Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Aligning the interest of govt. and its people

There is a serious lack of alignment in the interests of the government and the collective of the people ruled. How else can anyone explain the future government's intention to liquidate the state/country in the name of helping the poor people.
Take the example of Tamilnadu. The DMK government came to power promising a television for each household (along with )if they win the election. They won the elections and this time upped the ante. Now, they want to give grinder or mixie to all the women. Plus, a laptop to all the students studying in govt. and govt aided colleges. The opposition party, AIADMK, is desperate to win and is playing the DMK's card even better. If they win the election, they promise to give grinder, mixie & a fan to all the women. Students of govt, govt aided and private colleges will get a laptop each and even class 11 and 12 students.
One question that begs to be asked here is: at whose cost? Is it at the  leader's personal cost? Of course not. It is with OPM. Other People's Money. In this case, the very people they will rule.
This problem is occuring and re-occuring due to two different reasons. One, the politicians and the government say that the ultimate test is people's vote and thats all that counts. Easy for them to say. After all, they have no stake or interest in the common people and it is the people who are going to suffer in the medium to long term.
They are no KPI (Key performance Indicators) that their bosses(the common people) or an independent arm of the government have setup or are monitoring. And there is no reward/punishment for the government and its officials based on these KPIs. The KPIs are usually used as a passive parameter to compare the policy initiatives with the effect on the ground by statistical organisations and is used more for academics and deciding policy directives. They are not currently being used as a strict performance measure of the government based on which its rewards are based.
Two, the government is able to exploit the differences between the poor and the others (working middle class and rich). The non-poor have televisions, fan, can afford spending on gold in marriage, etc. The poor on the other hand cant think of months or years ahead when they are focussed on earning their next meal to survive another day. This difference in interests gives the government ample leverage to play the pro-poor populists game while ignoring the long term impact of the decisions. This is equivalent to selling the family silver to get some income to dispose off immediately. I am not against poor, but providing televisions to all of them doesnt serve the purpose of taking them out of poverty. Where will they keep the television? Whats the use of the TV if the government doesnt have enough money to setup power plants and hence doesnt provide electricity to run the TV.
This problem of differed interests in similar that of secured and unsecured lenders in case of a distressed company. While the secured lenders would like a restructuring to happen and turn around the company, the unsecured lenders would like to see the company liquidated. The secured lenders have nothing much to lose as they have security cover over what whatever amounts have been lent. On the other hand, the unsecured lenders have some amount of money to get out of liquidation and if the restructuring doesnt turn the company around, they lose everything. One of the solutions used to align the interests of the secured and unsecured creditors is the concept of strips. Here, all the debt(secured and unsecured) is pooled up and stripped into equivalent pieces. So now, each creditor has both secured and unsecured portions in his 'strip'. Once, these strips are there, all the lenders can come to the best effective way to solve the problem (restructuring or liquidation) based on the business risks involved. 
A similar approach needs to be planned and used to align the interests of the poor and the non-poor so that the government doesn't play the divide and rule game with its people. I am yet to figure out how to make the 'strips'.

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