Input-output analysis is a good guide to determine the direction of government programs to keep track of what actually happens to the people they are serving. If that is built in from the beginning, it becomes easy to dispense with a lot of red tape. Results-oriented government needs to focus on funding outcomes, not inputs. Politicians and bureaucrats have to be clear about the mission, objectives and policy guidelines. Performance measures are essential to bring quality, competition and cost reduction to the table.

The traditional bureaucratic approach has to be replaced by the new system; studies show that government departments pay little attention to outcomes. It does not matter how well the children do in one school versus another, or how many poor people get off welfare into stable jobs, or how much the crime rate falls or how secure the public feels. In fact, schools, welfare departments and police departments typically get more money when they fail; when children do poorly, the crime rate rises.

Entrepreneurial governments seek to change these rewards and incentives. Public enterprises know that when institutions are funded according to inputs, they have little reason to strive for better performance. Entrepreneurial institutions avoid creating an environment or work culture that helps employees assiduously protect their jobs and build their empires, pursuing large budgets, large staff and more authority. But when they are funded according to outcomes, they become obsessive about performance. Because they do not measure results, bureaucratic governments rarely achieve them. They spend ever more on police and prisons, yet crime rates continue to rise. Same is the case with education, where dropout rates and failures in examination and declining standards are no secret.

A failure of government should be considered a failure to achieve outcomes/results, not a failure to secure re-election. The other view however, is that you can be successful if you appear to be successful. “You learn very quickly that you do not go down in history as a good or bad secretary in terms of how well you ran the place,” wrote Michael Blumenthal, who had served in President Carter’s cabinet. We can make similar assessments of our chief ministers, ministers and secretaries as well as the politicians who have something to say about the performance of provincial governments. Most of them will loudly protest against the election commission, but they hesitate to talk about performance and measures to improve government performance.

Unfortunately, politics focuses on perception and ideology. Not performance. Politicians everywhere are re-elected based on how the voters and interest groups perceive them, not on how well their government provided services. In developed countries however, that is no longer true. Their citizens refuse to pay higher taxes for services whose prices sky rocket while their quality declines. As a result, terms like accountability, performance and results have begun to ring through the halls of government. Unfortunately, in spite of organized public opinion on vital issues of public interest, there is very little that gets done to provide relief to the affectees in countries like Pakistan.

Very little seems to have happened regarding escalating prices, water, gas and energy problems and issues related to housing, health, education, national and personal security and the problem of unemployment. These are issues over and above terrorism, extremism and sectarianism.

I am not deterred by the current scenario. I am hopeful.

Today, our world’s best professionals; doctors, engineers and others, are working in the Europe, Middle East, the UK and the US. We need to create opportunities for them to come home to serve Pakistan. At home we need to enhance the capabilities and build the capacity of our civil services to enable them to best serve people in terms of results that can make a difference.

 The writer is a former director NIPA,  a political analyst, a public policy expert and an author.