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    Is a presidential system mandatory to improve the efficacy of the administration?

    Güven Sak, PhD07 April 2015 - Okunma Sayısı: 782

    History seems to have paced up in Turkey these days. Not one, but multiple incidents happen in the country every day. The truth is, I feel somewhat dizzy. Before we can make sense of a particular incident, we come across a new one. It’s only natural to be dumbfounded. Or nauseated. Here I was, supposed to address the issue of what to do in order to improve the efficacy of the administration. I doubt anyone remembers what has already been in print about the issue. I don’t feel like summarizing everything I had said and confusing you once more. Let me just start off with the blackout.

    One of the incidents of March 31 was the unscheduled power cut across the entire country. It has been 7 days since the incident occurred. We still don’t know for sure what happened in the country that day. I don’t really think that it’s rocket science. Nor do I believe that we should give credence to theories like a cyber attack, which are way out of our league. The truth, if you ask me, is much simpler. Turkey cannot manage its electricity transmission system. Our administration does not know how to pull it off. Our companies, especially those that consume high electricity, are already aware of the level of administrative skills that they face. This was the first time that all of Turkey faced the grim reality, the fact that our administration is incompetent. We paid the price too. We know that the cost of a 7-hr blackout is about 1 billion dollars. Frankly, I believe everyone who suffered losses must sue TEİAŞ (Turkey Electricity Transmission Corporation). They deserve to be sued. Sue them and get compensation for your losses, I’d say.

    This incident reminded me of a discussion I had started a few weeks ago. Here’s the list of the questions: In order to ensure that the administration does its job in an effective way, should the state be run like a company in Turkey? Is it mandatory to switch to a presidential system in order to render the state more effective? Remember, these were the fundamentals of the debate that Mr. Erdoğan started. I believe that these questions lay the basis of a very interesting debate. Let me answer them one by one:

    Is running the state like a company the way to prevent the state from being clumsy like it was in the blackout incident? Don’t we see a bulk of companies that don’t do their jobs well, that are clumsy, and that trick their customers? We do… But what happens if the system is open to competition, if we don’t particularly protect incompetent companies with administrative decisions? The incompetent company goes under and withdraws from the market. Therefore, every company tries to do its job well unless there is a competition flaw in the market. What is it that allows the good management of companies in this framework? It’s the potential accountability of the companies. With regards to running a state like we run a company, what will improve the efficacy of the administration is the possibility to hold public administrators accountable at all levels and at all times. The way to run a state like a company is to identify the culprit in a transparent manner and to remove him/her from office right away. The steps to remove the TEİAŞ administration from office can be considered in a positive light in this sense. Is a system change necessary to remove incompetent officials from office? That we can debate on another occasion. But this is what I make of the effective functioning of the administration. Within this framework, Mr. Erdoğan’s statement that the state should be run like a company is a valid point. If there are barriers to the accountability of public administrators at every level, to remove such barriers one by one is a good thing. This is the answer to the first question. Now let’s address the second…

    Is it mandatory to switch to a presidential system to render the administration more effective? What is it that we should consider here? This: In order to hold the culprit accountable is it possible to run a mechanism that can trace every step of the administration throughout the process? In every normal country, there is such an apparatus at the very top of the administration. In the US, this is the exact job description of the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) that works under the direct command of the Presidential Office. (Let me underline this point: It’s a Council of Economic Advisers; not a Council of Sociological Advisors. For the design of public policies is a tough problem of economics.) The CEA is not composed of single advisors; it’s a massive body. If any practitioner office, say TEİAŞ, makes a regulation, it submits it to the CEA with an analysis report on the purpose of such a regulation and the anticipated impact. The CEA, aware of the political agenda of the president, makes the decision as to whether the regulation should be made. The CEA is a body of policy coordination.

    The same coordination unit is under the Prime Ministry in the UK. The mission statement of the Cabinet Office there is the same as the CEA. It checks out the regulatory proposals, revises targets, and then monitors whether the commitments have been fulfilled. A good policy coordination office assesses whether it was worth the trouble. It monitors the implementation stage as well. What if it wasn’t worth the trouble? The regulation is amended. A similar unit was set up in Malaysia under the name PEMANDU to monitor transformation programs brought onto the agenda in 2009. The prime minister signs an annual contract with its own ministries through PEMANDU and removes from office those who cannot keep their promises. What is the idea? The way to hold the administration accountable is a policy coordination unit. The example in Singapore has been fulfilling its mission for decades.

    This is what you will see if you consider the examples: Effective administrative coordination mechanisms set up to make sure that the state corrects its errors and holds the culprit accountable are found throughout the world. They are found in presidential and parliamentary systems alike. There are no such accountability mechanisms in Turkey. What Turkey needs to make sure that the state works like a company, in my opinion, is a strong policy coordination unit.

    The priority condition for the efficacy of the administration is not a presidential system but a policy coordination unit.

    This commentary was published in Radikal on 07.04.2015