I was reading the morning papers as I do most mornings and I was amazed at the governmental problems within the news. In the UK at the present time, they still wrestle with the pandemic and how to come out of it, whilst suffering a fuel crisis, increased arrival of immigrants from across the channel, a deep mistrust of police, a shortage of HGV drivers and a shortage of retail supplies to mention just a few.
We know that the pandemic has created a situation that is unheard of in modern times, but governments habitually run into problems throughout their term in office. Unfortunately, these problems don’t usually have a direct impact on the politicians themselves, only on their constituents. I daresay those governmental cars are still full of petrol as the nation queues for hours at petrol stations.
As soon as these problems hit, governments go into damage limitation mode rather than into solution mode. This invariably falls into three main tactics. The first is to find someone else to blame, the second is to put as good a gloss as possible on the late and ineffective ways of dealing with the problem and the third is to try distraction to other subjects.
In other words, political survival is the order of the day and may well work if the opposition parties are weak and ineffectual. But it is precisely this desire for political survival at all costs that means that governments fall short and fail to do the things that will reduce or eliminate crisis situations.
Governments have yet to understand their real role as a public business. They have no money of their own, the voters are the investors. Neither do they have the capacity to make anything of substance that generates wealth, that is what their investors do.
Governments only have the role of creating the right environment for the real investors to flourish. For that to happen, they need to understand the present situation, understand which way the world is moving and create the right environment for the investors to operate in.
Civil servants that are incentivised to maintain the status quo until their final salary pension are not the people to cope with the ever faster changing world. Neither can we afford to wait for two-year enquiries or ten-year projects that may well be superseded by new and better technology before they are completed.
Governments need to bring in people that can anticipate change and can assist the government to create the right environment before the need arises. Anyone with an ounce of forethought would have realised that immigration law changes needed to be made before the summer period when the waters in the channel were calm, not in the winter when the seas are too rough to use inflatables!
They also need to stop worrying about their legacy. It has become fashionable to have legacy projects that increase in cost exponentially and never actually happen. By the time the high-speed rail link is finished, transport is likely to have moved on from railway and railway lines. Why even entertain entering the space race when the defence ministry cannot even get a tank to work to specifications. At least the idea of a tunnel between Ireland and Scotland has been shelved!
But before private industry starts to gloat too much, ask yourselves whether you too are guilty of similar failings. Are you really anticipating the future and planning for it or are you maintaining the status quo while trying to create your own legacy? Would it not be better to shelve the statue of the chairman in favour of spending the money on a creative futures department?
At least the UK government has one advantage over you. They don’t appear to have any competition at the moment, although that may not last for ever. I suspect that you do have competition, with new ones waiting in the wings as well, and they are probably far more of a threat than anything faced by governments.