Satisfying key stakeholders must be the hardest task for most leaders. In practically every institution there is always an abundance of needs on one hand and limited resources on the other.
Many not-for-profit institutions are faced with countless requests for their services, but their capacity to serve is dependent on the funds available to them, be it from money they have raised or through donations.
Within family circles, there are wide ranging demands, but parents unfortunately in many cases have a limited capacity to deliver.
On an even broader scale, there are limitless calls on the public purse, with restrictions on the availability of resources, for governments to deliver.
In such situations where there is a gap between wants, needs and the resources available to satisfy them, there is a need for decisions to be made regarding the allocation of resources to satisfy the majority. The challenge intensifies when there are issues such as natural disasters, which further erodes the availability of resources, or where matters such as partisanship cloud the development of one overarching policy governing resource allocation.
Then there is the question of whose need or want takes priority when determining how to allocate scarce resources. Do the needs of the majority outweigh that of the minority? What are the conditions that will determine which need or want will be satisfied? What is the significance of any of these questions?
Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were a plethora of needs chasing a finite resource base. In our current circumstances, needs have been magnified as more people are unable to earn and look after themselves. Resources are even more limited as many of the usual income generating sources have dried up.
It is a most interesting conundrum, there is growing discontent with longer wait times for services and payments given the fact that there has been a significant reduction in resources available to meet these needs. It is almost as if persons are living in a parallel universe where it is accepted that things are not as they used to be financially, yet others must continue to maintain the flow of supply as though there was no change in that group or individual’s circumstances.
Yes, individual needs do not evaporate simply because of a pandemic or other natural disaster. In fact, experience demonstrates that needs are magnified under difficult circumstances. In our national economic circumstance, the capacity to meet the needs are spread thin.
How then do we seek to reconcile this core issue of scarcity, where the needs and wants outweigh the resources available?
Some components of the answer may not sit comfortably with the masses, as we revisit the question of the needs of the majority outweighing those of the minority.
The minority could be armed with the resources required to right-size supply. For example the demands of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in order for the government to assess financing, the demands for Foreign Direct Investors (FDI) in return for their investment, or even local investors who may wish for their concessions and other exemption as part of their investing in the economy.
We end up with a chicken and egg scenario. Do we satisfy the needs of the minority over the majority, when looking through a mirror of long term considerations? Do concessions today result in sufficient job creation across the economy, or just an opportunity for an investor to milk profits? Is engagement with an institution such as the IMF worth it when the likely hardship that will accompany this decision, even if short to medium term, worth it? Who is positioned to make these decisions for the masses? What institutions do we hold accountable for acting in the best interest of the masses?
As we close another chapter of political independence, we must do more to educate and empower ourselves in terms of the realities of managing our limited resources. We must apply rational thinking to assess the consequences of various actions grounded in the reality that we are not in possession of unlimited resources. Ultimately, we must develop consensus for a national action agenda to prioritise and maximise that which is available to us.