Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Should we worry as a nation?

As a part of that so often spoken of global village, we should occasionally reflect on where we stand as a nation compared to the rest of the other countries, particularly the so called developing countries. This week I want us to reflect on matters pertaining to the decay or deterioration of state institutions and what that might or do mean for a country such as ours. I wish to pose a question as to whether this reflection and current trends in our state institutions should make us a worried nation, regarding the likely long-term effects of these on our cherished democratic practices. We could begin by identifying the main institutions of the state that I will be referring to in this discussion and then assess the extent to which any decay in these institutions separately or collectively could lead to either or both of political instability and poor economic performance.

Ordinarily, when we speak of state institutions, we refer to four main categories of; political institutions, administrative institutions, judicial institutions and; security institutions. Each of these would have a collection of organs or structures often clearly distinct and sometimes not so distinct as to where exactly do they fall and, such is the paradox of the nature of services that governments often provides to their citizens. Some of these services cannot be a preserve of one organ or even a single category of state institutions. It is therefore important to note that in certain instances they will be a very thin line between political and administrative institutions as would be case between security and judicial institutions or any other combination of two or more of these categories. But why should it be of any concern to us that these state institutions function in a manner that poses fears for instability?

It is of note to mention that in democracies such as ours, the four categories of state institutions provide the framework and environment within which the extent of government efficiency and effectiveness are measured. Relatedly, we measure a government’s responsiveness to modern demands of good governance and democratic practices on account of the roles and responsibilities of the state, as performed by these institutions, individually or collectively. It is assumed that whether the roles are performed by single state institutions or a collective of one or more categories, the purpose, intent and ultimate goal is to preserve the citizens’ rights to accessing national resources in an equitable and non-discriminatory manner. In the general exercise of their duties, state institutions are often judged not only by their organizational practices, that are often crafted in policies and guidelines of their operations, but they often bear the brunt of practices by individuals within those structures, especially those in the leadership of these institutions. The latter is critical in maintaining institutions credibility and support from the citizens.

On the basis of the above brief explanation of possible state institutions role playing, it becomes pertinent that as a nation we reflect on the roles of these categories of state institutions, individually and collectively. It is after this reflection that we can begin to assess whether there is need for apprehension or not in terms of them preserving our cherished ideals, of a functional and respected democracy in comparison to what our global world has provided as guides to modern democratic practices. Three main issues make me ponder on the need for us to ask or reflect on these question. Firstly, we have had a relatively sustained concern over the ability/capacity of our political institutions to effectively play their expected roles in enhancing and protecting our democratic and good governance practices, such that they ensure that we have an environment that can sustain desired political stability and economic performance that mirrors the interests of our citizens for productive growth. This is particularly visible when we assess our political institutions’ role in effecting their oversight role over other state institutions of the other four categories. There have been concerns that our political institutions are often constrained financially, legally and human resources wise to effectively play this critical role.

Secondly, we have also had numerous administrative reforms over the years, seeking to address the issues of rationalization of government’s administrative structures, as well as ultimately providing a functional and productive public service. The jury is still out there to judge the effectiveness of these reforms and whether any of them has added value to the focal role of public service, been provision of service delivery in an efficient and effective manner, particularly and, more importantly, with less wastage, corrupt free practices, and in genuine openness and transparency. I note here that the reforms have been across the four categories of state institutions although in certain aspects some categories might have received more attention than others.

Thirdly, the last few years have seen sustained reports about the happenings of our security institutions and most of these reports allege impropriety and malpractices by both the key organs and sometimes their leadership. The various reports of operations of the Directorate of Intelligence Services and its director, Botswana Defence Force allegedly missing spy gadget and leadership issues and instances of shooting & even killings of individuals by security personnel, are issues that should make us ask if these are genuine normal practices the nation should expect from security institutions or if legitimate and normal boundaries of mandates and exercise of legal roles are not violated.

The above issues suggests that in our assessment of the extent to which our state institutions exercise their mandates, legal authority and legitimate use of powers, are these roles patterned in a manner that can provide long-term sustainability of our political stability and economic growth patterns beneficial to this nation. Any deviations from the expected legal and sometimes even ethical practices, would point to an affront on our preferred democratic practices and more importantly, it could mean that some or all of our state institutions are in decay. The long term effects of decaying state institutions are known recipes for political instability, political corruption, stagnating or declining economic performance, impenetrable and ineffective public service and judicial ineffectiveness. These are effects we would wish not to experience beyond scales we have already seen so far. I still dare ask, need we worry at this stage?

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