Bureaucracy in the Developing World


Bureaucracy in the contemporary developing world has secured a decisive position in the process of political development or retrogression. Being the colonial legacy, the nation-building for civil officers remained far from their traditional administrative approach. Given the fact, involving the non-political executives in the process of political development and nation-building, the incumbent government again resorted to the buzzword ‘reforms’.

However, despite, Mr. Imran Khan’s repetitive claims to end the ASPs hold on the perks and plots —besides the interventionist attitude in politics — has so far ended up only in making committees and appointing people. Yet the government has failed in practically delivering something. Nevertheless, this by far has historically established reasons.

In mid of the twentieth century, the imperial powers lost their hold over the indigenous independence movements. This in concurrence with the fluctuating Socio-political conditions caused by the blow of the Second World War, paved the way for a vigorous demand for independence. The colonial masters after failure in taming the masses eventually relinquished their hold on the colonies. Resultantly in less than a decade, several states emerged as sovereign entities on the map of the world. These states had no political culture and functional democratic institutions. There was a demand for a democratic setup.

The institutions that had worked under the foreign powers needed to be adjusted according to the changing ethos and politics. The newly emerged political culture lacked the ideal democratic institutions and organizations necessary for the smooth functioning of the state on the democratic norms and values. Among these institutions, the civil bureaucracy was indispensable for the new states. Besides being the link between the foreign masters and the masses, the civil bureaucracy cherished monopoly over power and prestige in the colonial period. The civil officers had specific functions of revenue collection and keeping law and order with an extended degree of autonomy.

In the post-colonial time, the bureaucracy had to face a different political culture whereas the politicians occupied the decision-making position thereby subjugating the civil officers to a subordinate role. The civil bureaucracy wielded expertise, knowledge, and organized institutionalism, in due course of time, which was inevitable for the state’s machinery. However, the paternalistic attitude and authoritarian tone were called upon to change in the newly emerged culture. Along with that, the post-colonial state necessitated an administration for nation-building for which the political executive embarked on the reformation in the values, structure, and working of the bureaucracy. These innovative steps being resented by the bureaucracy didn’t work practically.

Notwithstanding, every newly independent state worked in earnest for political development and modernization. For that reason, the institutions that already been developed under the colonial powers though not for nation-building rather for keeping the masses tamed—had to underpass the reformation process. The political parties in the newly existed states were a mixture of different groups organized for the sole purpose of independence.

Once independence achieved, political parties riven with different factions, could not build, and expanded its entrenched membership base. For doing so, the political parties resorted to the spoil system but the bureaucracy being universalistic and meritorious resisted and did not cooperate with the politicians which could jeopardize the efficiency of the bureaucracy. Thus, political parties at the cost of bureaucratic efficiency remained weak and ineffective. Although for their efficiency also had negative repercussions being deprived of political guidance. Further, the opposition, too, is based on sectarianism could not modify the legislation of the ruling party rather it exercised agitational politics. This again weakened the ruling party.

In this way, the bureaucracy got the upper hand and strengthen its power and prestige. Also, the pressure groups, organized for the effective articulation, aggregation, and communication of the public opinion thereby delivering to the political centers, too, manipulated by the bureaucracy. Owing to the involvement of bureaucracy in the process of formulating the policy, the civil officers did not cooperate and effectively work in areas where the bureaucratic interests impinged the masses’. Through such sort of interventionist attitude of the bureaucracy, the large governmental sponsored associational groups could not influence the decision-makers– consequently affecting the process of political development.

Moreover, in the colonial states, the foreign powers allowed the electorate to practice democracy at the local level. They believed that the local level trained electorate should work at the center once they learn participation. It received high criticism by the nationalistic leaders as delaying tactics of the government. However, in subsequent years of independence, this method was adopted by the ruling elites.

Through the involvement of bureaucracy, the political elites restricted the potential leadership—the large chunk of local representatives remained the formal chiefs, landlords, religious and other influential individuals who monopolized political representations in their respective territories– thus hampering political development. With that, the parliament is also been so weak in developing societies due to the weak aforementioned supportive elements. The political parties lacked adaptability whilst an efficient parliament needs an active electorate, autonomous interest groups, and vigorous political party system: these supportive elements already destroyed by the bureaucracy restricted political development and modernization.

The western developed polities have the most institutionalized institutions: fairly autonomous, adapted to the changing circumstances, complex, and cohered. Unfortunately, the institutions of developing countries are lacking the above characteristics. They have been intervened by the non-political executives who lack the functional differentiation, division of labor, and specialized standards. Though the ease in communication, a free market economy, trade, and inter-dependence of the countries have brought lion’s share of modernization i.e urbanization, increased literacy rate, social mobilization, secularization, and rationalization, nevertheless, the political development or the institutionalization of democratic institutions have yet to be seen in these transitionary societies.

This imbalance between the political and administrative executives not only hindered political development but led to some political crisis or decay. The political order of the transitionary societies is thus decayed or retrogressively affected: the government in the developing societies faced the legitimacy, identity, integration, and penetration crisis. These crisis endangering the existence of the state are often brushed under the carpet by the temporal government; paying not due heed.

The bureaucracy having large leverage in the implementation of the governmental policies frequently augment the intensity of such crisis by favoring factions, securing their interests, and indifferent attitude towards the masses. The integration of the respective state, by and large, has been undergone a huge shackle by the secessionist groups, in the immediate years of independence. However, this crisis alongside political development can’t, of course, be solely attributed to the bureaucracy. But due to the factors— wherein we found bureaucracy responsible for hampering the process of political development— the bureaucracy being the legacy of the colonial powers has a large share in the retrogression of the developing countries. This unfair expansion in the power of the bureaucracy has partly caused by inept leadership and political elites. However, the only institution that can reset the course of sailing is the parliament and the parliament alone can curtail the power and prestige of the bureaucracy through two instruments, control over the public purse and policymaking. The administrative reforms of Bhutto curtailed the power and prestige of the bureaucracy to some extent—although the reforms had not been implemented fairly. A check on the finance can also be advantageous: making non-political executives vigorous involvement in nation-building and political development.

However, the process of political development and modernization ought to be consistent in developing countries. This frequently haunted by the bureaucracy’s intervening attitude: hampering the smooth working of the democratic institutions, determining the roles and influencing the decision-makers, resultantly, has left the developing countries of the kindred. The bureaucracy’s nation-building oriented role can be attained through innovative reforms in its structure and working ways. Only under a definite structure and political guidance the bureaucracy of the developing countries efficiently influences political development in a way necessary for the development and prosperity of the country.

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