People deserve more than just good PM

opinion January 19, 2019 01:00

By The Nation

Over-reliance on the premier ignores the need to have a great team in government

What if Thailand manages to somehow get football’s best coach to supervise the national team? 

Will the Thai players reach the World Cup finals for the first time in history? What if the late Steve Jobs ran a Thai tech company? Would it have become a world-class firm whose new products were globally anticipated and as eagerly awaited as concert tickets?

The answer to all of these questions is obviously “no”, and the reason why is simple. One person cannot do everything. He or she needs a good team of capable and trustworthy people. 

It is exactly the same in politics. Bad news is that many have been led into thinking that, in politics, one person can work wonders.

Human resources are very important. A great coach with a bad team can disappoint football fans. A tech genius overseeing incapable subordinates can lead a company to bankruptcy. 

In politics, damage is much more prevalent and difficult to undo. The upcoming Thai election, sadly, has been more about individuals at the top and less about teams they are capable of assembling.

In short, there has been too much emphasis on who will be the next prime minister. Our history has seen few government leaders who could appoint efficient Cabinets or who had a totally free hand to select ministers who aimed to genuinely serve noble purposes. Cabinet positions were instead given to influential faction leaders with dubious backgrounds.

The Constitution requires political parties contesting elections to propose prime ministerial nominees so that citizens know what to expect when they vote for a particular party. It’s a good start, but it’s like knowing the identity of the football coach with no idea who his players are. 

The political divide has made the choice of a leader something of the utmost importance while little attention is paid to whom the leader will pick. We have had science ministers with scant knowledge about science, a justice minister whose family mocked the law and countless education ministers who were simply given the job to curb factional dissent.

The current cut-throat situation makes matters worse. Whoever becomes prime minister will need the support of other parties or their factions, making it almost impossible to assemble a good Cabinet with qualified people in every portfolio. Nepotism, whether deliberate or done with reluctance, has long hampered government work. It has wreaked havoc in every system, depriving citizens of a sincere and efficient Cabinet.

Every political system has flaws. The biggest flaw of democracy is the improbability or impossibility of having the best people on the job. If the ruling party can’t find the best justice minister or best education minister, obviously something is wrong. After all, the two positions are crucial if a country is to be competitive and progress.

Let’s hope we are in for a big change this time, because the current state of affairs hampers leaders’ chances of building the best team possible. It’s also imperative that the people demand what they know they deserve. What they deserve is not just one good person in control, but a good, honest and capable team to lead the way unselfishly and indiscriminately into the future.