Syed Tanveer Hussain
Founder and Consultant, Climate Change Company
Focus: Civil Service
Topics: Managing Diversity, Depoliticization, Sequencing Reform, Downsizing
Keywords: Bangladesh, Malaysia, capacity building, computerization, downsizing, retrenchment, job descriptions, pay reform, ranks and grades, reform sequencing
Interviewer(s): Andrew Schalkwyk
Country of Reform: Bangladesh
Location: Ideas Manzil, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Date: Thu Feb 26 2009
Syed Tanveer Hussain discusses a report on Bangladeshi government downsizing and restructuring he authored for the Office of the Prime Minister in 2002. This document examined the implementation status and relative urgency of recommendations issued by 17 prior administrative reform committees and reorganization commissions. Hussain describes a number of reasons for unsuccessful or incomplete implementation: lack of political will across party lines, insufficient explanation of reform rationale, finger-pointing at civil servants that generates built-in resistance, a reform committee system that fosters procrastination, and a distribution of power that at times favors the interests of a stable bureaucracy. Hussain characterizes his ideal for the bureaucracy and describes a four-step process to achieve that ideal through planning, structural reform, capacity building and constant monitoring. He then explains in detail each of his concrete proposals. Among successfully implemented recommendations he counts separation of the Supreme Court and judiciary from other branches of government, and the establishment of quotas for civil service employment of the handicapped. Pending recommendations include administrative downsizing through elimination of function redundancy and outsourcing of some tasks to the private sector, appointment of an ombudsman, creation of financial incentives for civil servant relocation to remote areas of the country, computerization of ministries, employment of local manpower at Bangladeshi embassies for efficiency, retirement age increase in response to improvements in life expectancy, a constitutional mandate for a Civil Service Act, division of civil service into functional clusters to facilitate competition for awards and promotion, and creation of a senior-management pool. While the government forwarded the report to the Establishment Division for implementation, it neglected its recommendation to streamline reform through an Administrative Performance Services Division modeled after its Malaysian equivalent and set up under the Prime Minister’s Office. Hussain believes centralization is key for successful administrative reform.
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Syed Tanveer Hussain Interview
An economist by training, Syed Tanveer Hussain was trained for the civil service in Pakistan in 1970. He worked for the Bangladesh national government for 34 years. He held various high-ranking positions in the ministries of finance, planning, housing and public works, textiles and environment. He served as census commissioner in 2001, and retired from public office as environment secretary in 2004. He went on to work as a consultant for the World Bank and other international players through his firm, Climate Change Company.