(This article has been in my head for several months and further thoughts have appeared since the London Riots, which will need to appear in a separate article now!)
2007/2008 saw the collapse of some of the biggest names in the financial industry; banks that had been in existence for over a 100 years. There has been lots of commentary, analysis and editorials all around the world on the subject. There are plenty of interesting facts emerging from all this writing. The greed of the bankers and lenders, the impotence of the Financial Regulatory bodies, the toothlessness of the governments and the suffering of the ordinary tax paying public to have to pay for this crisis have been the common themes in all these writings.
In the UK, like in many other western economies, the governments have bailed out several banks to the tune of 100s of billions with no penalties associated; soo.. unlike the penalties you or I have to suffer if we miss a single loan repayment to the bank. The governments pledged (during the election campaigns) to put restrictions on what the banks can do and limit their bonuses and penalise for non-fulfilment of their promises. These have all been forgotten and all is well again in the banking world (post elections in 2011!), thanks to the tax payer’s money. The big expense on the ‘Merlin Report’ of public funds to pay for the experts has been lost behind all the smoke and forgotten about. Whilst the huge amount of taxpayers’ funds have been used up by the treasury to help out the banks, they need to find the monies now to pay for what the governments are really supposed to do – looking after their subjects. They have found a shameless way to do that – cut public services, increase taxes and reduce AND delay pension payments to the public services employees who have no recourse to anything else. Very few politicians have the guts to stand up and fight for the common man! The overriding desire to look after no. 1, in these hard times have made it very difficult for anyone to oppose the government initiated ‘austerity’ cuts. If you oppose or strike, you are branded as being removed from ‘Reality’ and not accepting the market forces. Why should you have to?
The local governments are being asked to cut down their budgets and cut short any programmes, which are not deemed to be ‘essential services’. What is needed is a whole shift of attitudes and a more business-like approach to running public services. The Civil Servants still think of their jobs as ‘jobs for life’ and once they get to a certain decision making position in the authority, that is when the abuses start. The generation old practices of setting up budgets and then making sure it is spent fully to get a similar (or higher) allocation for next year is all nonsense. Awarding contracts to outside commercial organisations with poorly worded contracts and little respect for the public money being spent (wasted), outsourcing services with no idea of what you are expecting to receive from the supplier and having no penalties in place if they fail to meet the standards appear to be the most common ways how government agencies waste money. It makes me laugh when I hear of commercial organisations being hired (and paid!) to dish out the social security benefits and other social programmes spending, purely because the government bodies do not have the ability to manage their affairs efficiently. Won’t it pay to hire ambitious and more dedicated staff and promote people with the right spirit to the positions of decision making. People who generally make it to the top are those who are ‘old friends’ or ‘pub mates’ who have refined the art of social networking to an extension of the Interview Room.
I once worked for a ‘not for profit’ organisation in a Department Management capacity. What a joke that term is!(‘not for profit’). Do the chairman and cronies not get huge salaries and contracts to provide services to these ‘not for profit’ organisations? In a meeting with the Finance Director, I once commented if it was possible to encourage the department managers to run their departments as their business and reward efficiencies and help cut wastage. What a ludicrous idea I had suggested, because the FD thought that it was impossible to expect managers to work in that way. I thought of myself as being so naive at that point. This makes me think of most businesses in this country, which are owned and run by Indians. There must be a cultural thing to manage things well without too much wastage as most of these business go on to become highly successful, irrespective of the field they are in. The process of ‘Lean Management’ comes naturally into all Indian businesses! Additionally, the thing about Indians is that they do not shy away from hard work and are, generally, loyal and trustworthy and have a natural acumen for business development. Why not find such people (not just any old Asians, but Indians!) to run government departments and see how the services flourish. Obviously such people should be able to present themselves well in public and possess good business knowledge or, at least, show the willingness to learn the trade!! The reason I spend all this time on this section is because, I believe, that the key is NOT cutting down services, it is to manage the services well, cut down wastage by poorly managed outsourced services, ensuring that the organisations which are given funds by the local or central government are properly monitored on their spending and their programme structures. Many ministers and local councillors have such faith and trust in the goodliness of fellow humans that they form an unduly high opinion of themselves once they have agreed to fund the ’social-uplift programme’ proposed by some crude businessman with excellent presentation skills. They fail to put any checks and procedures in place to oversee the progress of such ‘charitable’ organisations, who then continue to drain the public funds for years, purely to get rich on public funds!! Such practices need to STOP!
Poor monitoring and haphazard selection of business partners appears to be one of the biggest reasons for draining of public funds from local and central governments. If such wastage can be controlled, many of the cuts and the cancellation of services will become unnecessary and the governments can still control their budgets. The governance methods of the councils and central government need to become more transparent and effective along with introducing a mentality of accountability, which has been missing for decades in government.
The now all prevalent austerity measures (a lovely phrase!), is a way of saying that most services to public are being cut, while the bankers and our politicians have not suffered a bit! All thanks to the capitalist greed left to get out of hand by their colluding government partners (worldwide!).