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The seven-year itch

Sep 09,2018 - Last updated at Sep 09,2018

In 1879, Gilbert and Sullivan achieved international success with their comic opera The Pirates of Penzance, in which major general Stanley introduces himself in a song that is still popular today. The last stanza says:

When I have learnt what progress has been made in modern gunnery,

When I know more of tactics than a novice in a nunnery, 

In short, when I've a smattering of elemental strategy, 

You'll say a better major general has never sat a gee,

For my military knowledge, though I'm plucky and adventury,

Has only been brought down to the beginning of the century,

But still, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,

I am the very model of a modern major general.

This satire of the practice of appointing unqualified people in important positions came sharply to my mind last week when I read that Prime Minister Omar Razzaz stopped the appointment of a commissioner in the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission who had zero experience in telecom. It appears that the candidate’s sole qualification was being the brother of a parliamentary deputy who had a friend in the Cabinet.

Seriously? After the country came so close to chaos last June, and with the economy at a veritable standstill, we do this?

To the prime minister’s credit, he made the Council of Ministers limit ministerial powers to make summary appointments in high office. Instead, they recommend to a special selection committee nine candidates who include three nominees from the Civil Service Bureau and three from the regulatory body or prospective employer. 

This is new stuff? So what was the selection system before Razzaz took office? How many leading appointments were made on the basis of circumstances of birth and a shared mansaf? How long will such appointees continue to hold office?

Moreover, someone ought to explain to parliamentarians that their function is to prevent nepotism and abuse of authority not to indulge in it, while granting themselves expensive salaries and pensions which the taxpayer can ill afford.

Which brings us to the announcement by Finance Minister Ezzeddine Kanakrieh that the pensions of 388 retired prime ministers and ministers costs the Treasury nearly JD10.5 million. This statement was made to highlight the legislative amendment that makes a minister eligible for a pension only after completing seven years in office, not after a single day as per the previous law.

If implemented correctly, this step may be positive, but it is insufficient because wastas and vendettas will now focus on whether or not someone completes seven years in office. Why not focus on performance instead? In the private sector of advanced countries, high ranking officers have to meet pre-determined targets in order to retain their positions. Why not introduce a similar system for ministers?

Imagine if ministers were subject to an annual public review, in which their performance is measured against pre-set key performance indicators. If they are successful, the public would accept that their benefits are justified and if not, they would make room for someone more competent. Just imagine.

 

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Comments

Great article. The PM should take it in consideration through the revamping the system.

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