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Government Apparatchiks At Work

THE SOLUTION

Now that the article has outlined the "problems", it delivers the "solutions" (yeah… don't laugh). And what are the recommended cures to the problems that the article outlines?

Enhance performance monitoring, reporting, and information sharing:

Aha. Uhu. This is actually a strange recommendation considering that apparatchiks and bureaucrats live immersed in a sea of numbers and reports. What exactly it's enhanced monitoring, reporting and information sharing going to accomplish? Basically nothing because either decisions won't be taken or the wrong ones will be used because they are politics-based, not bottom-line based.

Rewarding of good performance:

This is funny, really really funny because basically what the article is proposing is to use a private sector tool to incentivate apparatchiks. Of course, this will never work for the very simple reason that it's impossible to link so-called "good performance" with anything remotely objective. This is so because there is no bottom line. How exactly will this rewarding be quantified? In the private sector this is easy to do because it is based on profits. No profits no bonus. But in a government environment there are no profits and therefore any reward it's strictly subjective and therefore inefficient. Sure, the USSR tried it in the past with some success but even they felt behind from what capitalism can achieve. Our forecast in this matter? Simple, yes it will improve government infrastructure projects a little bit but not too much.

Enhance the management capabilities of staff:

This is again very laughable because if there's something that government apparatchiks do all the time is to attend "courses" in order to achieve "qualifications" which entitles them to higher salaries. If there is something that governments are not lacking is education. To suggest to the government to train people in project management capabilities it's ludicrous because the problem is not project management but political interference with project management. Governments can hire the best project managers in the world and it still won't make any blinking difference. You must never forget that government projects are driven by political reasons and not by economic necessities. As such, project priorities are always subservient to political priorities. It simply won't work.

Make selective use of public private partnerships:

In this scenario essentially what governments do it's to tweak government contracts. Tweaking happens at two levels, the first level is that contracts are now "cradle to funeral" which hypothetically means that corporations will have an incentive to do a better job because whatever they built they will have to maintain. The second tweaking happens because there is a pay for performance clause built in in the form of user fees or something similar. Now let's take a breather and analyze this. Why would a company be incentivized to deliver on time and on budget if they can keep halfassing maintenance? Typically what happens with government projects is that they create artificial monopolies and as such people won't have any choice but to pay regardless of the quality of the project and corporations know this very well. There is no incentive here. And how about the pay for performance thingy? Well, for as long as infrastructure projects do not fall apart they will keep collecting user fees. And as they are the only game in town (typically through the granting of an artificial monopoly by the government) they have no incentive to do otherwise.

CONCLUSION

We began this article by stating that what was actually interesting as was the thinking that people have about government project. As you can see the article did not disappoint. The lesson that they pretend to impose on us is that government projects can work if only we fix a few minor things. What we have shown on the other hand is that government projects do not work because they are based on assumptions and processes (i.e. politics) which have nothing to do with project management and everything to do with keeping politicians in their jobs. As a consequence of this none of the recommended fixes will have any meaningful impact whatsoever on government projects. It's a pipe dream. It's the old idea that it is possible to fix a theoretical flaw from inside a system. Wake up people! If it is a theoretical flaw it cannot be fixed by practical solutions no matter how hard we try! It is theoretical! Which means that all practical elements are based on and derived from the flaw.

Let's be clear. We are not saying that all government infrastructure projects will fail. This is clearly a fallacy. What we are saying is that all government infrastructure projects (all government projects as a matter of fact) are severely biased towards failure. As such, we are not surprised at all when they fail. Miserably. There!

But then again, governments have the need to justify their existence and academics the need to justify their jobs. As such, these kinds of "recommendations" pop here and there all the time.

If you believe these articles we have a question for you: how is it possible that such simple solutions that have been implemented since the dark ages by private entrepreneurs are failing so dramatically when it comes to government action? No, we do not expect an answer right now. Ponder on it. Eventually, sooner or later, you will come to the same conclusions as we have. Unfortunately by then it will be too late. But hey! You have the sacred right to steal from us and give it to the government so that they can waste our hard earned money and oh… Did we mention that money is yours too?

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

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