Can Ghani share his vision with Afghanistan after election settlement?

By Richard Ghiasy Source:Global Times Published: 2014-11-2 19:38:02

Through extra-legal means and foreign mediation, this year saw Afghanistan witness a peaceful transfer of authority. The country now has an economically literate technocrat at the helm with an understanding of post-conflict state reconstruction, a clear vision for the country and relentless commitment. Ashraf Ghani is determined to write history.

In his first few weeks in charge, Ghani has set a precedent by applying strict standards of discipline at the top leadership level, even closing doors on ministers late for meetings. He has also not refrained from keeping an eye on lower officials by paying them surprise visits. Ghani has given a clear signal that a new wind is blowing in town, and a much-needed one if the country is going to survive a daunting military and economic transition.

Fortunately, Ghani crafted a development plan for Afghanistan long before the first election round in April. His action plan has needed amendment as a result of the unity government agreement with the camp of his rival Abdullah Abdullah, but his strategy to rebuild the country has remained the same.

Ghani intends to focus on three areas: socioeconomic development, security and corruption. He is strongly dissatisfied with the imbalance of resources allocated to security and socioeconomic development by the last administration and the international community in the last 13 years.

Ghani wants to approach things differently, but the big challenge for him is to disseminate, cultivate and nurture his vision among officials in Kabul, at provincial capitals and at the municipality level.

Clearly Ghani cannot micromanage every single government department in Kabul, let alone those beyond. And neither can he continue to pay surprise visits on a regular basis.

Officials will have to act in support of Ghani's development plan without the president breathing down their necks. They will need to be subject to a carrot and stick framework under the supervision of their direct superiors instead, from the top all the way to the bottom. But first, they need to know what they are doing, why they are doing it and for what exact purposes.

The biggest problem is that there is no internal government PR apparatus for Ghani to use to disseminate his development plan. The mechanisms and the tools for him to do so are limited.

To make sure that his vision becomes the country's vision, the Ghani administration will have to build up a PR apparatus that allows the leadership to quickly, clearly and efficiently extend his vision and future directives. Also, accountability mechanisms should be created.

While the Afghan canvas is unique, his administration could look at how countries, such as Kazakhstan and Singapore, where both countries' development paths have been shaped strongly by a visionary and determined individual, built and run their internal PR apparatuses.

In support of instilling and nurturing awareness of common goals, the Ghani administration could consider setting up governmental institutes that educate government officials on a continuing basis on all matters of government policy and management. This way Ghani's vision can be ingrained in the governmental apparatus.

In a context as complex as Afghanistan's, Ghani will have to show flexibility. But, he cannot pull it all off by himself. It is not a one-man show, and he will have to make sure that his administration is on the same page as he is. If he manages to do that, his dream of a more stable and prosperous Afghanistan might just come true.

The author is a researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The views presented here are the author's own and are not necessarily associated with the views of SIPRI.

Posted in: Asian Beat, Viewpoint

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