Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Promises to keep

Having now spent about 6 years immersed in the nonprofit world, I have noticed that there's quite a bit of personnel turnover in grantmaking foundations. I don't really know what's behind it, but I wonder if it is at all related to the turnover that happens in politics. Egor Gaidar was acting prime minister of Russia for a number of months in the earliest years of the Yeltsin presidency, at the very beginning of the market reforms. A real monetary and fiscal hawk, he was considered to be the best possible hope for macroeconomic stabilization of the then very fragile Russian economy. Nobody, least of all Gaidar himself, expected him to stay in office very long--after all he had been appointed acting prime minister by the president because everyone perceived him as having very little public support. So it was no suprise when Victor Chernomyrdin was appointed Prime Minister a couple of months later, but it was definitely a surprise when Gaidar himself commented that it was just as well he was leaving the post of Prime Minister, because frankly he had made many promises that he really shouldn't keep (i.e., budgetary allocations to state-owned enterprises and other interest groups), and he would be off the hook now. Even a self-described fiscal hawk found himself relieved to be leaving office so he wouldn't have to face a tradeoff between personal integrity (his word) and fiscal austerity.

So a question: do program officers at foundations ever feel like Prime Ministers in highly inflationary economies? Or do they just get worn down by a job that requires them to say no so much more often than they say yes?

No comments: