[EDITORIALS]Forget the popularity contests

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[EDITORIALS]Forget the popularity contests

The Fair Trade Commission has introduced an unusual personnel appointment plan. Under the plan, the bureau chiefs of the commission will be selected through open competition among civil servants. FTC staff members are to vote on their choices of candidates so ballot results will be reflected in the appointment process.
The bureau chiefs of the central government are posts all career bureaucrats crave. Major policy guidelines of ministries are made by bureau chiefs. That means a high standard of expertise and leadership are required of those who assume the posts.
The Fair Trade Commission’s decision to select bureau chiefs through open competition must have been made to avoid the existing methods of allocating posts according to seniority. Gradual promotion according to a hierarchy, and mechanical allocation of posts, has been pointed out as a chronic problem in personnel management of civil servants. The practice under which officials are promoted to bureau chief, if they stay in the organization long enough, has created a lax attitude and group egotism among civil servants. In this sense, open competition among civil servants could bring vitality to officialdom and freshen the atmosphere by unearthing talented people through competition. It can also enhance transparency by eradicating chronic cronyism.
But the idea of letting the staff vote on their choice of candidates and having it reflected in the resulting appointment seems to promise more harm than benefit. If low-echelon civil servants decide on their bosses by a popular vote everytime they need a new one, what will become of the organization? Senior officials will compete to be popular with their staff. The side effects will be apparent. They will handle their jobs for popularity’s sake, not for the job’s own sake. And discipline will grow slack. The qualifications of senior officials of the central government are evaluated multi-dimensionally by both staff and higher officials. Many senior officials complain that the multi-dimensional evaluation system leads them to analyze the minds of their staff. If a voting system is added to this, officialdom will be flooded with people who aim at popular support.
Government ministries are different from friendship societies or volunteer organizations that select their representatives through voting. A bureau chief of the central government should not be selected by a popularity vote.

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