Defining the horses and courses  

Mahmudur Rahman     | Published: June 29, 2018 22:36:53 | Updated: June 30, 2018 21:23:01

With four years to go to retirement a police officer has been assigned to a gratis course offered by Alliance Francaise, designed to prepare him and others. This is ideal for service in the United Nations Peace Force where knowledge of the language is required. Yet another case of not using an opportunity for the right individual. Every year, funds and opportunities similar to those are wasted, in part due to not making proper and timely communication, in part due to not finding the right individual and in a major part due to sending inappropriate persons to the courses. Those who are privileged, return from their assignment fresh with ideas that can't be implemented because they are transferred somewhere else, thereby left without a relevant platform or simply because they don't have the chance to do so. Innovation idea boxes are non-existent in the public sector.

The dichotomy spreads across most public sector areas. Traffic police aren't given the tools to counter brazen acts of law breaking on roads, especially by the new phenomenon of motor cycles. Getting hold of such delinquents, rudely straying on to footpaths, making a break at traffic signals and travelling without mandatory safety equipment are thus ignored with a shrug of shoulders. The occasional sterling example of a cop brave enough to turn back a senior government official's car for motoring down the wrong way does emerge but even in such cases no traffic ticket can be issued. However, commuters using their own transport know there are fingers itching to file cases for traffic violation. Such a proliferation over the past few years has a lot more to do with a fairly recent decision to allocate a portion of the fine to the fining officer. The process worked, at least for a while, with the National Board of Revenue as an incentive bonus above the normal pay, perks and bonuses admissible. The horses for courses example doesn't work well for those frantic officers on foot, who try to chase a motor cyclist. Had the late Annisul Haq been around, we might just have seen a re-enactment of the macabre sight of Victoria Park, centuries ago where mutineers (patriots in our dictionaries) were left hanging from poles, trees and lampposts. The late Haq, in a moment of frustration had suggested hanging drivers parking on pavements and motor cyclists mowing through pavement pedestrians.

Year after year, the Education Ministry boasts the largest allocation in the budget and it still hasn't worked out systems that can be complimentary rather than adversarial to learning. Education is an investment in the future and can hardly be expected to be foreseen by those close to retirement; younger blood that follow trends should be targeted.

The Roads and Bridges Minister spent much of his Ramadan days striding along streets and roads supervising repairs and repeating his annual sermon of all roads to be repaired before Eid. Surely that was the job of the Executive Engineers. And here, too, it's more of the traditional-bitumen hiding the potholes, hastily filled with soft earth. The younger engineers aren't challenged to look for better examples on their training, let alone implement those on return. Or maybe, scribes such as this one is outdated. Innovations such as bamboo in place of steel to hold mortar pillars together and pure earth rather than cement to hold bricks together are better, cheaper options. These benefits are never evaluated, quantified or get a mention in policy revisions. The Prime Minister's suggestion of preparing asphalt or cement blocks hasn't been visibly explored. But then, shouldn't the engineers of the country come up with ideas?

And finally drawing from the candid, if late admission from our Finance Minister that he can't do much about illegal repatriation abroad, perhaps a meeting with the Malaysian Prime Minister and Bangladesh Bank and Finance Ministry officials finding out how others have dealt with it, might help. That is provided they aren't on the list of transferees on return. It's definitely not for the current Finance Minister but those on the short list doing the rounds for the post most definitely should. And when it comes to the all-important finance portfolio, perhaps technocrat and economists are more relevant.



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