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Pakistan is suffering from an overload of feedback and a drought of feed forward. We seem to know all about the problems but have no clue about solutions. Baboos, Qazis and Khakis give sermons when out of office but do very little whi...

Feedback versus feed forward (The Nation (Pakistan))

Pakistan is suffering from an overload of feedback and a drought of feed forward. We seem to know all about the problems but have no clue about solutions. Baboos, Qazis and Khakis give sermons when out of office but do very little while on the job. No one is willing to risk perks, powers and promotions – the country and its institutions do not matter. On the Khakis side there is some loyalty to the institution mainly due to camaraderie. Most politicians have double standards, once out of power, everything is criticized but when in the government there seems to be no problem, ‘Sab theek hae’. Ayub Khan the first dictator could not believe that the people wanted him out with chants of ‘Ayub Kutta (Dog) hai hai’.

The Annual Confidential Reports (ACRs) on the basis of which government promotions take place have become irrelevant in the civilian sector. Either the exercise is not carried out or it does not reflect true performance. Almost everyone gets good to excellent evaluation with no reformation or improvement plan.

There was a time that the Planning Commission was manned by high caliber policy makers. The five years development plans were carefully developed and then implemented and monitored through several instruments like: PC-1, PC-2, PC-3, PC-4 etc. It is believed that South Korea developed by using some of our plans. Malaysia under Dr. Mahathir Muhammed developed. He announced vision 2020 under which

Malaysia would aim to become a fully developed country in 30 years. In his approach there was both feedback and feed forward. As an elected technocrat he selected professionals to lead the effort. In order to deliver he reformed the entire administrative set up.

For customer orientation all ministers, departments and autonomous organization were required to build ISO-9000 based quality managements systems (QMS) and attained certification. This step proved to be a major step forward. As the country lacked a scientific base he opted for licensed based manufacturing with transfer of technology (TOT). Compared to Pakistan’s exports of $10B, Malaysia’s is ten times higher. He created technology based organizations like SIRIM (Standards and Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia), several Technology Parks, Incubator Centres, and Technology Venture Capital Funds. In order to bring transparency and openness he opted for a paperless government. He identified and then removed all the colonial obstacles to growth paving the way for a developed country. In the financial crisis of late nineties he refused to accept the IMF bailout package and under his approach of feed forward he came up with his own plan.

By contrast Pakistan has experienced two visions both developed by PML-N regimes and by the same person. There was vision 2010 that consisted mainly of newspaper advertisements and did not have the opposition buy-in and was wrapped up when the government fell. Musharraf then imposed his seven point agenda the hallmark of which were NRB (National Reconstruction Bureau), NAB (National Accountability Bureau), NCHD (National Commission for Human Development) all three proved to be major disasters.

Now PML-N has come out with vision 2025, which has defined several enablers in addition to a lot of feedback. That includes: Shared Vision, Political Stability, Peace and Security, Rule of Law and Social Justice. Looks like a fairy tale with no feed forward. Today there was news that the administrative machinery needs a major overhaul another good feedback. If Malaysia can govern through a certified ISI-9000 QMS why has Pakistan not adopted this approach?

After 69 years of independence the colonial obstacles to growth are still there. There used to 32 government inspectors now two more have been added (Environment, Civil Defense) taking the total to 34 inspections. What business can survive such abuse? That is why the country has the fastest growing in formal sector and a shrinking formal sector. This year even the exports have experienced decline. There is feedback after feedback but no feed forward.

My father, the Pakistan Movement worker and entrepreneur, used the word ‘excelsior’. In the days of communication through telegram it was his telegraphic address as well. People of his generation had lofty ideals and wanted to excel in their fields. The same fighting spirit was then embedded into our generation. In 1995 Pakistan had won five world championships (Hockey, Cricket, Squash, Snooker, and Yachting), today we have none. The forward-looking Air Marshal Nur Khan contributed in excelling in first three of these games. As Air Chief he built Squash Courts, in his capacity as President Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) he built not one but two world class teams that played the finals of the first world cup held in Lahore. He was then asked to head the Pakistan Cricket Board (BCCP then) where he succeeding in producing world champions.

Over the years we have piled up a lot of feedback and related stories to tell. In order to survive we need to have feed forward. Every policy and vision must have an action plan not a wish list or identification of enablers as in the vision 2025. There is a famous saying in USA; ‘test of rubber is when it hits the road’. It is time to risk implementation otherwise we will be made to surrender without a fight; it should be a wake-up call.

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