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Archive for April, 1988

Public sector – Corporate leadership

(This is the FIRST in a series of TWO articles on the above subject).

All over the world, the business sector places great emphasis on Corporate leadership par excellence. The world’s business leaders are men picked for the astute vision, intelligence, integrity, knowledge and the capacity to lead by example. More and more, we see that the selection process is getting discriminating and exacting. Even Jardine Mathieson, which is the role model company for the saga “Nobel House”, has picked a 38-year American business executive to over-see a multi-billion dollar empire whose top leadership (TAI-PANS) have previously been drawn from the Kesswick family for the last 150 years.

One of the major reasons for the failure of the public sector Corporations all over the Third World has been the failure of management drawn from the bureaucracy. You cannot take a man used to years of playing safe and put him charge of a business house where every transaction is liable to be a calculated risk. It is neither fair to the man or the Corporate entity that he is put in charge of. Delay in decision making, which is supposed to be a bureaucratic strongpoint, is the perfect anti-thesis for a commercial unit. According to normal bureaucratic modus operandi, he cannot afford to make a wrong commercial decision and as such he plays safe, and in playing safe wrecks the basis of enterprise, which is the hallmark of commercial success.

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A time to fight and a time to unite

The signing of the Afghan Accord represents the first step in ending the untold miseries and the barely bearable hardships associated with largest movement of human population within a small geographical span. Hounded by helicopter gunships, more than 3 million unfortunate Muslims, men, women and children, voted with their feet their profound antipathy to the Godless Society being thrust upon them through the barrels of Kalashnikovs and the gun-sights of T-62 tanks, electing the rough and meagre comforts of refugee camps in Pakistan and Iran. History will record with admiration the hospitality and patient civility of the people of Pakistan, living not only adjacent to the areas of conflict but also along the arterial lifeline of the roads from Karachi to the Afghan Borders. Mr. Gorbachev has bitten the bitter bullet of withdrawal and other than acknowledging his sagacity, one should also accept that it was a brave act of a man with a back to watch because the psychological defeat inflicted on the Russians by their pullout will not go well with the Soviet civil and military hierarchy who will get him, sooner or later. Incidentally, this also applies to clandestine adventures against Pakistan, rather sooner than later.

Analysing the situation purely in commercial terms, the ending of the Soviet military’s “limited” adventure in Afghanistan will have the same dampening effect on Pakistan’s economy as the American withdrawal from Vietnam had on Thailand and the Philippines. As a front-line State serving as a logistic base and conduit for the Mujahideen, our economy had adjusted itself to the positive effects of increased “demand and supply” thereof, along with the supporting services required. The ending of the involvement of the known enemy is bound to cause considerable confusion within the new military elite in Afghanistan composed of heterogeneous factions of varying shades of diverse opinion, which will certainly lead to intensified conflict of the most un-civil kind. This would be an heaven-sent opportunity to the Russians and their pals to nudge this new “war” into spilling over into the territories of Pakistan. The oft-expressed apprehension of our intelligentsia that anarchy will spread through the land, fanned judiciously by antagonistic elements, is singularly and collectively well-founded. The shadow of conflict working in tandem with an economic downturn is a real enough bogey. From a formidable position of economic strength derived from a combination of western economic and military aid coupled with a concerted “demand” situation, we are liable to drift into a state of upheaval affecting our precarious economic balance.

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The Limits of Accountability?

Third World media has a reflex tendency to quietly bemoan its impotence as regards corruption within the bureaucracy. Unlike in the FIRST WORLD, the media’s enthusiasm to do investigative reporting is dampened by an administrative bag of tricks which would put Merlin the Magician to shame. Since the Government’s advertising releases translate into economic survival of the newspapers and magazines, the name of the game normally is that “fools rush in, where angels fear to tread.”

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Paradise lost

Not many years ago, Sri Lanka was a TRANQUIL KINGDOM, resplendent in serenity and beauty. Absolute calm prevailed in the island, peace was almost synonymous with the country’s name. Geographically juxta-positioned at a strategic location, Sri Lanka is at important crossroads in the highways of the oceans, advantageously placed for commercial traffic, somewhat like a larger Singapore. Blessed with natural harbours and a fertile land, the nation’s very merits placed it on a high priority HIT LIST of a covetous neighbour. The unfortunate target of blatant internal interference, there is now only conflict in this troubled land, an internal strife that has brought the economy to a virtual standstill, on the verge of being shattered. With the North and parts of the East in open rebellion, President Jayawardene of Sri Lanka had few options left and he chose to go the bitter course of the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord, a sorry PAX INDIA-NA, the final chapter of which has yet to be written. The optimistically named Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) has suffered enough losses in men, material and morale to justify the adage, “those who sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind.”

There is tremendous goodwill among the people of Sri Lanka for Pakistan, the reaction and backlash of public opinion against hated India has tended to make this affection much deeper and stronger than is manifest to the ordinary Pakistani. Indian blunders (the pitfalls of a ham-handed occupying army modelled on Inspector Clouseau) have acted as a further catalyst in coalescing a groundswell of pro-Pakistan feeling. Our Embassy in Sri Lanka has done exceedingly well in this respect and this is apparent in the attitude of a cross-section of the Sri Lankan people, politicians, businessmen, bureaucrats, servicemen, the man in the street, all included.

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