By Mohammed Kazim (@MAKazim)
As the Arab world began to see reform last year and new legislative and authoritative parties came into the picture, significant budgets were allocated towards the improvement of services. These services include medical benefits, educational standards, access to better platforms for employment, and an overall increase in the quality of life for citizens. Consequently, teams and task forces were created within executive authorities to employ these budgets into sustainable efforts that quickly and strategically benefit the nation.
What surprises me with all of this is that the expectations of the leading parties who allocated these budgets were not managed appropriately let alone managed at all. Coming from a “yes” culture, the signals sent from the executive authorities to the leaders of these nations painted a picture of ultimate success with no challenges and best of all the achievement of the goals in a very unrealistic time frame. As the reality becomes more apparent, these executive authorities are losing credibility, getting their budgets slashed, and being criticized for over-spending.
I believe many executive authorities could have avoided that by managing the expectations of all stakeholders about the implications of improving a nation’s services through 3 crucial elements.
The first implication is an increased cost of service as a result of quality improvement. In order to improve a service, it is crucial that the entire supply chain of the service is improved. This means the necessity to employ talented and experienced personnel and retain them. This also means the need to buy better quality inputs whether they are superior supplies (such as education material or medical consumables) or advanced systems for more efficient processing of information. All of this comes at an additional cost that cannot be benchmarked with the local market for performance. Hence, these services, if not subsidized, require a higher pricing structure in order to be sustainable. This cost implication of service improvement should be obvious but nevertheless new services are constantly critiqued for being overpriced.
The second implication is that any change that aims to improve services will require a significant amount of time. Usually, analysts would argue using their models that are based on linear growth assumptions, that time required for service improvement is only dependent on the activation of the service and they would ignore all cultural elements of adapting that change. To maneuver through the bureaucracy present in the old inefficient services requires a lot of time especially given that the improved services would discredit the current system. This only adds force to the resistance the improvements would be faced with making its creation more troublesome and as a result needing more time. Therefore, it is necessary for the stakeholders to understand that an improvement of service can only go as far as the infrastructure it is built on. Hence, requiring even more time!
The third implication for improving a nation’s services is that it will only succeed if all the other decision makers’ interests are aligned via the highest authoritative power (for example the ruler of the country). It is crucial that all the different players in making a service improvement are incentivized the same way and maybe even penalized for slowing things down. One successful example is the quick implementation of an e-government service for Dubai Government entities. Although this implication may seem very typical, it is surprising how often different authoritative bodies act against the interest of one another.
In summary, the Arab World today is trying its best to cultivate its operations through the mobilization of executive authorities with strategic projects that aim to improve the respective nations’ services. These executive authorities have recently been under scrutiny due to the inability to deliver as promised. I believe this dilemma could have been avoided by initially ensuring the authoritative parties understood that improved services require higher spending, more time, and everybody’s buy in.
Wouldn’t you want to know this information before making promises to a loved one or embarking on a new project like building a home?
23rd Issue – February 2012
Here We Start – Art of Living 101 – Beyond Inspiration
First Years Last Forever – Scenes from Our Lives – Society of Tomorrow
The Mind’s Eye – To The Point – Words, Observations, and Ramblings
Mohammed’s bi-monthly column aims to openly and honestly target issues around the native culture, society, religion, economy, and policy that have resulted as a consequence of the constantly changing demographics of the region. The column is characterized by a point-like articulate approach that gives the reader a comprehensive understanding of the discussed issues.