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Upping the barriers

  • Published at 06:03 pm February 13th, 2019
New skills are key DHAKA TRIBUNE

We may fall further behind if we do not update our skills

One of the essential ingredients of good governance is a bureaucracy equipped with both skills and technology. A combination of courses at the Civil Service Training Academy and the National Defense College is what can be offered to bureaucrats. But the times have moved on, and these institutions are increasingly short of the skills required for today’s world. 

In terms of expense, Bangladesh hasn’t been able to afford access to public policy institutions at international levels to train and update government servants. Most of the training offered through the Economic Relations Division are specific to the point of availability of resource people, and the numbers are also limited.

It makes sense that 1,800 of our civil servants in the course of the next six years will be trained at India’s National Centre for Good Governance.

The centre operates under the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances and is charged with changing government procedures and processes, and enabling the skill set required.

This is one of the outcomes of the ministry in charge of developing human capital both within and outside the confines of the government in India. The approach is not just to make governance easily accessible, but also to enable the use of technology in governance. 

That’s a far cry from the days when senior bureaucrats had sleek desktops on their tables nicely covered up. In today’s world, governments are nothing without laptops, tablets, phablets, not to mention the humble smartphone in the connected world.

Bangladesh has some way to go to be that well connected, but it is somewhat of a shame that we can’t lure public policy specialists back from abroad to run courses here at home, thereby benefitting far greater numbers.

There’s also high demand for such updating of skills in the health and land sectors, and of course the local regional government offices and institutions. When the BJP first came to power, it sent its MPs through a crash course MBA in order for legislators to understand the requirements of businesses. 

In spite of a majority of our MPs being involved in business, they still have to get used to the finer nuances as laws are debated and formulated.

Another reason why the Indian venue makes sense is that most of the sub-continental laws are based on those written down by the British and most new laws are just built on the reformation and restructuring of these existing laws. That the British themselves have moved far away from these laws is a different, if pertinent issue. 

These laws replaced the more feudal and mostly unwritten laws of the past. Ideally, they should undergo full and thorough reform, but the law reform body hasn’t been given the teeth or the wherewithal to undertake such a massive task. 

Hence the penchant towards “amendments” rather than “enactments.” But the way technology is surging ahead, we may fall further behind. That leads to the third major reason why the training in India makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is that with the policy statement of a master plan for upazillas, home-grown talent is required to combine with planners and the odd foreign experts.

What a sensible approach suggests is that a batch of the trainees be seconded to the Civil Service Academy for an extended period to frame courses and pass on the learning. India has progressed in technology and governance, and was one country that kept the core WTO negotiating team together despite changes of government. 

That is one stirring example of political sagacity, and we can only hope that we too, learn from India and progress in our own technology and governance to help realize the country’s visions of tomorrow. 

Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist.

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