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What successful governments do

Oct 17,2020 - Last updated at Oct 17,2020

For some time now, we in Jordan have not had what you may call a “successful” government. At least, this is what most people think. And the feelings of the majority are generally to be trusted.

A lot of slogans, a great deal of either sophisticated or flat discourse, plenty of promises and even tall tales, stemming from “good intentions” rather than good planning; with no tangible results.

As a new government is now tasked with the process of steering the country safely through a host of pressing challenges, here are three of the major characteristics of a potentially successful gov-ernment:

One: it has to be task-oriented and result-driven.

One understands, of course, that governments have to deal promptly and efficiently with all the chores and issues that unfold on a daily basis, as well as with so many variables that emerge with little or no warning.

Nevertheless, each individual government must identity the macro or micro schemes or projects that it intends to implement in its relatively short term, and must do its best to deliver those schemes and projects by the end of its term in office.

To be lost in the details of daily business and lose sight of the crucial micro or macro schemes and projects that a government is expected to achieve is a killer for governments.

This is one reason, among many, why we have not seen successful governments in the country for some time.

The million dollar question the new government should be asking at this point in time is: what are the specific projects and schemes that we are expected to be delivering by the end of our term?

Two: it has to be a government that capitalises on trust and on positivity, and not one that builds its approach on suspicion and negativity.

To be sure, there is corruption in the country, there is inept bureaucracy, there are mistakes and violations and even a degree of lawlessness, and there are social and economic ills, etc.

To be sure also, corruption needs to be fought, bureaucracy needs to be addressed, mistakes and violations need to be stopped, and social and economic ills to be rectified.

There is also the mighty challenge of COVID-19.

And it is the job of the government to act on all these fronts without any hesitation. We all want rule of law, we all want zero violations, and we all want healthy institutions and a healthy society.

But the government is expected to act on these fronts with a clear vision, with wisdom, with a humane approach, and with professionalism, and not to confuse matters and blow them out of proportion, and act amateurishly and meanly.

Some previous governments, which lacked wisdom and professionalism, are guilty of stigmatizing the country as corruption-rampant, when in fact it is not; of suspension of public servants and pub-lic institutions, when in fact they should not have done so; and of focusing on petty, small and neg-ative issues. 

There is a difference between solid reform that is based on building capacities, improving systems, and inspiring people to fulfill their potential, and adolescent approaches that hunt for mistakes, disseminate a culture of suspicion and fear, and deviate attention from matters that count.

The challenge for our new government is to avoid such a fatal pitfall, and base its approach on trust of the country, of its institutions, of its people; but put together, at the same time, meticulous plans for reform and development.

Three: it has to be a government that masters expert communication.

Good governments are governments that keep the channels of communication with the people open: listening carefully, assessing, and digesting what people say, and conveying their plans and positions clearly.

For some time, we have not had good communication between the government and the people. We have had either politicians who are good with words but not honest or truthful about what they do or do not do, or those who are neither good with words nor good with what they do.

Most of the time also, communication on part of the government has been either one-way or top-down, when good communication is two-way and bottom-up as well.

The challenge for the new government is to communicate effectively on this latter basis.

There are, of course, more characteristics for a successful government. The three mentioned here are sufficient for any government to achieve acceptable, satisfactory results and to win the hearts and the trust of people, most of whom have lost faith in governments.

By being task-oriented and result-driven, by being positive and constructive, and by adopting a quality two-way communication strategy, the new government has the opportunity to break loose from the cycle of failure to which several previous governments fell prey.


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