Editorial : Cabinet resizing - Friday, February 11, 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/02/11/cabinet-resizing-2.html

A PROMISED reform has finally come to pass, and not a moment too soon. On Wednesday, the cabinet submitted resignations to the prime minister, who will now begin a process of formally dissolving it and appointing a more compact group of ministers. This is no mere administrative or political measure but a very welcome recognition on the government`s part, even if prompted by the opposition, that the country is in dire fiscal straits. As it stands, Pakistan`s collection of ministers, advisers to the prime minister, ministers of state and others with ministerial privileges had far exceeded any reasonable size, including that specified by the 18th Amendment for the next administration (which would work out to 44 members for the current one). It remains true that the country is plagued by serious economic problems that a simple reduction in cabinet size will not solve. But in sending this message, the administration was expressing a willingness to correct its own mistake of using the cabinet as an expensive tool for patronage-based politics rather than making it an efficient and effective engine for running the country.

Despite its size, this cabinet had failed to govern. Accused of fiscal mismanagement, corruption and ineffectiveness, it had lost the country`s confidence. Many of the ministers whose names average Pakistanis were familiar with were more often infamous than respected. On a number of fronts, whether security, energy, the economy, minorities` and women`s rights, or education, to name a few, the cabinet had a long way to go to meet the needs of the Pakistani people. The government has often pointed to military successes against the Taliban, its package for Balochistan and efforts to restore the judiciary and the constitution to their pre-Musharraf form, but there is a lot more the cabinet could have done.

This opportunity will be wasted, however, if the prime minister fails to compose his new cabinet in an objective, responsible manner with an eye to achieving results, not appeasing close friends and unsatisfied allies alike. Dedicated operators who have proved their effectiveness and expertise must make up the new, leaner machine. Members of this new cabinet should also have significant knowledge of the fields they are responsible for, or the demonstrated ability to learn quickly about unfamiliar portfolios. And while the realities of coalition politics in present-day Pakistan might necessitate that the PPP`s partners are represented, they should by no means become an excuse for appointments without merit. This is a chance to build a government based on effectiveness, not patronage or appeasement.

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