The Prime Minister’s latest suggestion to the bureaucracy is worth heeding. He told civil servants in a speech on 21 April that they should learn from managers in the private sector. While the reform of private-sector bureaucracies has not gone far enough, there is little doubt they are now leaner, fitter and more focused on outcomes than ever before. In contrast, the government bureaucracy is still bloated and more concerned with territorial battles rather than with serving citizens.
Economic reform has meant that the primary goal of the bureaucracy is no longer to control but to deliver. But there is little evidence that the civil service as a whole has reoriented itself.
The task of restructuring babudom will take time. There will be stiff opposition from the unions. An immediate solution is to get in outstanding individuals from the private and NGO sectors on fixed-term contracts to stir things up a bit.