Saturday, September 22, 2007

Is the Problem Technical or Managerial?

I was invited to a very distant relation's home for Iftari yesterday. Apart from a lovely traditional Iftari with chick peas, butter milk, dates, and fruit, I enjoyed pleasant company, and a family environment.

I met a fellow by the name of Mustafa, who was working in alternative energy in Bangladesh, particularly in biogas. It was heart-warming to hear people on the ground realizing what I read about on the internet so much. It's the common folk such as him who make the realities of solving our social problems a reality.

As usual, in our five-minute conversation, the topic veered toward the state of Bangladesh. Systemic corruption has crippled the country, and Mustafa suggested a sentiment shared by many Bengalis: all we needed was one good leader. Malaysia had Mahathir, Oman had Sultan Qaboos.

It's a common enough sentiment among the common folk, but that, of course, doesn't mean its necessarily true. Pakistan had General Musharraf, who, at the time, was welcomed almost unanimously. Power does corrupt, and politics will be politics.

But there is truth behind it. I wouldn't fully agree with "just one person" being sufficient. One person need not be the be-all and end-all; I think South Asians are too quick through the door into hero-worship, and just as fast to put a bullet in him. But the spirit behind the sentiment is the same as mine: the problem is, and always has been, leadership.

This belief was vindicated by the newspaper headlines just today. In Bangladesh, power load shedding has decreased from a 1,200 megawatt nationwide energy deficit, to a 200 megawatt deficit. The solution? Good management.

27 power plants last year generated 2,800 megawatts of energy, against a demand of (approximately) 4,000 megawatts. Those same 27 plants today, with the exception of one additional 70 megawatt plant that was installed earlier this year, are generating 4,100 megawatts of power, reducing the national shortfall of energy to a mere 100 to 200 megawatts.

The problem wasn't technical. The gas and oil was there to be burned, the transducers were there. It was managerial.

Solutions involved staggering holidays in industrial zones, stricter controls on bill collection, decentralized decision-making. With that, they fixed a problem that had threatened the economic development, the sacrosanct goal of any developing nation, of a 150 million people.

Like the Bengali saying goes: obhab na; shobhab. It's not poverty. It's attitude.

No comments:

Post a Comment


About Me

My photo
I write essays in my spare time on things that are important to me. The ones that I feel are any good, or make any sense, I put them up here. :)