Todays Date
November 15, 2019

CRITERIA (FOR MINISTERS)

By Aleksandar Krzhallovski    

 

While the Racket affair, as everything in Macedonia, is slow, too slow, far from the citizens’ expectations, it can hardly be said that it is “on the safe path” (although the Special Public Prosecutor’s arrest is not to be overlooked) to become clear, especially if there has been involvement of high-level officials, another news dominated the public last week – the Prime Minister’s proposal to fill vacant positions in the government, especially that of the Ministry of Finance.

Polemics in the public discourse has taken on interesting flows, though most have been within certain stereotypes. For example, more women defended the proposal containing female candidates, or criticized the cannonades (of mainly men) for the proposed woman minister (regardless of the fact whether those articles were at all referring to the proposed candidate being a woman). There were, of course, exceptions to this stereotype. Much of the criticism was about the age (young) – and thus the lack of experience, no matter what the candidate has done in her personal career and in those few years. There were discussions exactly about that – is the candidate successful in her career so far, and how is it measured or evaluated? And to be successful at what she has done so far, is it enough to run a ministry…especially one of the most important!

 

The die is cast, the challenge (one more) is here (I believe the proposal will be confirmed in Parliament when it comes to the agenda), so the candidates will have a chance to prove themselves (and as one former prime minister called it – show and prove themselves). To be honest, that was exactly my first reaction to the proposal: so well, how long will we be giving people the chance to play ministers? And this more as a conditional reflex, or an experience gained from many examples to date, than this particular current proposal. So we entrusted the transition from the previous system to young people who became Prime Ministers in their 30s that is at the age of 32. Maybe that is why we still have it? Once we had even younger finance minister than the now-proposed and long-time VMRO-DPMNE rule began in 2006 with a “shockingly” young government. For the current proposal, one of the most inventive comments I have read was: “finally the project with the kindergarten (of the Ministry of Finance) called Mini Fine Budgets has begun to yield results”, meaning kindergarten staff have come to run that ministry.

 

But is youth a handicap? Or an advantage? And should it at all be a criterion in the selection of candidates for ministers? Or any other personal trait, such as sex or gender for example? There should be no discrimination on any of those grounds…And that’s what made me think of it, because I am against discrimination on any ground. And yes, youth should not be taken as something bad. So there are countless examples of great deeds and successes at young age. Let’s not go far in history – to the most famous…Jesus Christ, who did everything until he was 33, when he was crucified. Not to mention the other who died at about the same age, after conquering the whole hitherto known world – Alexander the Great. Suffice it to look at the example of the creator of the media we are all “addicted to” – Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg (he is 35 now and he became a billionaire at 23).

So, not only because of discrimination, but also because of the small millions of such examples as above, age should not be crucial in the selection (or at least the nomination) of ministerial candidates. For similar or same reasons, we should neither have prejudice regarding sex/gender of candidates. Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai and current environmentalist Greta Thunberg are enough examples.

However, there is age limit to the election of President of the country here (and in many other countries) (in our case – the candidate must be over 40 years old). Why is there such a requirement for that office, and for a prime minister who is de facto (and probably de jure) more powerful than the president – there is not. The same for ministers.

 

So, what should be the (main) criteria when selecting (candidates for) ministers? In terms of age, when I was studying a professor used to say: In everybody’s career (usually 40 years, from about 25 to 65 years), the rule of 4 decades should be followed – the first 10 years everyone works for himself, the second 10 – for the family, the third for the community (the place where he was born or lives, the municipality or the like), and the last 10 – for the country! The logic of this was (and is) everyone to realize himself and secure a dignified life for himself and his family in the first half of his career, so that if he succeeded, he would devote the second half to “returning to what was invested in him” by working on broader or general good. And it makes sense, but we would have only “old” (and wise) politicians that way.

Some choose a slightly different career path (such as we from CSOs). Here, the professional position itself is basically a matter for the common good or in the case of local CSOs – for the development of the particular community/municipality. But it carries the danger that working for the public good, those people have not done enough for themselves and their family on time (again – without stereotypes – it does not mean so with most), so the question is whether it is good to trust them a state/ministerial function.

 

Most often, as with any job (especially those that are a bit more complex, such as ministerial, for example), the main criterion is the merit system, that is, whether someone is capable (sufficiently “well up”, shown and proven) to perform what a particular job requires. Does he “rule” the matter being treated and whether he has his own vision (or at least a plan) of how to leave a mark while performing that function. And perhaps more importantly – is he aware of the task requirements and his ability to perform? Or according to the well-known phrase: it is good they have offered it to you, but why did you accept it?!?

There are other dilemmas: is it better for a minister to have a theorist or a practitioner? Or, should he have previous managerial experience (because, in the end – the minister is the manager of the ministry)? And perhaps most importantly – if we agree that a previous successful career is a confirmation of the candidate’s value (“merit”) – has he built consistent understanding of that success (in the sense – is it based on real accomplishments or just “perceptions of success”)?

The difficulty is, of course, in defining all of these “requirements” from potential candidates and then sharing them with the majority of citizens. I do not believe that there is any “blueprint” or template for a good (or perfect) candidate for minister, and in many countries it is a matter of passing through elections, so if elected – it is a step towards getting to the office.

But I can say at least for myself, i.e. what I think. Yes, I believe that every candidate for minister should be proven in the field he/she is elected, to have the appropriate education, experience and vision for the necessary changes that he or she would introduce. He should certainly be aware of what he is undertaking and I would expect him to have previous managerial experience. I would always prefer a ministry to a practitioner (who has faced real problems in that sector) than just to a theoretician (although it is best for the candidate to have both knowledge/experience), and especially to a successful practitioner who has made/earned/achieved more than enough for himself and his family. And I would try to check if what he has done before is real or just has a created perception that it is successful. And I think parties should prepare candidates for ministers in their own ranks even when in opposition, including being on the party payroll as they prepare for the office, instead of constantly facing surprises!

 

And in the end, not for this particular case, but more driven by earlier comments, given that many people have succeeded as a minister in Macedonia. One of the suggestions circulated on the internet was – all candidates for ministers to be required to have an intelligence test! Or something like that. So here’s who wants to try…because in my high school (Korchagin) society, occasionally one of my friends assigns us a tasks (like at the time of the Vene or Demidovich textbooks), the last one read like this: “A motorboat consumes 40 liters/hour…if a skier pulls, consumption will increase by 20% in the first 30 minutes, then 10%. If you drive 3 hours a day, how many liters will be consumed during the extended holiday weekend?” The solution, in the next column.

  1. Candidates must first determine which subject the assignment is from! So to resolve it, and then to become ministers!

PPS. I repeat, the task is fueled by the knowledge that so many people have been ministers and what they have achieved (more precisely, not achieved)…and does not apply to current candidates for ministers and deputies…whom I wish all the best, many successes and taking advantage of the chance to leave their mark!

 

*The text is written exclusively for the purposes of Inbox 7. For each republishing, a consent by the editors must be obtained. Inbox 7 does not always agree with the opinions and views of the authors in the debate section.

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