Juanjo Álvarez: Politics and management: the great challenge

The announcement of the composition of the new Basque Government under the leadership of Imanol Pradales has been accompanied by messages that underline the preference for technical and experienced profiles to focus on public management. The final and functional sense of politics has never It has had a lot of intellectual glamour, but today it undoubtedly has a renewed importance. We need, more than ever, for politics to recover its prestige and strength. And this reflection emerges in the context of a unique political situation, after the long electoral cycle experienced and in the context of a Basque society in transformation, increasingly global, open and transversal, while at the same time less intense and polarized at an ideological level.

Added to this is the complex political and social context, and in the face of the combination of catastrophic geostrategic, economic and socio-economic factors, any attempt to provide certainty and security is extremely difficult. We live in an accelerated present, with no time for reflection and calm debate. In politics, everything must materialize quickly; urgency captures the present.

The classic debate between technocracy and democracy has re-emerged, as if they were two concepts that could not be reconciled. The “government of technicians” was already defended by Plato with his ideal of society in which he proposed that each person should do what he or she is best at. Does this imply a “depoliticization” of the Government? Not at all. Good management of public affairs is the best procedure to reconquer spaces for political configuration. It does not imply any renunciation of defending and developing ideological postulates from management in accordance with the model of society that the government defends.

We must do things better than ever, be highly efficient, have integrity and get results.

It is not easy, but it is necessary to try to achieve a balance between efficient, excellent government action that responds with agility and strategy to the challenges we face as a society and the more strictly political dimension of every executive and the party or parties that support it and that allows a connection with citizens, a recovery of trust and a closeness to social expectations.

To achieve this, it is not enough to lead a government (i.e., do things properly) but one must lead (therefore, do the right things). The sum of factors necessary for transformative leadership includes gaining and generating trust and reputation and working politically with unfeigned humility.

Achieving the desired trust requires, in Euskadi and in any other social context, a genuine renewal of politics. It implies incorporating new processes in political action to overcome mere opportunistic tactics, breaking the constraints that generate a kind of systemic deficit in politics, so inertial and so routine that it distances itself from the people. Social problems are not solved only with a good and efficient administration, but by cooperating with the affected sectors.

Public institutions and those who govern or serve in them must be the best way to avoid or alleviate political and social instability. And in this context, things must be done better than ever, be highly efficient, honest, productive and obtain results. The worst letter of introduction that public administration can have is inefficiency; and politics, impotence.

In this context, the innovative discourse of the brilliant and committed Italian economist Mariana Mazzucato, author of essays such as ‘The Entrepreneurial State’, takes centre stage. In it, she defends the need for ambitious governments. She proposes moving towards a stronger and reinvented public dimension (administrations and governments); in fact, she is betting on a public sector that is involved in taking risks and in creating a new vision of society, instead of limiting itself to correcting market failures.

We must try. There are no magic wands. For my part, and in this last reflection that I convey from this space and time of freedom of thought and expression, I would like to emphasize how among some political leaders and many observers and commentators we can glimpse the recourse to the strategy of attributing to themselves a kind of retrospective lucidity (that kind of prestigious intellectual fraud that the writer Muñoz Molina has defined as “prophesying the past”). Those of us who have had the privilege of being able to participate in the public debate by word or in writing should not forget this double premise of action: humility and responsibility.

Extreme pessimism should not be confused with lucidity. Often, this resource conceals, along with a desire for notoriety, an attitude as sterile as that represented by disdain and indifference (that intellectual position increasingly cultivated in certain circles). We are already very full of negative energy, let us move forward in the positive construction of shared spaces in order to overcome all existing challenges.

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