Pakistan is considered a developing country which, in spite of its myriad internal problems and external events, keeps on inching forward. The recent slide in the value of the rupee, the ever-increasing cost of production and the negative image have all been formidable influences on her economic growth and prosperity. Over many years in the past, productivity was seldom a cause for concern in the industrial sector, or even in commercial ventures or service sectors. Labour was affordable and thus low performance was tolerated and accepted as nothing worth losing sleep over. To compensate for absenteeism, holidays and the fear of shortfalls in delivery, managers would resort to hiring extra staff so that the wheels would continue to move on.
At the same time, the situation in state-owned enterprises faced the same predicament. Productivity was never an issue because of diverse reasons. The most explanatory reason was the influx of political appointees who considered their employment as secure and, therefore, they could nonchalantly take liberties with impunity. The management executives, too, were infected with political patronage and thus, their agenda was in tune with the dictates of their patrons rather than the viability or survivability of the enterprises they managed.
Moreover, in other sectors, such as education, health and even the legal profession, there is much to be said of the sad affairs of having people, who are unashamedly inefficient, ill-trained and unfit for the tasks allotted to them. Most of the one-star schools in Pakistan have teachers who are paid less than the legal minimum salary. This reflects the low calibre of the teacher and it is a shuddering consideration about the trained output from these schools. In many clinics and hospitals, the performance of the medical personnel leaves much to be desired. In fact, many of them are playing with the lives of patients who depend on them for their medical diagnosis and solutions. It is also a matter of concern when small-time lawyers and even petty magistrates write in an atrocious manner, literally massacring the English language.
Restaurants, bistros, cafes, and fast food joints have more employees than are usually prescribed for their establishments. The clear explanation is low wages, long hours and horribly high prices of their so-called delicacies. It is another story that in many such places, the servers, for example, cannot even properly pronounce the names of the dishes, what to talk about offering suggestions on the choices.
What do all of these examples reflect? Obviously, there is a common factor that loudly reverberates the truth. Remember the oft-repeated management advice, “Well, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys”? That is one very evident answer. However, the prime reason is that in all that is happening, everyone in every sector is just perpetuating mediocrity. This is a manifestation of the inadequacies of the decision-makers themselves, too, and shows their own lack of ability. It becomes magnified when a time comes that mediocre people become invaluable to the organisation and start making and implementing their own decisions or directives. The outcome then is like that of a whirlpool that keeps on gathering momentum and gradually becomes a tornado of incompetence and ineptness. This is so much in abundance all over Pakistan. It is time to sit up and observe what Napoleon Bonaparte once stated: “When small men attempt great enterprises, they always end by reducing them to the level of their mediocrity.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 25th, 2013.
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