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Citizen Voices Democracy Governance

Bureaucracy In The Developing World

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Bureaucracy in the contemporary developing world has secured a decisive position in the process of political development or retrogression. Being the colonial legacy, the nation building for civil officers remained far from their traditional administrative approach. Given the fact, by involving the non-political executives in the process of political development and nation building, the incumbent government again resorted to the buzzword ‘reforms’. However, despite, Mr. Imran Khan’s repetitive claim to end the ASPs hold on the perks and plots —besides their interventionist attitude to politics — has so far ended up only in making committees and appointing people. Yet the government has failed in practically delivering something.

In mid of the twentieth century, the imperial powers lost their hold over the indigenous independence movements. The fluctuating socio-political conditions caused by the blow of Second World War paved way for a vigorous demand for independence. The colonial masters after failure in taming the masses eventually relinquished their hold on the colonies. Consequently, in less than a decade, a number of states emerged as sovereign entities on the map of the world. These states had no political culture and functional democratic institutions. Yet, the demand for the democratic setup persisted.

The institutions that had worked under the foreign powers needed to be adjusted according to the changing ethos and politics. The newly emerged political culture lacked the ideal democratic institutions necessary for organizing and running the state on democratic norms and values. Among these institutions, civil bureaucracy was indispensable for the new states. Besides being the link between the foreign masters and the masses, the civil bureaucracy cherished monopoly over the power and prestige in the colonial period. The civil officers had specific functions of revenue collection and keeping law and order with an extended degree of autonomy.

In the post-colonial time the bureaucracy had to face a different political culture whereas the politicians occupied the decision making position thereby subjugating the civil officers to a subordinate role. The civil bureaucracy wielded expertise, knowledge and organized institutionalism, in due course of time, which was inevitable for the state’s machinery. However, the paternalistic attitude and authoritarian tone was called upon to change in the newly emerged culture. Along with that, the post-colonial state necessitated an administration for nation building for which political executive embarked on reformation in the values, structure and working of the bureaucracy. These innovative steps being resented by the bureaucracy didn’t work practically.

Notwithstanding, every newly independent state worked in earnest for the political development and modernization. For that reason, the institutions that had been developed under the colonial powers though not for nation building rather for keeping the masses tamed—had to underpass the reformation process. The political parties in the new states were a mixture of different groups organized for the sole purpose of independence. Once independence was achieved, political parties riven with different factions could not build and expand their entrenched membership base. For doing so, the political parties resorted to the spoil system but the bureaucracy being universalistic and meritorious in nature resisted and did not cooperate with the politicians as doing so could jeopardize the efficiency of the bureaucracy. Thus, political parties at the cost of bureaucratic efficiency remained weak and ineffective. Further, the opposition, too, being based on the sectarianism could not modify the legislation of the ruling party, rather it exercised agitation politics. This again weakened the ruling party. In this way, the bureaucracy got the upper hand and strengthened its power and prestige. In addition, the pressure groups, organized for the effective articulation, aggregation, and communication of the public opinion thereby delivering to the political centers, too, were manipulated by the bureaucracy.

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Owing to the involvement of bureaucracy in the process of formulating the policy, the civil officers did not cooperate and effectively work in areas where the bureaucratic interests impinged the masses. Through such sort of interventionist attitude of the bureaucracy, the large governmental sponsored associational groups could not influence the decision makers– consequently affecting the process of political development.

Moreover, in the colonial states the foreign powers allowed electorate to practice democracy at the local level. They believed that the local level trained electorate should work at center once they learn participation. In fact, it received high criticism by the nationalistic leaders as delaying tactics of the government. However, in subsequent years of the independence, this method was adopted by the ruling elites.

Through the involvement of bureaucracy, the political elites restricted the potential leadership—the large chunk of local representatives remained the formal chiefs, landlords, religious and other influential individuals who monopolized political representations in their respective territories– thus hampering political development. In addition with that, the parliament has also been so weak in the developing societies due to the weak aforementioned supportive elements. The political parties lacked adaptability while an efficient parliament needs an active electorate, autonomous interests groups and vigorous political party system: these supportive elements already destroyed by the bureaucracy restricted political development and modernization.

The western developed polities have the most institutionalized institutions: fairly autonomous, adapted to the changing circumstances, complex and cohered.  Unfortunately, the institutions of developing countries are lacking the above characteristics. They lack the functional differentiation, division of labor and specialized standards and have been intervened by the non-political executives. Though the ease in communication, free market economy, trade and inter-dependence of the countries have brought lion’s share of modernization i.e. urbanization, increased literacy rate, social mobilization, secularization and rationalization, nevertheless, the political development or the institutionalization of democratic institutions have yet to be seen in these transitionary societies.

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This imbalance between the political and administrative executives not only hindered political development but led to some political crisis or decay. The political order of the transitionary societies is thus decayed or retrogressively affected: the government in the developing societies faced the legitimacy, identity, and integration and penetration crisis. These crises endangering the existence of the state are often brushed under the carpet by the temporal government paying no due heed. The bureaucracy having significant leverage in implementation of the governmental policies frequently augment the intensity of such crisis by favoring factions, securing their own interests and indifferent attitude towards the masses.

The integration of the respective state, by and large, has undergone a huge shackle by secessionist groups in the immediate years of the independence.  However, these crises alongside the political development can’t, of course, be solely attributed to the bureaucracy. But due to the factors— wherein we found bureaucracy responsible for hampering the process of political development— the bureaucracy being the legacy of the colonial powers have large share in retrogression of the developing countries. This unfair expansion in the power of the bureaucracy has partly caused by the inept leadership and political elites. However, the only institution that can reset the course of sailing is the parliament. The parliament alone can curtail the power and prestige of the bureaucracy through two instruments, control over public purse and policy making. The administrative reforms of Bhutto curtailed the power and prestige of the bureaucracy to some extent—although the reforms were not implemented fairly. A check on the finance can also be advantageous: making non-political executives vigorous involvement in nation building and political development.

Most importantly, the process of political development and modernization ought to be consistent in the developing countries. The bureaucracy’s nation building oriented role can be attained through innovative reforms in its structure and practice. Only under a definite structure and political guidance the bureaucracy of the developing countries can efficiently influence political development in a way necessary for the progress and prosperity of the country.

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