Monday, June 02, 2014


Bureaucracy: definition and ways to reduce it

Bureaucracy: definition and ways to reduce it
Written by Abu RMH Rashid on 2 June 2014

The formal definition of bureaucracy is given by Max Weber. According to him, burearacy will implement the strict implementation of rules and regulations adhering to chain of command. In any organization, government or private, bureaucracy is present.  It is a common gripe that bureaucracy is halting our progress though it is supposed to help us to move in our personal and state life.
In the context of hassle created by bureaucracy, it may be noted that laws, rules and regulations are not created by bureaucrats, they just implement it. In our life, many people like librarians, etc are implementing rules and regulations. However, we have hassle or tribulations with secondary rules and regulations. These secondary rules and regulations are created to ensure to achieve primary objectives. For example, we want safer travelling experience. To do so, secondary requirements are like driving license is introduced. However, these secondary requirements no way ensure that the primary objective is fulfilled. For example, study shows that if there was no requirement for driving license, accident rate would not be much more.

It is argued that many rules and regulations are created to keep jobs of some people. Further, some licensing requirements are there to keep status and at the same time create a barrier of entry in a profession and keep the business well and good for the existing few. That’s why it is astonishing that some unregulated profession are lobbying for regulation by the government.

In many cases, one has to prove himself that he is that person. This creates notarization, attestation, certification and therefore a whole lot business for notary public and expeditors.

Ways to reduce bureaucracy:
Since most of the hassles are due to secondary requirement, it is best to do a cost benefit analysis to figure out whether the secondary requirement worth the cost, in terms of money and hassle. If it does not, its better to eliminate that secondary requirement.
For verification purpose, its better to use random sampling to verification rather than requirement of notarization or attestation. Random checking for the bigger offences keeping small things to the discretion of people and eliminate hassle of license and so things.
Quality requirements may be informed to the public in terms of star rating for a business rather than imposing strict code for all businesses. In general, there is market for different types of same business and people should have choice. However, minimum quality should be ensured and its better left to the market and if market fails only then government should intervene.

      Removing regulation, no regulation if possible
      One in one out, if new regulation one comes in existing one should be taken out
      Sunset rule: after some years like 7 years the regulations will be automatically removed if initiatives is not taken for renew
      Always think before new enforcement like form filling, tick box, report rather try to use random checking. Instead of sending report, make sure that required information are available if random check happens. For exameple, asst store keeper may be asked to open comment box every week and write in a form kept in tally khata. This tally khata may be occasionally checked by the other bosses.
      Rather than inspection by third party, encourage self assessment which could be checked occasionally.
Exemption from new domestic regulation for micro and start-up businesses for two more years

No more car registration stickers.

Very much informative pdf document.

focusing  inspections on high-risk enterprises so that those that keep to the rules enjoy an inspection holiday

paper work elimination act

Expediting the bureaucracy:
Find the right person and the person with authority, Rather than go through proper channel, try to get to him directly rather than through gatekeepers.
To get work done from the lower level, you may have to first contact with upper level and pass on a message to the lower level. Otherwise for no reasons, you may be hassled.
Initiatives of reducing bureaucracy , regulatory burden and red tape already in place:::
Some of the measures taken are:
Sunset rule – if a law is not reviewed after certain years, it will be automatically be written off.
One come, another out – if a new rule is enacted, an old rule is to be taken out.
Doing cost benefit analysis
Focusing on the most prominent detrimental things , not on everything small to large.

Here goes a list of very good write-ups found in different websites with brief excerpt.

accessed on 31 may 2014

A suggestion that might be helpful in this environment is: If there is a choice, do not leave anything to chance. This means, for example, when there is a choice of using the phone or the mail or memos, use the phone! When there is a choice of sending something through local channels by memo or hand carrying it to get the necessary signatures, hand carry it! But this is touchy, since some people are either offended or threatened by being rushed (especially in the government). One must combine pragmatism with a little diplomacy. If you know that one person is like that, don't rush into that office for a signature, but leave it (personally) with the secretary. If things do not seem to happen in a timely manner, often the case in government, make discreet inquiries. But make sure that your job gets done as quickly and efficiently as you can make it happen. One of the best ways to do this is to know the key people, whether they be secretaries, confidants, assistants, or whatever, and establish a good working relationship with them. Get them to keep you informed as your paperwork passes through the system and ask whether you can help to speed things up.
One important point to bear in mind about the Bureaucracy is that for many Federal employees, the telephone is a course of last resort. That is, if there is a problem with anything that you have ordered, requested, or written a memo or letter about, the person spotting the problem will most likely not simply call you on the phone and talk with you. Instead, that person may write a memo (not necessarily to you!), or put it on the bottom of the pile, or simply return to the office that sent it

But perhaps the biggest lesson here is that, unless there is one person solely responsible for getting the job done on schedule (an absolute necessity in TT), it probably will not happen. In my opinion, this is the single biggest problem in a bureaucracy like the VA. Both the structure and the function of the organization are hierarchical, which means that one person is responsible for everything. (In reality, this means that no one is responsible.) When signatures on a piece of paper say more about a persons status than about who to call with questions, then quality and performance suffer. Therefore, if you are a PI or an inventor at a VA Medical Center where there is no one person in charge of TT, and you want your invention to be successfully commercialized, then you must act as if you personally have been assigned that responsibility (i.e. the responsibility of a product "champion"), or it will not happen. In other words, behave as though this document is written for you.
Avoid the line. Don’t skip the line, but before lining up in a government office in Panama make sure it’s the right one. I have wasted plenty of time waiting in a line just because every one else was. Only to later find out I needed a certain document before I needed to be in line. Upon entering any government or utility office immediately find someone of official capacity and ask them where you need to be to handle your business, even if this means walking to the front of the only line in the room and interrupting. Often where one needs to be first may be hidden in the back, down the hall, one building over, around the block, or upstairs. Ask first, don’t just steer towards the end of the line and wait to ask. Panamanians know this technique very well and are not scared to interrupt anyone. Follow their lead, be assure of yourself, smile and politely ask first. It will save lots of time.
Bring copies and identification. Must government offices will not make a copy for you, but right next door there is almost always a business owner with a copy machine taking advantage of this business opportunity. Copies are only a few cents here. Bring a copy of just about any document that you think you may need and most likely you will have forgotten a copy of something. Panamanian bureaucracy loves paperwork and copies. Arrive prepared.
Sign documents exactly like the signature on your identification. Many Panamanian government personal, especially bank employees, are like signature scientists. They absolutely love to study and compare your signature as if their job depends on it, insisting that your signature is exactly like your passport. I can not tell you how many friends I know that have had their personal checks later denied at their banks for the tiniest deviance in their signature. My signature is almost never exactly the same so I am always having to re-sign documents. It gets frustrating at times. I could never have a checking account here.
Never forget the stamps or your copy! If you are in need of any document from a government or utility office always make sure that it has an official stamp or seal from the associated entity. More than once I have walked out of an office with an important letter I needed for a process and the employee forgot to stamp it and I did not notice. If there is no stamp, it’s not valid. Also, make sure you have a copy of anything you sign and hold onto it for years. The office may not be able to find there copy in the future and it will be invaluable to have yours as proof. This goes for paid receipt of speeding tickets. Hang on to them.


In a September cover story on Brazilian bureaucracy, VEJA magazine described some of the legal aspects of bureauracy. In the past twenty years, 4.2 million laws were created in Brazil at the federal, state, and municipal level. The article, while in a right-leaning magazine, clearly vents frustrations: entitled "Enough to make you go crazy," it contains a section that says:
"The root of the excessive number of laws--and the abundance of stupid laws--is the distortion of the role of the Brazilian legislator who erroneously views himself as a nanny that needs to prevent the citizen-baby from getting into trouble. This infantilization derives from the denial of free will and the ability for individuals to make their own decisions."
Another article in the issue discusses the business aspects of bureaucracy. A Brazilian lawyer, fed up with the tax system, created a book containing every single tax law in decree from 1988 to 2006. He ended up with 18,000 laws, 43,215 pages, and a book weighing nearly 7 tons. Tax laws are so confusing that big companies employ dozens or even hundreds of specialists to figure out how to pay taxes and fill out the ncessary forms. According to VEJA, 17% of Brazil's GDP per capita is lost to bureaucracy, and bureaucracy consumes R$48 billion a year. Companies must keep paper copies of everything from contracts to receipts on file for at least five years, but some end up keeping them longer in case they need them for legal reasons.

I'm a U.S. citizen and my wife is a Brazilian citizen (now naturalized in the U.S.). We married in Brazil and I did all of the documentation myself. It cost around $500 just to get the paperwork done, back in 2001. Among other things they required a criminal record verification from my local police station. At the time that was a rural sheriff's office, and the sheriff was an old family friend. He just signed a note saying I had no criminal record, since nothing like they were requesting exists. All of the many, many documents I had to pull together had to be:
-- Notarized,
-- Notarization verified by the Secretary of State of the state in which the document was notarized,
-- Authenticated by the consulate in my consular jurisdiction,
-- Translated by a "tradutor jurado" in Brazil,
-- Filed with the local registry office (cartorio) where we planned to marry.
Oh the things we'll do for love!
I lived there legally with permanent resident status in process for nearly three years. It was only at the end of my time there that permanency was finally officially granted. Until that time ALL legal transactions, including rental contracts, had to be done in my wife's name. I couldn't even open a bank account.
Posted by: Adam Gonnerman |


A comprehensive article on bureaucracy written by  Brian D. Rude, 1977
A bureaucracy is a group of people responsible for applying a set of rules. The police, courts, executive branches of government, parents, teachers, librarians, and many other people or groups of people are also responsible for applying rules, yet we don’t think of these as being bureaucracies. The distinguishing features of a bureaucracy are the types of rules to be applied, and, to some extent, how the rules are applied.
      A bureaucracy is responsible for applying what I will call “secondary”, or “derived” rules, A secondary rule is a requirement or prohibition established only because it promotes a primary goal. When Moses came down from the mountain with his stone tablets he was carrying what might be considered the simplest statement of what I will call “primary” requirements. The rule, “Thou shalt not steal”, for example, is a primary requirement because it is desirable for its own sake, not just as a means to some other end. Similarly, “Thou shalt not commit murder” is a primary requirement because it is desirable as an end in itself.

Standardization is a wonderful thing in industry. If my car needs a new fuel pump I can buy one right off the shelf and know it will fit. Fuel pumps are standard, and engines are standard. They fit together beautifully. The few defective fuel pump that are not standard are quickly caught and tossed off the assembly line. This happy state of affairs does not extend to non physical objects though. Consider, for example, a seed planter. I don’t know just how a planter might worth but I visualize a mechanical hand grabbing one seed at a time and popping it into the ground. Seeds are pretty well standardized and. most seeds can be picked up by these mechanical hands without injury. A few seeds, however, are non-standard. They are either too big, or too small, or perhaps the wrong shape. The iron hands that so effectively plant most seeds will bruise, shred, mangle or maybe just overlook the oddball seeds. This doesn’t worry us though. Just like the defective fuel pumps that are bumped off the assembly line, the few mishandled seeds are of no great consequence.
      When standardization is extended to humans the situation changes dramatically. We can’t bump off the defectives so carelessly. A bureaucracy can be compared to the seed planter. Iron hands pick you up and set you down again. If you fit the standard mold, these iron hands hold you gently. If you don’t fit the standard mold those same iron hands can shred you to pieces.

There is also another cause of standardization, the lack of discretionary authority. Remember that secondary requirements are set up in many cases to prevent abuse of power and to be fair. This usually means that the bureaucrats who apply these rules have only a limited number of responses to a given situation. Bureaucracies are given very little discretionary authority. They must follow the rules whether the rules fit the situation at hand or not. To illustrate this let me hypothesize two ways of administering welfare.
      Standardization, fitting everyone into the same size slot, reduces everything to paperwork. The “work-up” is a stack of documents. These documents, certificates, forms, statements, memos, become the currency of bureaucracy, the medium of exchange. “Facts” become so only when they are certified by someone’s signature, even though they may be obvious. Other “facts” must be accepted because of their official certification even though common sense or simple observation show them to be false. A gap between the real and the official inevitably sets in. Then this gap leads to actions that are perceived to be detrimental or unfair, then the result is a considerable amount of frustration, in spite of the fact that the intent of all the red tape was to be beneficial and fair.
      This leads to the second cause of bureaucratic frustration, which is ineffectiveness. If a bureaucratic requirement is seen as effective in accomplishing its goal we accept it even if there is considerable inconvenience involved in meeting the requirement. If, on the other hand, a bureaucratic requirement is seen as ineffective then a little inconvenience in meeting the requirement can be a very significant frustration. Getting a loan from a bank, for example, involves considerable effort in meeting bureaucratic requirements. However we don’t expect money to be handed out without some security that it will be paid back. Therefore we don’t get too frustrated by the inconvenience in meeting those requirements. Similarly, driver’s licenses are seen as worthwhile, even if not fully effective, and entails only a little bother every four years or so. Therefore we do not hear too much about pigheaded bureaucrats at the driver’s license bureau. Unfortunately other licensing systems have imperfections so massive and ubiquitous, and benefits so doubtful, that the whole system is a burden to society. A little inconvenience in getting such a license can be very frustrating. This is the frustration I felt in the example I gave at the beginning of this article about getting a teaching certificate. Another example would be going back three times to the fire station to get a bicycle license. I went back twice. I figured three times was above and beyond the call of duty. I never did get my bicycle licensed.
engineers of any sort.
      I have my own opinions. I vote for nuclear energy and against OSHA. I tend to think of the licensing of voters and guns worthwhile, of cars and drivers as borderline, and of teachers, barbers, cats and bicycles as not worth while. Of course everyone else will disagree. I only hope we will start counting costs and benefits a little more carefully. As is true of so many things, it cannot be said of bureaucracy that if some is good, more is better.

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