing rod instead so he will learn to work.” How true when for so many years our leaders have shown by example how to remain sluggish and idle when they can simply seek central funds to run the state economy!
Many times we have been crying foul about the step-motherly treatment of the past central governments towards the entire NE Region but the question is how far have we been competitive nationally through sheer hard work and performance, which in turn would translate into a bigger question – how much have we contributed nationally? Everything begins with the leaders and it starts by taking small steps like attending office regularly (when you do not travel the world or you do not have to rush to Delhi to save your chairs) and reaching and leaving work on time besides accommodating “special schedule” for surprise visits to their respective departments and in turn letting the concerned bureaucrats know they are being watched. When the bureaucrats have to be on their toes automatically they will ensure their subordinates do the same.
In a democratic socialist set-up like ours one of the main pillars for socio-economic development is the public institution. The quality of our institutions has a strong bearing on competitiveness and growth. The role of these government institutions goes beyond the legal framework. The efficiency of their operations are also very important. Excessive bureaucracy and red tape, overregulation, corruption, dishonesty in dealing with public contracts, lack of transparency and trustworthiness, inability to provide appropriate services impose significant economic costs and slow the process of economic growth. To be competitive and have a robust economic growth we need a leader of integrity who would be accountable more to the people than the political bosses in Delhi. We need meritorious talented individuals who can run public institutions professionally besides private institutions that are run honestly, where managers abide by strong ethical practices in their dealings with the government, other firms and the public at large. At best, for now, all we can do is Pray!
(The writer is an entrepreneur)


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