PSUs must Compete or Perish

- Padamvir  Singh

Senior bureaucrat Mr. Padamvir Singh personifies a fine blend of administrative and academic acumen. His vast area of academic interests matches his rich experience of 35 years in public life. It extends to governance, administrative reforms, Total Quality Management, institution building, training, ethics, philosophy and psychology.Mr. Padammir Singh has been the director of India’s apex institution for training the senior civil servants, the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie.He spoke to UPKRAM Editor-in-Chief Anil Jain on good governance and administrative reforms. Here are the excerpts:

Q. The term “Good Governance” is much more relevant today than ever before. Can you share, with our readers, your perception and modus operandi for its success.

A. The term has come into use since the mid 80s after the experience of the World Bank in Africa. The term refers to the values, structures and processes embedded in liberal democratic thought and practices. While the World Bank interprets this to mean voice and accountability, political stability and lack of violence, service delivery, quality of regulation, rule of law and control of corruption, more recent scholars while using the term good governance, refer to the quality of performance of the key players in a polity. Thus good governance is made up of the performance of the government sector, which includes politics, bureaucracy and the judiciary, the economic sector and civil society. It is only when all these players perform well that good governance is experienced.

Q. A number of studies have been conducted about Administrative Reforms. While dilating upon some key areas, Can you relate such reforms in the context of Public Sector functioning?

A. The most important aspects relate to quality of service, competitiveness, and ethics. To the extent possible, the public sector must get out of monopoly positions. It must face competition from other players. It is only then, that the public sector would be compelled to give its best.

Q. Right from 1950 to 1990 or so, the national policy has been marked by a strong tilt towards Public Sector. Then came the era of globalization and competition. What are your views on this journey, its fallout and its failure.

A. I believe that India has followed the most appropriate path. From a regime of command and control which was characterized by the license raj, protection from internal and external competition, we have negotiated the right mix of policies which on the one hand opened the economy and competition and on other hand preserved the need for a regulated economy.

Q. In this era of globalization and fierce competition, how should PSUs reorient their strategies?

A. The PSUs have to learn to compete and excel. To survive in a globalized, competitive world, every organization has to aim at world class quality. Nothing less would be good enough. If they cannot compete, they must like non-competitive private sector, wither away.

Q. What kind of challenges does the Public Sector face from the Private Sector? What mechanism needs to be evolved to meet them successfully?

A. The challenge from private sector is one of quality. PSUs must orient themselves to the mechanism which drive quality. These include leadership, good policy and strategy, good people deployment, good management of resources and partnerships, good process management with an eye on customer and people satisfaction, making an impact on society and achieving periodic key performance results.

Q. You are in the administrative services for a few decades. How do you view role of bureaucrat’s vs technocrats in the upsurge of the Public Sector?

A. Technocrats and bureaucrats together constitute organizations. Technocrats specialize in technical solutions, bureaucrats or administrators specialize in human and conceptual requirements of organizations. Technical, human, and conceptual skills are required by every organization, irrespective of whether it is in the private sector, government sector or the public sector.

Q. What are your views on the functioning of public sector undertakings owned by various state governments? What needs to be done for the betterment of these undertakings?

A. As I mentioned earlier, the PSUs must focus on quality and leverage technology to become world class.

Q. As Director of Academy of Administration, Mussoorie, you would have guided and organized special programmes relevant to Public Sector directly or otherwise. Would you like to throw some light on your experience in this regard?

A. Most of our programmes are focused on the civil services, however, our sister organization, the National Institute of Administrative Research organizes programmes for the PSUs especially in areas of management, leadership, ethics TQM and public private partnership.

Q. How do you view the future of Public Sector – challenges and opportunities besides its role in overall national economic and industrial build-up?

A. I view the public sector with optimism. I believe that with the large investments made in it, the infrastructure, and the manpower available with it, it can do much better than it has done in the past. Competition will drive it towards excellence. Moreover, it would continue to play an important role in posing alternative to the private sector.