The process that creates growth, progress and positive change is development. It adds physical, economic, environmental, social and demographic components. In technical language, development should convert raw materials and energy to products and services along with waste. If more waste is generated than products and services, it does not help to expand the size of economy. To minimize the waste, plan should be focused on the right man in the right place revising present administrative culture and bureaucratic practice.
A dynamic situation created by the need for speedy, multi-sided development of a country, it requires a change in the principles and methods of administration so that science and technology get their due. Who head the administrative machine are themselves semi literates in so far as knowledge of science and technology is of great concern. In the present era of rapidly advancing technology, a non-technical civil servant is generally incapable of informed judgment on technical matters. It is said that there is no person more dangerous than a layman with pet ideas.
It is argued that administration in the context of a developing economy should place less reliance on procedures, rules and regulations and more on speedy work based on expert knowledge in various fields of development. The government of Nepal is moving with the new development model “Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepalese” by achieving faster growth to become a middle income country by 2030. To fulfill this objective various development projects are identified and for the successful completion of them, role of specialists is very crucial. The problem is in defining the respective roles of the specialist and the generalist in the present context which may create lots of hurdles in achieving the above objective. Such problem is acute at or near the top of the hierarchy which is deepening as the functions of government is expanding now. This problem is mediocre for our government committed to direct participation in securing rapid economic growth at present.
The generalists and specialists are two broad functional categories in the Government. They play a very important role in rendering advice to the political executives, policy making and in implementation of policies. The Merriam-Webster dictionary says that generalist is “a person who knows something about a lot of subjects”. A specialist is “a person who has special knowledge and skill relating to the particular job, area of study. The never ending generalists-specialists debate is based on false assumptions like generalists are all-rounder and they know more about environment than do the specialists. Assumptions like generalists are better in policy-making and planning situation than specialist, and that anyone can do anything once they are generalists do not have solid foundation. This is absolutely not true in present condition where government is willing for a speedy development. Specialist should be impaired with more administrative role in order to help them advance and make them effective in policy and decision making. In fact in the modern world the administration of engineering enterprises can only be done by technical generalists.
The contemporary administration has become more specialized and technical and hence requires different types of personnel with necessary skills, knowledge and qualities to discharge its functions. But in case of Nepal specialists with special knowledge are always in shadow. Generalists do not entertain the presence of specialists so they created very less positions for latter in higher ranks. They never allow specialists to come to front .So policy making in Nepal is based on wrong technical and non-specialized assumptions. In today’s world practice, role of government is increasing expanding to non-traditional scientific areas, where generalists can contribute very little. They are unable to accommodate the advances in science and technology. They are more rules and process oriented; have little knowledge about things they decide. Generalists are regarded as jack of all masters of none. The focus should be on professionalism not making people jack of all. Hence, to develop Nepal, role of specialists should be uplifted in all levels e. g. policy level to implementation level.
Due to the multiplication of developmental activities, the Government of Nepal should force to induct into its service the technocrats, the scientists, the engineers, technicians and doctors, etc. These technocrats can make a substantial contribution to the country’s developmental efforts. Why not the technocrats be allowed to hold the highest positions in the administrative hierarchy? Why should the Administrative services be given special weightage? Modern complicated administrative processes require a clear cut statement of service rules and conditions and a Specialist abreast of these written codes or rules and regulations can do as good as a Generalist, in running modern administration. Specialists can also do the job of generalists, whereas the generalists cannot do the job of specialists. The private sector’s example is instructive. There, young professionals are typically recruited in specialized areas and they rise to generalist leadership positions negotiating their way up the hierarchy.
In the context of a welfare state, a generalist as head of department is undesirable. This system results in a non-expert minister assisted usually by a non-expert secretary to whom a non-expert head of department is adviser. There is thus a solid non-expert top and many technical people feel that it is a hopeless situation. Unless the adviser has the experience and the knowledge of the field at grass roots and at the same time has a broad grasp of administration as a whole in the State, his advice is valueless. A specialist should contribute in policy level by being a technical generalist.
In a developing economy specialists like doctors, engineers, physicists, economists, Chemists etc., should be right at the top in the line authority rather than thrown somewhere in a staff-cell attached to the generalist line authority. As an incidental advantage of adopting this system, it is claimed that government would become less bureaucratic, more programme-oriented and committed and better suited to create an environment of respect for science and knowledge in the community. It is also advocated that experts understand each other better because they speak in a common language and know each other’s difficulties sufficiently well to appreciate and understand each other’s problems.
Another very important aspect that is not in attention is the career development of specialist civil servants. In Nepal, Students who are studious basically prefer the field of science and technology to grow their career. Among them, some only think civil service is best option to add some bricks to develop nation. But hardly can they reach up to higher hierarchy within their career span because of non-availability of higher post for technocrats in present bureaucratic system. A generalist joined the same post on the same day reaches to secretary of Government and makes policy. This bureaucratic practice is compelling a young and very talent specialist to choose the career path as NRN.
We are losing every year thousands of best and brightest products like Doctors, Engineers, Economists, Nurses, Skilled Manpower of higher institutions of learning to Middle East, US, UK, Australia and other countries. It is high time in Nepal that we do away with the generalist character of recruitment of bureaucracy. Instead we should adapt the French model. In France, the top bureaucrats are selected on the basis of their specialized knowledge of the subjects they would be called upon to handle. They are posted in departments as per their specialization. They contribute constructively in that department on the basis of their knowledge and also in the process gain sufficient knowledge and experience in that department.
When they become senior and gain enough experience and achieve mature & broad outlook to properly position his departmental work in the totality of governmental works, they are posted in the top policy-making positions or generalist posts. For that purpose, some generalist orientation training can also be arranged for him on the eve of their posting to policy-making levels. This way they contribute in other areas also. This has many advantages – specialists can handle complex and difficult situations efficiently, there is better crisis management, the jobs are performed swiftly, the approach is task-oriented & not rules-oriented, positive thinking is developed amongst the bureaucrats and finally this will remove all types of ill feelings and intra cadre rivalries.