The modern government is handled by different actors: elected politicians and appointed professional bureaucrats, every now and then who work in an antagonistic relationship to manage the country. These unavoidable contradictions and complex relationships between them are the result of this unpleasant collaboration, which is perhaps the most distinguishing conundrum of the contemporary modern state.
We, the people of Bangladesh, are eyewitness of intricate relationship among the politicians and bureaucrats. Some recent incidents apparently depict that the politics-administration interface is convoluted and non-cooperative one way or another. However, the argument of this issue is not new, rather comes from the British period.
Excessive control of bureaucracy and politicization of administration have evidently been seen in our country. On the one hand, politicians hinge on the bureaucrats for making and executing policy. Conversely, bureaucrats also hold a strong loyalty to the politicians for their betterment. This is an academic discussion obviously, no way to deny it; but also, a crucial issue for the country because, in a state mechanism, they are united, integrated and stable.
Politicians lose their significance when the influence of bureaucracy cultivates in a country. The reasons behind the excessive bureaucratic control in Bangladesh is as clear as crystal. Most of the politicians are amateurish in the field of policy making and ministry’s operations. At the Upazila level, bureaucrats are supposed to work under the Upazila parishad (UZP), however, the leaders of UZP could not make the parishad fully operational due to their incompetence and obstruction of some rules and regulations of the government.
The shortcoming of our politicians in making the bureaucracy work is their lack of honesty. They use politics for personal and business interests for that reason they are candidates in the favor of government employees. If the government wants to improve administration, it must recruit talented individuals. Additionally, if the quality of education at the college and university levels is poor, it is unlikely that talented individuals will be discovered.
Educational qualification of people’s representatives at the national and local level should be determined by the election commission. Representatives in local government are administrative officials. As such, educational qualifications can be determined to make the local government system more smart, efficient and responsible. For instance, to become a Member of Parliament, city mayor and Upazila chairman, a candidate has to have a post graduate or bachelor degree. Besides, one has to complete bachelor or HSC to become a candidate for union chairman. Educated politicians would be aware about their duties, responsibilities and they could perform better in office. Then, dependency on the bureaucrats- secretaries, uno- would lessen.
Rigorous and appropriate training system for politicians should be introduced. But it is disheartening that the National Institute of Local Government (NILG), the government-designated training body for local government officials, is underutilized and has a low capacity. To keep balance between local politicians and administrators, representatives must have to be trained robustly. Through training, the competency and skills of the representatives would be developed. Trained politicians will know the way to make policy, how to interact with people, what are the needs of mass people.
In our country, a common matter is seen at the grassroot level, that is, the MP or Upazila chairman has resided in the capital city, Dhaka. Notwithstanding, they should have been lived in the constituency. There, politicians could be able to make frequent communication with people. In addition, they could know the difficulties and needs of the people and act accordingly. The concerned authorities have to be strict in this regard.
A minister is the head of a ministry, heshould be aproficient in the specific field. Such as, a minister, who will take the sole responsibility of the ministry of health, must have to be taken by a public health expert because the expert will know better than any other politician, who is expert in education or ICT. If this system could be established then the extreme dependency on the secretary for policy making would diminish.
Another major obstacle behind the bitter relationship is the absence of an ombudsman. The Office of the Ombudsman supervises and examines administrative authorities to determine whether or not they are utilizing their jurisdictional powers in a legitimate manner. It establishes mechanisms for resolving personal concerns in order to protect the rights of individuals. However, in contrast to the countless institutionalization of this office in developed countries, the office of Ombudsman in Bangladesh has remained a myth, fifty years after the ratification of the Constitution.
Anyway, we need an ombudsman which can scrutinize the complaints lodged against every public official, including cabinet ministers, members of parliament, members of the central bureaucracy, local representatives, military personnel and members of the judiciary bodies.
Political & administrative ethics are vital to ensure a cooperative connection. Politicians and officials will do their work separately as we know the development policy is outlined by the political leadership, whilst it is implemented by the bureaucracy. They must have to work within their boundaries. If accountability of politicians and officials are assured then everything will be easier.
Development of a country largely relies on competent political and bureaucratic leadership. Bureaucracy does not belong to any party yet for the state, they should not be politicized in any way and politicians must not work for the party either. All of them must have to work for the country and country is the first priority, chauvinism is needed.
Creating a balanced and effective connection between political leaders and administrators is essential to the establishment of successful governance in the truest sense. Verily, the interaction between politicians and bureaucrats has always been a fundamental problem. This means that how successful or unsuccessful a government is depending on the relationship that exists between politicians and bureaucrats. So, the intricacy of politics administration relationship could be solved by the aforementioned way. Last but not the least, we hope to see a cooperative relationship among them, not the relationship of foe.
Md. Obaidullah works as a Research Assistant at Center for Advanced Social research, Dhaka and is a student at University of Barishal.