about us
  areas of expertise
  our projects
  ideas & resources


  Index of Articles          Index of Perspectives            Next Article


     How Much Worse?    

Omkar Goswami


Once upon a time there was a hard working man who came from a poor family and grew in stature while labouring for years in the service of his country’s kings and the one queen. Although he didn’t write many scholarly tomes, he was considered a learned man, based upon his early years as a student at reputed temples of knowledge. He was thought of as honest, decent and fair; and so universally respected.

After having served in all key positions in the government of his country that came with his specialisation, the man went abroad for a few years to earn some money and returned — all set to enjoy a life of reading and sunsets. Lo and behold, he was asked by the newly elected ruler of the land to be his finance minister.

The country was going through very difficult times and was all set for bankruptcy. This man, backed by his ruler, set upon the task of cleaning the mess and slowly creating a foundation for sound financial management of the land. Which he did over the five years. And the world recognised him for his ability. Unfortunately, his ruler’s party couldn’t win the next election. He went into semi-retirement.

Then, after almost eight years, his party won. The lady who was now ran the party called upon him to rule as the prime minister. In the first five years he didn’t exactly cover himself with glory. But the world was doing well; and the more so his country. So there was no murmur of misgovernance or incompetence. Indeed, quiet praise of a good man.

In the next election, his party won an even larger mandate. Some nasty enemies from within were electorally eliminated. Here comes the sun, exulted the nation.

Instead of driving success for his motherland, the man failed miserably. In four years, he impotently presided over decline, corruption and chaos. A country which grew so impressively in the first five years slowed down inexorably. Investments started drying up.

Projects to build much needed roads and power came to a grinding halt. He who made his mark in fiscal prudence saw his government spending well beyond its means only to fund consumption, and could do little to stop it for three years.

But that was nothing compared to the lack of any governance worth the name. Most of his ministers did what they wanted, if they did much at all. Few cared for either him or collective responsibility or to administer their charges. A nation blessed with abundant resources such coal could not find enough to supply its power plants. Soon, the centre could not hold.

Even worse was the terrible smell of wrongful acts and rampant corruption. It started with organisation of games; then came the telecommunications scandal; then coal mining which was under his custody; bribes for postings by the nephew of a cabinet minister; then a stupid colleague interfering in a judicial process, presumably to save him. A never ending list or wrongs.

Today, he is an object of ridicule across the press — a colossus reduced the stature of a match stick. Or less. Instead of owning up to the mess and making a determined effort to clean the act in the short while left for him to lead, he remains silent. As if the maelstrom of inaction, misgovernance and corruption has nothing to do with him.

Where is this man that the nation respected for honesty and probity? Where is his sense of having failed a nation that had so much faith in him? Where is his resolve to make good in the time that remains? Does he wish to be known as he is now mercilessly lampooned and caricatured? As one of the country’s most ineffective leaders? Or does he have it in him to make amends, even in the short while that remains? Does he know? Or care?
Published: Business World, June 2013


                 Index of Articles          Index of Perspectives            Next Article