[ ARTICLE ] Azmin Ali or Khalid Ibrahim ?

I am writing this article purely from the point of a political observer. This is how I look at the contest as a keen observer. This is not a DAP official stand on the leadership issues in PKR. PKR is a member of Pakatan Rakyat and an important ally just like PAS is. The DAP leadership has its views on PKR leadership. Their main interest is to see PKR remain strong to be on the same side to displace BN and UMNO.

I shall write in the most general terms hoping the message here is understood. It is hard to write on or against colleagues. There will be a second follow-up article to state the issues clearer. That will be for the benefit of people who prefer brutal candour as opposed to less robust reasoning.

If I were to have a wish list, the top question is, what kind of leadership do I want for PKR? My answer will be: since PKR is a political party not a corporate entity, or a management-centric organisation, I will want a political leader.

The aim of politics is basically that of organising efforts, material and resources to obtain political objectives of securing and retaining political power. The other overriding objective is to have a leadership with the resolve, dedication and discipline to defeat BN. That to me would require a different kind of leadership than one that is required to run a business corporation for instance.

Business leadership may one day find it more profitable to be in mainstream politics and so can decide it is of strategic importance to be in BN. But political leadership sees no profit in linking up with BN because it is driven by different values, namely to stay the course and remain true to its own political objectives.

I have a problem, with the continued promotion of business success as a qualifier for public office. Therefore while Khalid’s achievement in obtaining cash reserves for Selangor for RM3 billion is laudable, that to me isn’t a qualification for him to be a deputy president of PKR. Success in the market is not an automatic disqualifier for public service, but it is a far different undertaking with different purposes and different values.

And to suggest that government needs people experienced in business reminds me of the old feminist saying that a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. In fact, business and government — while there may be skills involved that are translatable and useful as one moves from one sphere to another, are in some ways polar opposite undertakings.

The business of business is business and the goal of business is to earn a profit in the provision of goods and services. The business of government is service — well managed, one hopes, and not wasteful, but never at a profit.

As to the money, we must remember there is no such thing as government money. Governments have no money; they have only what they take from their citizens, either in taxes or by inflation and what it gives back in terms of wellbeing of the people. And if government accrues profit it can only have done so by taxing too much or eroding the value of the citizens’ income and savings — in either case doing harm, not good, to the people.

Businesses seek maximum efficiency; governments seek sufficient efficiency. Suppose we desire security of the nation. We can save a considerable amount of money by delegating our national security to mercenary armies drawn from other countries as opposed to keeping a high-cost standing army and paying them wages, thus erasing the need to maintain a perpetual and costly military infrastructure. Zahid Hamidi can always ask the human traffickers to bring in the Ghurkhas from Nepal, serve as our army to achieve maximum efficiency. State governments could close Jabatan Kebajikan offices and require that all transactions with government be conducted electronically, with no recourse to potentially sympathetic human beings. These are choices governments make reluctantly but businesses make routinely.

Politics and Business operate on different ethics. Consider the question of earned merit. In business which is very much a merit-based enterprise, one’s employment is continued so long as he or she maintains sufficient production. The productive ones continue to receive pay checks; non-productive workers are cut loose. That may seem unfair to the bleeding-hearted, but it is productivity that provides profit and insufficient productivity that drains profit and therefore survivability. Distinguish that ethic from the commitment of government to provide a safety net for those who are, quite often due to no fault of their own, non-productive members of society. How do you deal with them?

In business, the non-productive are sacked or have their employment terminated; in government, the non-productive are not treated that way.  That is because the society as a whole, believes single mothers, orphans, the mentally or physically infirm deserve sustenance and protection. Men and women whose careers are in business may also share in the value of compassion, but it flies directly in the face of a belief in maximizing profit and winning bonuses. They may say, it is nothing personal, just business.

So PKR has to decide, what kind of leader do they want? Business or political leader?

To be fair to Khalid, I do not mean by this to suggest that the corporate experience is, or should be, an impediment to elective service. It does mean, however, that candidates for public office should not hold out that expertise in business as a primary qualification for election. Yes, okay, so you’ve run a company and you’ve made money; it’ll look good in your CV. Three cheers, hip hip hooray.

But it is important to spell out how that experience translates into meaningful preparation for service in government. Granted, it may curb the temptation to be profligate, and that’s a definite plus, but government is about helping to ensure that the government’s economic policies are not inimical to others making a profit. It is not about slashing spending but about meeting society’s obligations with efficiency and accountability. For business, forests exist as a source of lumber; for society, forests exist as a source of pleasure.

Business and government are not opposites, but they are distinct; the mind-set is necessarily different; the understandings are different; the obligations are different. Whether you cheer for Khalid Ibrahim and others like him, to win or lose in this coming party election, we should demand of them a downplaying of the business credential and a focus on how they would meet the actual challenges of governance on the specific terms of public, not private, service.

The most keenly watched contest will be for the deputy president’s post. The contest will essentially be between Azmin Ali and Khalid Ibrahim. The withdrawal of Tian Chua is seen as a measure to shore up support for Saifudin Nasution.  This plan may not work.

Votes are not transferable as one would like them to be. Those who were rooting in for Tian Chua who have decided not to support Azmin, may not necessarily vote in Saifudin. Although he is the PKR’s secretary general who has the opportunity to go all over the country and who has the opportunity to cultivate support, members may want to support Azmin. In the end, I think the presence of Saifudin will not derail much of the Azmin’s juggernaut. As to the other contestants for the same post, I don’t think they carry much weightage.

SOURCE : http://sakmongkol