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Business Recorder

Published Date: Jul 16, 2013

Role of ‘week’ bureaucratic structure highlighted

The lecture was an attempt to understand the dynamics of ‘Access to
services ‘in the public sector departments of Pakistan, while keeping in
view the framework of Voice, Exit and Accountability. It was explained
that ‘Voice’ is a mechanism through which disgruntled citizens register
their complaints and the ‘exit’ is a situation where in absence of
services from state, citizens ‘exit’ and acquire it from other sources.

In his lecture, Dr Shehryar Toru, Research Fellow and Governance
Specialist at SDPI discussed various dimensions of ‘access to public
service’ and maintained that people resort to ‘voice’ to show their
resentment on non-provision of services by the state. "In the absence of
any response, citizens also choose to ‘exit’ from an existing service
and acquire services such as education and health from elsewhere, if
they have disposable income. But the poor are the major losers who have
to continuously look for state services as they have no other choice,"
he added.

He explained that advanced societies have well-functioning
bureaucratic systems where welfare services are provided on the basis of
equity by the state through an open, fair and competent administration.
He said that access to services becomes problematic in Pakistan where
apart from disposable income, factors such as influence, status and
entitlements also play an important part.

He was of the view that people, particularly the poor,
disadvantaged and ordinary citizens, experience access problems in
getting desired goods and services because of bureaucratic procedures,
various forms of corruption, ineffective accountability, and un-equal
distribution of resources.

He lamented that state institutions in Pakistan are highly
politicised where behaviour of officials is driven by political clout
and connection with politicians. As a result, they are not answerable to
the people, but to the politicians and the influential. "This
clientelistic accountability system diffuses formal accountability and
impartiality and weakens state structures for service delivery," he
added. He was of the view that the question of accountability, therefore
depends upon the active involvement of citizens not only in development
planning, but raising their voices for effective delivery of services
from the state.

Chairing the proceedings, Naseer Memon, Chief Executive,
Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO) said that human
development was never a priority agenda in a ‘security state’ paradigm
of Pakistan. "Ordinary citizens expect from democracy justice and
effective service delivery and if the system can’t deliver these two
basic requirements besides others, all theories and fancy debates about
democracy become irrelevant for ordinary people," he added.

He argued in favour of devolving a state machinery and stated
that without devolving the level of services, it was not possible for
the state to deliver, no matter how efficient the bureaucratic services
are in the country. Talking about the provision of services from actors
other than state, he maintained that although markets are not perfect
anywhere but in developed societies, the state through their regulatory
role, ensure that markets must deliver, behave and remain answerable to
citizens.

Naseer Memon lamented the process of public sector development
planning in Pakistan which has deeply been undermined by patronage
politics and system of clientage. He said, "The state has surrendered to
influential elites where only getting a simple water connection now
depends upon the behest of some ‘wadera’, and if one don’t have a
connection, all access lines for services are cut-off for the ordinary
person," he added. He also lamented that the minister or his cronies
decide development plans solely for political mileage and without any
research, data or information.

He urged civil society to continue raising pertinent issues
through ‘voice’ and urged the state to respond to the public, adding,
"if peoples’ voices are not heard, they may resort to violence which
would further add to the chaos prevalent in society."