By Garth A. Rattray
I remember a fictional, humorous anecdote about a seasoned and very senior British politician. He was hand-picked by the prime minister to head the Ministry of Agriculture because the industry was flagging. He was told to go on a familiarisation tour at a representative farm.
The politician went on a tour led by some very experienced farmers. At one point, the politician turned to a farmer and asked, "I say, old man, how is it that the cow over there has no horns?" The farmer was taken aback by the question and hesitated as he tried to formulate the most diplomatic response. But, the impatient, haughty and gruff politician barked at him, "Well? Come on! Speak up! Why doesn't that cow have any horns?"
The humble farmer responded, "Well, sir … some cows are born without horns. Some cows become ill and lose their horns. Some cows accidentally break their horns off. Some cows are aggressive, so we cut their horns off. But, that particular cow has no horns because it's a horse."
LEARNING ON THE JOB
It goes to show that if members of parliament are thrust into unfamiliar territory (as ministers of government), for which they have no ample qualifications, serious problems can arise.
They often try to learn on the job or depend heavily (sometimes solely) on one or several advisers/consultants. Either way, with the fate of an entire nation at stake, it seems to me that this is far from an ideal system of administration.
I remain a staunch supporter of democracy; but, I believe that, ideally, the ministries should only be run by qualified personnel. We should still have elections to choose the political representatives in central and local government. We should still have a head of government, and so on. However, the person responsible for individual ministries should be hired - as one hires a CEO, for a job.
Only highly qualified persons should apply and be interviewed by a panel before being hired to run the relevant ministry. He/she can be hired or fired, scrutinised, monitored and held accountable just like any other CEO. He/she would also face serious prison time if found guilty of fraud or corruption. The hiring and firing should be bipartisan and free from nepotism.
The CEO of any ministry would, therefore, not need a team of advisers/wise men/consultants and he/she would be devoid of political influence. He/she would be answerable to the job and to the entire country - not to a political party or group of people.
On the other hand, the members of parliament would do what their primary job description states: seeing to the people's well-being. They would be free to immerse themselves in the communities that they were elected to represent; work to stamp out poverty and crime, and present the needs of their constituents to the CEOs of the relevant ministries.
Politicians would not administrate; this would significantly reduce the dependency syndrome, quid pro quo and corruption. That type of politics has been destroying us since our so-called 'Independence' in 1962.
As a nation, we have been surviving from one crisis to the next and borrowing ourselves out of one situation only to end up in another worse situation ad infinitum.
I admire the politicians who chose to sacrifice and serve, but it seems to me that our troubles come from an inherently flawed political system that facilitates the quest for power/control, legacies and is, therefore, prone to corruption. Leaders have always been afraid to take tough decisions because they could cost them and their political party dearly in future elections.
It's only a dream of mine, but I hope that one day such a system will replace the recurrent nightmare that we all share.
Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.