We have many meetings of world leaders to decide on important issues like climate change, WTO trade related issues, monetary system, nuclear disarmament etc., but the consensus & decisions are slow in coming. Is it because our leaders do not have sufficient mandate or the clout to decide on issues & carry the ground along? Some, especially in democratic countries, baulk- at tough decisions due to domestic politics. The election promises cannot be disregarded, but the issues at hand are dynamic, requiring change in tactics – in a way, like losing a battle to win the war! Leaders find themselves strait-jacketed, constrained by election promises!
China can decide & act fast to take advantage, as they are not accountable to the man in the street, but democracies are different. Leadership empowers decisions, when convinced of the merits & then convince others, but our present leaders worry about political mileage being lost to the opposition. Earlier times, leaders took the bull by the horns and had more confidence in taking initiatives & deciding for the country, and this made the progress faster.
Despite the obvious advantages of democracy, are we not going overboard? Our leaders have to watch behind all the time, despite being given clear mandates at elections. Anyone can criticize, but the reality on the ground is dynamic, to stick blindly by the status quo. Also, the ratings done, once too often, demoralizes even the most committed & make them play safe, watch the steps; thereby, miss opportunities to win good bargains, benefiting the country. These relate especially to climate change issues – with repeated meetings, but no consensus, while we are sliding faster into unsustainable lifestyles. The time wasted on important issues, the effects compounding in impact & costs with the delays, reflects badly on commitment, till it becomes too late to change course.
With information technology applied everywhere, decisions making based on cost-benefit analysis, should give better results, but the political fall-outs and playing it safe, baulk decisions on many issues. US has been running huge budget & trade deficits, but the decisions to change course are lagging. The costs to set right the imbalances will get higher but leaders are unable to tackle the issues even now; either hoping that they will just vanish into thin air, or leaving it for others to sort out in future.
The problems have got acute in recent years in democratic countries & the free press adding to the confusion, with their stinging criticisms, highlighting mainly the negative fall-outs, and competing to get publicity, thereby. It is time there is moderation in our approach, so that our leaders feel empowered to move forward on critical issues like climate change, trade, nuclear proliferation etc., which can bring us to our knees with delayed decisions or even no-decision; we know from personal lives, avoiding critical issues make them revisit us with a vengeance, soon after! No decision can prove worse than a wrong decision.
Let us react to new realities on the ground, with China able to take clear stands on issues much faster than democracies, and getting ahead even on cutting edge, game altering industries like clean energy, buying resources to meet their energy requirements. Obviously, leaders have to convince their citizens on the decisions made by them in the interest of their countries, and for overall global cooperation & peace. The rules have changed with the rise of China, India & Russia, with their private sectors playing increasing roles; so the rules have not only to be clear, but flexible enough to adapt to the dynamic world. The only constant is change, and the leaders should not feel constrained by laborious layers of decision-making. The success of companies like Google is testament to leaders who think out of the box. Unfortunately, democracies are found wanting, get bogged-down, and go in circles!