No corporate institution survives unless it delivers products or services reliably within given timelines. This is made possible when businesses create the ability to meet demands without compromising quality – a process, technically known as Capacity Building.

Governance in the modern world has also evolved into what can be viewed as a corporate process that makes lives of customers (read people) better and safer. Capacity building therefore becomes critically relevant for any country that wishes to be called a welfare state.

Governments in the Scandinavian region (followed by other western countries), were quick to adapt themselves to changing parameters, while many (including Pakistan) continued to cling to bureaucratic ‘dogma’disregard capacity to deliver. The only exceptions to this state of affairs was (and continues to be)the Armed Forces, who follow a continuous process of evaluating hostile capabilities and upscaling reciprocal ability to neutralise threats effectively. This week’s piece however, is not about the Armed Forces, for they have done the nation proud in ways that are too numerous to eulogise.

I happened to spend a few days in a residential cum commercial scheme near Lahore, developed by the country’s largest town developer group. Driving to my destination, I crossed ahousing project floated by the Lahore Development Authority. Patronised by the Provincial Government and backed with funds (created through sale or lease of plots to members), I found myself passing through a desolate landscape with odd residential structures here and there, damaged roads, stunted trees, no grass and a general aura of decay and neglect.

I must have dozed off then, because when I woke up, I found myself in an alien environment with lush green and well-trimmed swathes of turf, attractive parks, avenues lined with manicured trees, no sign of litter or trash, disciplined traffic and an ambience of happiness and wellbeing. The next day I came out of my hotel to take a walk in the adjacent mini golf course. To my utter surprise, I found that only three individuals were maintaining the facility using modern technology. The trio worked nonstop with no wasted motion or unnecessary breaks. I stood there staring at how a private institution had invested profitably, built up the capacity to deliver and maintain what they had created, while on the flip side there was another entity, which in spite of all the power, resources and government backing, had nothing to show, but incompetence to citizens, who had invested their entire savings in a bid to own a home.

During one of my reluctant visits to the Capital Development Authority, I was appalled to see the desk of a director piled high with bulky bulging files. I also became aware of a continuous stream of clerks moving in and out of the room, to thumb through years of accumulated documents in order to find the relevant reference. Perhaps someone from this institution (which has the reputation to have no dearth of money) could explain, as to why capacity hasn’tbeen upgraded using technology, to make work flows paperless (meaning efficient, speedy, public friendly and corruption free).

One could go on, quoting case studies of how apathetic disregard for capacity building is adversely effecting public service government departments and therefore good governance. In defense, these departments cite lack of funding as a stock excuse, but the argument becomes fragile, when one observes how the taxpayer’s money is being spent on foreign tours, protocol and perks. Delving deeper into political and bureaucratic culture, it becomes apparent that the actual cause of the disease is reluctance not to break a placid and ‘fruitful’ status quo. I once cornered a senior bureaucrat and doggedly hung on to him in a bid to get an honest explanation. My efforts were defeated and I walked away with a vague nagging notion that he and others of his ilk were deliberately shutting their minds to the symbiotic relationship between Capacity and Growth and the fact that absence of one killed the other. I can only hope that I was wrong.