Post Mortem

Why we need to overhaul our governmental systems

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 9/10/2019 11:37:32 AM IST

 The poor results of our current governmental system at the state-level are not always because of corrupt politicians and lazy bureaucrats. Indeed, there are some good politicians and dedicated government officials. Sometimes the problem is due to wrong systems.

The most common flaws in our current governing systems are as follows: First, our government is without governance from the perspective of other progressive governments. Even our so-called governing system has come to be about the survival of the politicians, not about nation building. Once in power, much of their time is taken up by short-term projects and quick fixes, because their decisions are short-term and non-strategic. They ignore the most fundamental question of governance which is, “What kind of a society are we trying to build?” 

Second, someone else from Delhi, who knows nothing about our specific local needs or situations, sets our development agenda. Since this is a top-down development strategy with externally imposed guidelines, it is the opposite of a self-determined economic strategy, because our focus becomes “we’ll do whatever we can find funding for.” As such, this puts us in a dependent mode instead of a self-determined one. 

Third, the current economic development approach ignores institutional and political support, thereby entirely missing the key dynamic in economic development. By this we mean both local entrepreneurs and outside investors are afraid to venture out because our political environment is unstable and corrupt. They are unsure if the courts and law enforcement agencies can guarantee a fair judgement in case of potential business disputes. In addition, they are fearful of tribal societies and underground groups arbitrarily sabotaging their business ventures. 

Fourth, indigenous culture is seen as an obstacle to development rather than as an asset. For outsiders to think that way may be excusable, but if our own politicians come to think the same way, that is very unfortunate, because this simply shows the failure of the government to align our customary laws with certain government initiatives. For example, the government is yet to formulate even easement rules or educate the civil society that what it does is merely for public interest.

Fifth, seeing our government primarily as a distributor of resources (jobs, money, services, favors, etc.) instead of as a force for nation building is wrong, because this mindset breeds political opportunism, patronage, and corruption. People vote for whoever they think will send more resources in their direction and influence governance to become a process of moving resources among political supporters. 

Because our current governmental system is flawed, we have failed enterprises and continued poverty. This is not to say that it has absolutely no successes to its credit. Sometimes some Central programs find a fit with tribal concerns and objectives and produces positive results. But overall, the current approach to governance has served the public poorly. It is seriously flawed; it seldom works and therefore it should be radically overhauled. 

What, then, is the alternative? 

In some ways, avoiding the flaws described above partially describes the new alternative. But the other half is the positive side of the coin as described below: First, we must have decision-making power in our own hands and assert it for self-rule to be practical. To start with, the exercise of people’s own decision to be independent is the first step in any nation building. Next is the formal declaration of independence, which the Nagas have done, but it must go beyond that. That is, it must develop into becoming a legal matter, a policy matter, and, finally, a practical matter. This is how self-governing power is typically asserted, which is otherwise denied by colonial control or external paternalism. 

Second, we must back up our decision-making power with effective governing institutions. Having effective institutions means having court systems and a strict rule of law that are insulated from political interference so that they create an environment that is favorable to sustained economic development, because potential investors – whether outsiders or local citizens –are assured that their economic activities and business investments will not be taken hostage to politics or corruption. In doing so, they increase the chances of improving community well-being. 

Third, our governing institutions – village republic systems, dispute-resolution mechanisms, administrative systems, constitutional laws, and belief systems – must match our indigenous political culture. To the degree our governing institutions and political culture are conflicted or mismatched, we will treat them as alien and illegitimate. If, however, the cultural match is high, we are more likely to own them as legitimate and thus make them work more effectively to meet our unique needs and specific situations. Only when indigenous cultures are viewed positively and made to fit our development strategy can we see our cultures as playing a fundamental role for economic success in terms of local job creation, production, marketing, and accountability. 

Fourth, our leaders must serve primarily as nation builders instead of simply using politics as a way to enrich themselves and their supporters. They should approach the development challenge not by asking “what can be funded?” but by asking “what kind of society are we trying to build?” and “how do we put in place the systems and policies that will support nation building and find human resources and the capital to get the job done?” They should shift from short-term thinking to long-term thinking and from narrow problem focus to a broader societal focus. They should see government as a mechanism for nation building. Research shows that this approach is far more likely to be productive than the typical approach. On the economic front, it promises better stewardship of our own resources while increasing the chances of a sustained economic development. On the cultural side, it strengthens our capacity about how things should be done and puts us in control of development strategies, programs, and projects. On the political side, it affirms the fact that the best defense of sovereignty is its practical exercise. 

Mazie Nakhro


Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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