Legitimate vs. Authoritarian Policy Making

Published in the Forum (January 2011)

Bangladesh’s experience with public policy making over the past four decades has been perplexed by an awkward political dilemma. On one hand, democratic and legitimate reform initiatives have endured barriers to implementation; while on the other, many successful reform initiatives have suffered from lack of legitimacy.

Lack of authority has always been a barrier to policy reform, while public support and legitimacy has been the most essential feature of public policy. Balancing the two is difficult and remains as a litmus test for any policy maker. Ironically, our policy makers have always preferred the easier option — acquiring authority and ignoring legitimacy. Though authoritarian governments may seem more successful in implementing reforms, authoritarianism often leads to autocracy and reforms achieved through this process are not beneficial for the country.

This article briefly explores the dilemma between legitimate and authoritarian policy making in Bangladesh. For that, it also analyses the changing roles and relationships of four most influential policy makers of the country — the politician, the military, the donor and the bureaucrat. Read more of this post