lunes, 26 de marzo de 2012

Accountability and innumeracy in spanish political leadership

Spain is in a worrying economic situation. Main economic figures including  unemployment rate peaking 23%, public deficit over 8% (2011) and a scandalously decreasing of 1.3% of GDP investment on R+D. However these figures are the results of a repeated chain of errors. And the worrying part is that there is no real signs that more intelligent life is arriving to the ruling levels.

Collecting stupidity and demagogy
Political parties in Spain are specialised organisations for promoting people with no real connection with reality and demagogy professionals. The higher you are in the party it is more likely that you are more incompetent and rogue as much as unmerciful and toady.
How is this possible to happen when base militants are not different than average? A natural selection process (favouring incompetence and stupidity) is possible because inside the political parties there is no effective tracking of the accomplishments/ results  of the former jobs/decisions. Only a good skill on blaming at others' faults and hiding yours and an unbeatable loyalty to the winner leader actually accounts internally.
This situation results later on in the managing style of their public responsibilities. An exasperating example is the fact that only  corruption from other political parties  is a general rule but corruption in your own party are just exceptions.
Innumeracy leads to squandering.
Innumeracy (not getting the real meaning behind figures) shows its extreme consequences in the Spanish administration.
Is the construction of an airport or the construction of a high speed train good or bad?. For the short-term vision of an Spanish politicians the answer is yes. Independently if the airport has no planes, and the millionaire high speed train takes 9 passengers a day.
Innumeracy (common sense) explains that such investments depends whether this infrastructure will be sustainable in the long-term apart for these two examples of squandering.
Another innumeracy sign is reflected if you analyse the political programs of political parties and you see that there is practically no figures in it. Consequently there are no figures in their speech and no figures in their analysis. And, at the end important decisions are not supported by figures with the results described at the beginning of the article.

Is accountability in the agenda?
For 30 years, governments in Spain were not capable (or interested in) passing a law which regulates the right to access to public sector information. Including those that wrote such promise in their electoral programs. Besides this, other regulations that could help to make accountability possible are not enforced systematically.
It is remarkable that in a country where million people are able to vote in TV shows and around 70% of people browse internet regularly, the government provide most of their information based on paper or in inert public data.

Inert Public Data
Inert Public Data (IPD) is this kind of public information that even being public requires such costs to access or to use that is equivalent of not being published. Difficulties ranges from:
- The time to access (fill a form and wait for an answer),
- Economical (high fees),
- Legal (inability of derived uses, i.e. it is quite common that commercial uses are restricted) or
- Technical (pdf image format is a common format for providing information).
Public information should met this minimal conditions for being really useful.

Current national government in Spain is passing a law which could solve part of this situation, but only if they are able to enforce it. It is not a matter of more legislation but of a real impulse to make them being enforced.

Modernization of political parties, in example, introducing  accountability into their organisations, it could be reflected in the modernization of the Spanish public administrations. On top of that if innumeracy were reduced into the same organisations demagogy would suffer an abrupt decline and governments would focus into the real problems.
New law of Transparency, public information access and good government could be a good starting point, however its enforcement it is a defying challenge.