Why competencies of political leaders is a must in developing an economy
If our leaders are willing enough to look within, and equip themselves then we would be able to address the challenges facing us today
Among leaders, political leaders are the least researched. Political leaders can be categorised based on their time-orientation. Certain leaders glorify the past and struggle to let go of it.
On the other hand some leaders are more futuristic. Yet, another set of political leaders focus on ‘the now’ and neither focus on the future nor glorify the past.
The fourth type of leaders are ones, who do nothing at all. All four kinds can be found in our Parliament.
Our country has serious issues, thanks to our past politicians’ decisions. Some examples of such issues are the heaps of foreign loans, taken at staggering commercial rates, which require immediate corrective action.
Moreover, there are certain areas that have problems, which can lead to economic, social and political catastrophes at national level. Thus, there should be a need to transform the prevailing situation into an economically beneficial and a future-oriented situation filled with opportunities. There are ample examples to benchmark ourselves against, such as South Korea and Singapore.
When looking at current economic giants in the global arena, which were once poor, their success stories can be attributed to a leader or a set of leaders.
It seems that either these leaders had a strong political will or they did what was required without giving into political pressure.
Even though we have realised that the country needs a political and economic overhaul the ability of political leaders in convincing their electorate that these changes are a must even if they are not politically popular is doubtful.
The broader issues faced by Sri Lanka and the competencies that these politicians should possess to contribute to the growth of the country are as follows:
1 The need to increase economic growth – This is the most pressing issue facing our country. A consistent economic growth with a minimum trade deficit seems to be the solution. To achieve this we need to increase our exports and manage our imports by restricting and discouraging unnecessary imports in order to retain foreign reserves.
In this context it is vital that Parliamentarians take their micro-level thinking hats off and embrace a macro level approach. This essentially requires getting rid of traditional ‘cause and effect’ thinking and adapting a systems thinking approach. Otherwise, history will repeat itself and there is a greater possibility that today’s solutions can become tomorrow’s problems.
2 Reducing corruption – Corruption has escalated to a whole new level in the recent past. Traditional methods of bribery and taking commissions have been modernised leading to a number of white-collar crimes. The question is whether the existing regulations pertaining to bribery and corruption are strong enough to prevent such national level corruption. Corruption should be discouraged, eradicated and penalised at micro and macro levels across the country.
3 Enhancing transparency – In a country where literacy rate is above 90%, people tend to read, write and comprehend current affairs to a greater extent. Some people may ask questions about how certain development projects were done, on what basis they were awarded, on what conditions the loans were raised whilst some may not be interested at all.
Just by enacting the Right to Information Act, transparency will not be upheld. Both the general public and the bureaucrats should be empowered to share what is relevant without causing unnecessary trouble to the development process.
Transparency goes hand in hand with reducing corruption. The greater the magnitude of transparency, the lesser the room for corruption. Whilst the culture of secrecy should be discouraged along with the unwillingness of bureaucrats to share such information, enabling efficient processes to facilitate this objective is also paramount.
4 Improving social wellbeing – Social wellbeing goes beyond the physical and the mental health of the general public. The objectives of improving social wellbeing should necessitate much larger macro level benefits across the country without focusing only on underprivileged groups. While the whole economy creates equal opportunities for the general public it should also ensure a decrease in income inequality. These efforts will foster a level playing field for corporations to carry out their profit oriented ventures.
With regard to the four-macro level challenges discussed above, every Parliamentarian should make a conscious paradigm shift from being bogged down in his/her own political ideology towards a more open-minded perspective by keeping their eyes focused on the changes that are happening internationally.
Insight into the interests of the general public
1 Committing to the general public as a whole should come with the understanding that in a democratic society people elect leaders of their choice for their benefit. At the end of the day treating them equally is a must, even if they have not voted for your political party.
2 In a country where the open-economy has led to growth, the private sector should be empowered to its full potential. Therefore, creating a business friendly economic and political environment across the island is a must.
3 Eradicating corruption should be at play, not only at macro-level but also at the level of individual leaders as the general public think that they can reap the benefits of zero corruption via social welfare.
4 Domestic consumption needs to be increased by increasing the purchasing power in terms of per capita income on an yearly basis. This can only be achieved if every Parliamentarian, especially those who hold Ministerial portfolios understand how their programs result in raising purchasing power and the standard of living of the public.
1 The vision of a government should necessarily be based on what people think is right. Moreover it should definitely meet their overall expectations. Transforming the overall ambitions of individuals in to the vision of the government will become a reality if individual parliamentarians execute their responsibilities with a strong political will.
2 No leader can do a single micro level activity on his/her own. Leaders should be able to get things done through the cooperation of others, be it bureaucratic public sector or private sector. All in all, 99% of success depends on the flawless execution of plans.
1. Within the four macro level challenges identified earlier, there are many other challenges that require much contemplation to reach robust solutions. People affected by micro and macro level issues believe that their issues haven’t been taken seriously. To better manage such issues, every parliamentarian should be objective savvy so that they can quantify the impact and prioritize a course of action.
2. In order to develop the country certain policy decisions should be made to meet modern day requirements. Decisiveness in such policy reform is a must because what is right is not always popular.
3. While the articulation of a vision and its flawless execution are critical, leaders should also be proactive in looking for obstacles that may hinder progress.
4. Relentless focus in achieving respective objectives is the key to success.
Politicians are often blamed for being surrounded by the wrong people. Even though the prevailing electoral system encourages this phenomenon, it is detrimental that political leaders surround themselves with the right sort of people, who believe in an effective political ideology. Moreover, they should be generally accepted by the majority of the general public. It is very important that the people in leadership positions are capable of executing tasks on par with the political vision of the country.
It is very much important for a leader to be able to influence the key stakeholders across society at large. Be it religious leaders, social leaders, labour unions and various other social groups who have received a sense of acceptance among the general public.
Unless properly managed, these stakeholders can sabotage or can cause significant delays for much awaited political efforts to develop the country. Therefore, it is important to maintain regular briefings and educate them on the overall socio-economic changes and their impact.
Holding broad support
Charisma to garner the support of diverse groups, locally and internationally is a trait an effective political leader should possess. This means being a leader in the true sense of the word through fairness and transparency.
A political leader who is widely loved is street smart and knows instinctually to approach people at a grass root level. Moreover, such a leader is qualified, well versed and literate enough to gain the respect of people of all walks of life.
To unite diverse ideologies, diverse ethnic groups and socio economic classes in the country, an effective political leader needs to set an example to the general public by treating everyone equally.
As a country we have a long way to go to become a proud nation led by effective leaders.
Such a day is not far, if our leaders are willing enough to look within themselves, and equip themselves with the missing pieces, qualifications and tools. Only, and only then, would we be able to effectively address the challenges that are facing us today.
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