The view that ‘technocrats’ can deliver where politicians have failed crops up from time to time in Pakistan, gaining momentum whenever the representative government comes under severe political pressure. Implicit in this view is that technocrats take independent decisions without unwanted political influences. It is true in a sense that technocracy is a form of government in which the decision-makers are chosen for a governing office based on their technical expertise. A technocracy differs from a traditional democracy, in that individuals elected to a leadership role are chosen through a process that emphasizes their relevant skills and proven performance, as opposed to whether or not they come into office through popular demand.
Here , the most pertinent question is that who are the technocrats?
It is, in fact, a loose term that we use to lump all semi-well clad, reasonably well-read people who are outside government. In fact, the researchers, writers, professors, bankers, doctors, lawyers and other such skilled people all are ‘technocrats’. Unlike politicians, technocrats are qualified people who master the field of their specialties and would be able to take decisions that will hopefully rescue the country mired in economic and social problems. They are the people who put national interests above political parties’ interests. That is, they have no political party interests to protect and in this way, they serve the interests of society.
Decision making in the Pakistani form of democracy is undertaken by elected individuals generally on the basis of their opinions. In a technocracy, decision-making is undertaken by chosen individuals on the basis of “information derived from methodology rather than opinion”. In the context of Pakistan, as corruption, nepotism, poor governance, illiteracy and feudalism are destroying the country, the question of pivotal importance is: “Should we go for a technocrat setup to undo the wrongdoings of the politicians?”
One cannot argue against democracy, as this form of government represents the true voice of the people. That said, do the Pakistani people have, at all, a voice? Or do a majority of voters just follow the trumpets of their feudal lords? If this stands true, then how can this pseudo-democracy help Pakistan gain the glory its founding fathers had envisioned?
Pakistan is at the stage where technical knowledge and a fool proof strategy are required to pull the country out of multiple crises. Pakistan will not be the first country to adapt this strategy, albeit temporarily; around the world, it is always in times of crisis that technocracy comes up. In the Great Depression of the early 1930s, technocracy became popular in the US and Canada. The Greek debt crisis brought in an economist Lucas Papademos as PM replacing politician PM George Papandreou. The Italian debt crisis brought in Economist Mario Monti as PM replacing politician Silvio Berlusconi. In recent times, it was also suggested for Crimea by world leaders to help the city govern itself effectively through annexation. Rumours of technocrats are surfacing in Europe to help the EU out of a financial crisis. Africa itself is now looking towards technocrats to stabilize the continent and to bring struggling nations up at par with Kenya and South Africa.
Since the early 1980s, post-Mao China has been governed by three generations of technocratic leadership. In the present-day China, more and more men and women in the government are specifically trained for the posts and or ministries that they are in charge of. The results are clear as China is stepping into the shoes of a world power with an ever growing middle class and spending power to support it.
Pakistan has excelled during military rule as dictators have directed technocrats into leadership roles; hence decisions were made not for popularity but to increase GDP and productivity of the nation. Hence we saw higher growth during martial law periods. A relevant example of a technocrat in the Pakistani system would be former Prime Minister, Shaukat Aziz — a banker for Citibank — who revolutionized the country’s economic strategies. During his tenure as a finance minister, and then as prime minister of the country, Pakistan saw a rise in its GDP, leading to a flourishing economy and international recognition.
Pakistan is at a crossroads and democracy in Pakistan has not worked for the two primary reasons: (1) It can keep spiralling downwards with ministers who have fake degrees and are incompetent for the ministries that they hold; (2) It is a country which is governed by feudal lords who come into power with autonomy, hence the essence of the voice of the people is lost even before votes are cast. Until land reforms are introduced, the masses will remain at the mercy of these leaders.
Taking into account the current crises, Pakistan is faced with, it is a good idea to keep politicians away from government for some time. A government of technocrats could mitigate the miseries of Pakistan. Public at large believe that so-called democratic governments have always failed in tackling the crises. The country needs competent leadership and a team of technocrats to fix its structural problems before handing it over to next elected regime. Some may argue that a technocratic government is not democratic because it is not elected by the people, but it is less important the way such people are selected as long as they can effectively come up with measures that will take the country afloat.
Technocrats serving a full term and then a transitional one will guide the nation back onto the path which Quaid-i-Azam had envisioned. The route to a lasting constituency for sustainable development is certainly through more and more democracy, not technocracy but unfortunately the multi-party political landscape in the country has been in disarray and politicians have failed in running the affairs of the state and delivering. Injection of technocrats into the system will keep the appointed ministers and people focused on their tasks, which would not only stabilize the county but also the region.