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Proposing an approach for all reform dimensions

Mar 05,2022 - Last updated at Mar 05,2022

I participated in the first session of the Administrative Reform Conference organised by the Jordanian Academics Association in cooperation with Yarmouk University, which was held last Thursday under the patronage of the former prime minister, Professor  Adnan Badran. My talk about the institutional and intellectual structure of state institutions included the following highlights, which, in my view, constitute a proposed approach to all dimensions of reform: 

By analysing the organisational and intellectual structure of these institutions and the mentality or the way these institutions are managed, I see that the weaknesses are mostly centred on management approach and are concentrated in practice and implementation. This shows that the cause of the problem is people more than anything else. 

There are basic pillars for success in reforming the management of public affairs in all its dimensions. The citizen is the goal and main focus of development. Therefore, trust is the key: The trust of the service recipient, investor, visitor and job seeker. The strength of a state depends on the strength of its authorities, as the state’s performance and its global presence is strengthened with the strength of its authorities. In addition, the strength of each authority is the interest of the rest of the authorities. Each authority derives its strength from the strength of its institutions and leaders. 

The main and most important indicator of the success of the government, any government, is the performance of the private sector by achieving better rates of economic growth and providing more productive job opportunities. If we want to judge government performance, the most prominent indicator of its effectiveness is the performance of the business sector. 

Roles must be integrated and ensured that they do not overlap between and within authorities and institutions. Each one has a role drawn by the constitution or the law. For example, it is not logical for the legislative authority to carry out any work, tasks or activities that fall into the core of the work of the executive authority, regardless of the motives and reasons. Although, in my opinion, they are mostly attempts by individuals for personal motives.

A holistic view of policies and decisions is one of the most important requirements for success, so that we do not advance in one dimension or field one-step and fall back in other steps. So that we do not have to reconsider, change or retract these policies frequently and quickly. This loses us the advantage of relative stability in solutions. There are tasks that can be carried out by ministries or institutions. On the other hand, there are directions and policies that are multi functions, dimensions and effects. These are supposed to be built from A to Z at the level of the government as a whole and not at the level of ministries or institutions.

National solutions are supposed to be comprehensive, so that we do not find ourselves developing in a sector or field at the expense of other sectors or fields. We may backtrack from this repeatedly, which creates dispersion and confusion that undermines the balance of confidence and attractiveness of business. The key to our progress is modernity and openness at all levels.

The frameworks regulating public work represent the first dimension of reform, but they do not constitute a priority when compared to malpractice and poor implementation, as this is where the major flaws and weaknesses are. As for the organisational and functional structures, they need careful analysis, review and control. As for policies, they must be long-term, cross governments, and most importantly, based on measurable and evaluable indicators.

With regard to systems, processes and services, there is no solution to them except through electronic and smart transformation and digitisation. Otherwise, the matter remains within the limits of speech. It also highlights the importance of communication and openness and possession of the capabilities that lead to real action and achievement on the ground, no matter how small it is, people may accept it. As for public finance, the most important thing is the maturity, comprehensiveness and stability of financial policies, in addition to paying attention to the financing budget and controlling it, just like the spending budget.

The manifestations of failure, most of which were related to implementation, were a natural consequence of the traditional understanding of the role of governments, which is that the government is an authority over people, that it exists to provide all services, and that it is a place to employ people. This incorrect understanding has led to huge organisational structures brimming with employees, accompanied by wasteful spending, large deficits in budgets, a decrease in the efficiency of using limited resources, and a low quality of services due to lack of competition and weak governance, and consequently dissatisfaction and declining levels of trust in institutions .

As for the correct understanding of the role of governments, it is based on the fact that the government is an authority to serve the people and provide what is supposed to be provided of limited services of a certain nature, while the rest of the services are regulated and the government monitors the level of their provision by the private sector. The logic is the small size of the government compared to the expansion of the private sector.

In addition, the role of governments is not limited to conducting routine business as usual, but rather removing distortions, making difference and achieving significant achievements, all of which is supposed to be based on indicators and evidence. It is necessary to get rid of some cases of weakness and nervous tension among the senior government leaders, which led to the decline in the prestige and respect of job positions. The decline in work culture must be addressed, and this can only be achieved if the official is a good example and a role model for his followers in word, deed and behaviour.

It is necessary to stop the phenomenon of addressing challenges by transferring tasks from one ministry or department to another, as this undermines the prestige and respect of the ministries or departments and break their strength, and this is not in the interest of the country in any way. Even investment, the business environment, and its competitiveness are the first criterion in which security and safety.

For example, the issue of parties was transferred from the Ministry of Interior to the Ministry of Parliamentary and Political Affairs, and then to the Independent Election Commission. I do not know where the next step is. The same applies to governorate councils and decentralisation, as their follow-up has been transferred from the Ministry of Interior to the Ministry of Parliamentary and Political Affairs temporarily and from there to the Ministry of Local Administration. Knowing that the term “local administration” in principle and concept has nothing to do with municipal affairs within our understanding and context. The important thing is to face challenges and solve them in their place, not by assigning them to another institution.

Even more dangerous is the large number of amendments to legislation, especially bylaws, to the point that legislation or one article is amended more than once by the same government. Unfortunately, governments turn to this option because it is easy and because there is no confrontation with anyone, and therefore the defect or the flaw is blamed on the legislation, although the flaw in implementation and practice requires confrontation and accountability. Therefore, the easy option is used to escape confrontations.

Likewise, plans are drawn up and they are changed or replaced in a large way, what is implemented is little, what is followed up is little and few are questioned about what is implemented, and as a result, poor performers are not held accountable. We do not underestimate the negative impact of the phenomenon of talent exclusion.

I cited some examples of the absence of cumulativeness and sustainability in business from my practical experience when I was in a position of responsibility. A bylaw was issued governing and regulating the creation of government departments and the development of organisational structures for the year 2012 in order to control and stop the expansion of the public sector in terms of the number of institutions and the size of these institutions. The question is, does this bylaw really still in effect? Is the level of adherence to this bylaw monitored?

In addition, 14 institutions were completely resolved or cancelled in 2014. The question is, was any new institution actually cancelled after that date? The human resources bylaws have also 4 been unified into one bylaw after they were more than 50 bylaws. The question is, have the exceptions, abuses, and distortions that have occurred later and until now, have the unification of the systems lost its feasibility and value? The question is, are the exceptions, abuses, and distortions that occurred later and up to now, have the unification of bylaws lost their usefulness and value?

A bylaw for appointment to leadership positions was issued in 2013. The question is, has this bylaw been and is being adhered to? Why has each of the subsequent governments cancelled the existing bylaw and issued a new bylaw? Is it to attribute the issuance of the bylaw to that government? Are the new bylaws better than the old bylaws?

At the beginning of 2015, work was also done to issue an annual report on Jordan’s position in 25 of the most prominent international indicators issued by the competent international authorities with the aim of analysing them and addressing the gaps to improve Jordan’s degree and ranking in these indicators, as well as at the beginning of 2016. The question is whether any report was issued after that date?

In 2013, the National Integrity Charter and an implementation plan for strengthening the National Integrity system were issued with general timeframes that were translated into detailed plans and implementation and follow-up processes began. The question is, do governments enforce it? But where is the National Integrity Charter and its implementation plan? Is it used in institutions? And at least on their websites? Did the document disappear? If so, what is the motive behind it? Answering these questions certainly indicates the absence of cumulativeness and sustainability in government work.

Finally, I propose a set of high-level solutions (at the macro level) to become a working approach for governments in general and to be translated into operational measures. First, the application of the concept of management by indicators as a management approach and a new governmental work approach, which includes defining a limited number of national indicators that cover the dimensions and areas of government work in managing public affairs in terms of economic, financial and social aspects, including the growth rate of domestic product, trade balance, balance of payments, budget deficit, public debt, unemployment rates, per capita income, poverty, inflation, crime rate, health, education and the like.

Measuring the current level of each of these indicators in order to reach a baseline or number used in the planning and comparison processes, and to set ambitious target levels that cover many years and approve them from a reference higher than government to cross governments so that governments develop and implement programs, projects and initiatives to achieve these indicators and thus constitute The level of actual achievement of the indicators is an objective basis for evaluating the performance of governments. The government that fails to achieve these indicators will leave on its own.

In order for governments to achieve their goals, they must ensure alignment between functions and capabilities at the level of government as a whole and at the level of ministries and 5 institutions. Moreover, the prime minister for any government is required before anyone else to set an example and a role model in functional behaviour and performance. The same case for ministers and the rest of the officials. Otherwise, no reform will occur.

As for the services, they must be automated and digitised; otherwise, the matter will remain just talk. Moreover, because the defect is mostly, as I see it, a flaw in the implementation and practice, the only solution is through follow-up and accountability. There is no deterrence or restraint that is achieved without real actions in this regard.

Finally, there must be a trend of “challenge the official” that includes those who have the desire and ability to challenge the official with argument, logic and proof, and that those have no ambition in any position whatsoever. Harnessing their energies and abilities to make the official in a permanent challenge situation to prove his ability to achieve and thus ensure the survival of competent. The most important thing is to get rid of the rush in the incompetent. This pushing stops for fear of exposure, and therefore only people who are distinguished in terms of ability and performance reach positions.

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