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    An example of micro reforms

    Fatih Özatay, PhD28 May 2011 - Okunma Sayısı: 855

    You can change the written rules overnight; however, it takes a long time to change behavior codes.

    In last Saturday's commentary, I told that this week I would focus on the disincentive mechanisms that are present in the academic community and the weird outcomes caused by these mechanisms. Nevertheless, I have to postpone this to a later date. I have to settle with the examples about the bureaucracy I provided the last Saturday. It will be wise to give a couple of suggestions on how to remedy this adverse situation. I am interested in incentive mechanisms because they are determined by the institutional structure. Institutional structure is one of the main factors that decide the economic performance of a country. If the economic performance is not much favorable, institutional structure must be one of the realms one should scrutinize. These are the main questions to note down: Does the existing institutional structure generate disincentive mechanisms? In which direction must we alter the institutional structure so that such disincentive mechanisms are eliminated?

    Patching to some group

    In the last two Saturdays, I gave examples from the bureaucratic life: I talked about the habit of launching an inquiry or investigation about one bureaucrat with the aim to dismiss him/her off duty or to supplant him/her. The purpose was to save positions for their supporters. This can be an indication of an unwritten code; therefore it is one of the determinants of institutional structure. In that case, a reformer seeking to decide whether or not the institutional structure must be altered first has to answer the following question: which type of behavior does this structure encourages?

    It is evident that such a structure eventually encourages the behavior of "patching to some group". In other words, the perception that it is necessary to take side at one group rather than to be hardworking, skillful or to have the relevant knowledge in order to advance in the carrier gains prevalence among young bureaucrats. Making this identification, the reformer has to answer the following question:

    Then, is this behavior good or bad for the economy? I will again say "evidently", but it is indeed: if knowledge, experience, hard work and skills are not needed to advance in the career, we will have to expect that the decisions public officials will take at some level about the economy would not be healthy, which implies that the productivity of the economy will decrease gradually. Therefore, the reformer is faced with a disincentive mechanism that will affect the welfare of the citizens adversely.

    Training of the officials

    So, how are we to eliminate this factor that erodes the productivity? The first option is to train the officials who pursue have the right to execute this behavior. You can change the written rules overnight; however, it takes a long time to change behavior codes. So, you cannot be successful in the short term relying only on trainings. What is more, the issue at hand is fundamentally related to being a "decent person" who cannot be attained by nature rather than nurture.

    The second option is to change the written rules. For instance, you might judge that employees are entitled to ask the results of the investigations and inquiries to be assessed by a independent unit the personal rights of who are not decided by the officials in the institution in question. In the case that the relevant personnel assesses in favor of the employee subjected to investigation, the performance grade of the employee who initiates the investigation might be lowered. If he/she carries on writing similar reports, he/she can be punished. Here the critical point is how to establish and functionalize such independent unit. Such mechanism together with the in-house training on "criticizing" such behavior codes, positive results might be attained. Maybe...

    The example in today's commentary was about "saving positions for supporters." But what if there already are vacancies for those positions? How can we ensure that those will be filled with competent people? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to that. As you see, it is quite difficult to launch a reform, even about such a micro issue.


    This commentary was published in Radikal daily on 28.05.2011