I will use RightFromYaad to posit my views and cite examples on a form of governance that may be the salvation for Jamaica’s current socio-cultural-economic crisis. Despite my submissions, none of the local papers have accepted this article for publication.
The governance system that I will propose has been the model of most, if not ALL countries that have had explosions and/or sustained growth of their economies within the last 50-60 years. This governance form seems to be “foreign” to Jamaican leaders and has apparently eluded them since we acheived Universal Adult Suffrage in 1944, and more so since the 1970s. The model is “CONSERVATISM”.
We should employ conservatism in most of its true forms, but stressing along the lines of economic/fiscal and social conservatism. Jamaica needs a true capitalist, conservative, right-of-centre approach to governance to dig us out of the rut, instead of our incessant leftward leaning, liberal or “Progressive” management style. Our answer to decades of failed left-wing policies has been more government. Unfortunately, it is the only thing we seem to know. Doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result is how some would define insanity.
The few examples of leaders who I will cite, used conservative, capitalist, free market approaches to run their governments. This method rescued developed economies, uplifted societies from abject poverty and brought others from the abyssal economic edge, as Jamaica now finds herself.
Sir Seretse Khama as President of Botswana (1966-1980) governed with radical thinking for an African leader, conservative-styled management. This model is deeply entrenched in their politics and has resulted in Botswana having one of the fastest growing per capita incomes in the world, since its independence in 1966. Its economy grew by an average 9% per year between 1966-1999, pulling that nation and its people out of nothing, as one of the poorest nations on Earth, and onto a path of prosperity.
Botswana is well endowed with natural resources, specifically diamonds. However, many other African countries have multiples of Botswana’s wealth in natural resources; and yet are much worse off. Described as one of the most capitalist countries in Africa, Botswana now enjoys a very stable governance, low levels of corruption and solid economic structure with negligible national and foreign debt. Khama’s enduring conservative legacy has continued under the stewardship of his son Ian, the current president.
The details of the success of the Hong Kong experience are not well read among amateur economists like myself. What is even less known is the face behind the rise of this forgotten Asian Tiger, now absorbed back into China since 1995. We will be surprised to hear the name Sir John James Cowperthwaithe, an inconspicuous British Civil Servant sent to work in Hong Kong in 1945 by the British Foreign Office, who became Financial Secretary for the 10 year period (1961-1971). He is the man credited with the turn around in Hong Kong in the post WWII and Chinese Communist Revolution period.
When Sir John arrived in Hong Kong the economy was in tatters. Fishing and agriculture was the predominant source of income for its inhabitants. There were few roads, most that existed were mud or dirt; citizens’ habitations were thatched roofed houses without sewerage systems or water. He realized that the economy was recovering swiftly without government intervention and refuse to collect statistics, lest some govt official decided to “fix problems”.
With free market policies of capitalism, and maximizing as much as possible a minimal government role in the economy, through a laissez-faire (positive non-interventionism) approach, Hong Kong achieved remarkable success and is now a leading global financial centre. The Gross Domestic Product of Hong Kong grew over the 1961-1997 period more than 150 times; and per capita income grew by more than 80 times. Sir John is credited as the leading example of how small government encourages growth. What if he had been sent to Jamaica, instead of the Far East? Where would we be today?
Not enough can be said of the model nation Singapore has become. Mr. Lee Kuan Yew as Premier (1965-1990) perhaps used conservatism with the most dramatic effects. What has not been said about this success story? A country WITHOUT natural resources, has had to sustain its five million inhabitants on 275 sq. miles of land, even importing water!
Mr. Lee created, in his words, a “Fair” state and not a welfare state in Singapore. He came to Jamaica in the 1970’s to learn what he could to implement back home, as he did in many countries that he visited during his tenure as Premier. His conservative management set their economy and society in motion to wealth and stability. Their per capita income moved from US$400 in 1965 to well over US$50,000 in 2009, and is projected to be over US$150,000 per capita by 2050. They enjoy the lowest infant mortality rate in the world, it is also consistently listed as the easiest country in the world to do business and among the least corrupt nations on earth.
Despite officially having limited political and social freedoms, Singaporeans are at the top of the rankings when it comes to economic freedoms, which is probably the most important of all freedoms for an individual. Singapore moved from a third-world “back-a-bush” post-colonial trading outpost, to a first-world country in one generation. Amazing!
The Republican Ronald Reagan (“The Great Communicator”) as President of the USA (1980-1988), reinvigorated the US economy in the 1980’s through “Reaganomics”, a conservative approach; after the lethargic meandering of the US economy with high unemployment in the 1970’s. His fundamental principles included reduced taxation, less dependence of citizens on government and more individualism. Many economists attribute the boom in the US economy in the 1990’s, to the benefits of Reagan’s policies in the 1980s, and less so on Bill Clinton’s presidency.
Baroness Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1979-1990) with a conservative government rescued the UK in the decade of the 1980’s, after its steady decline post World War II era and the near economic collapse during the 1970’s. Her governance philosophy, now described as “Thatcherism”, emphasized reduced power of the state, free markets and policies that foster entrepreneurship. Her belief was that there was excessive government interference in the economy and she went about privatizing many nationally-owned enterprises, including British Airways in 1987.
For many privatization implies that “Capitalists” come in and take over companies, agencies and institutions of the State to make profits and exploits the population. On the contrary, privatization simply means that the government no longer calls the shots in its former entities; and are run at no cost to the taxpayer, for their benefit. Why tax everyone to subsidize a government program or company that benefits only a few? Privatization has been described as a key ingredient to “Thatcherism”.
In China, the governing Chinese Communist Party has all but abandoned Communism and Socialism to lift its hundred of millions living in poverty. Most experts agree that it is now more an Authoritarian governing entity, than a communist one. Under “Paramount Leader” Deng Xiaoping (this position he held in the Communist party from 1978-1992), the Chinese have embraced Free Market Economics and conservative governance principles, described as “neoconservatism”, a movement which first arose there in the early 1990s, at the tailed end of Deng’s rule.
Deng’s initial foray into politics did not initially mesh well with the Communists Maoists and he was sidelined for decades. It was not until he rose to power that China’s economic transformation was set into motion (This takes a while to get going in communist countries without revolution!). The powerhouse economy that China has become, using conservative capitalist market economy principles, uplifting millions per year out of poverty is plain for all to see. China’s 21st-century economic dominance is a direct result of Deng’s ideology.
I dare to suggest this new path of governance for Jamaica. But will the Cabinet and the PM listen? The Government must start with a drastic cut in expenditure, instead of increasing taxes. Start with a reduction in the size (or salaries) within the civil service and in the number of ministries (as well as ministers and state ministers) down to no more than 10 or 12; privatize most, if not all government owned companies and agencies (Top of the list: NWC and Caymanas Track Limited); we must reduce the number of constituencies, to between 45-50. (Who thought that an increase up to 63 made sense?); also, reinstitute user fees at hospitals and schools fees; reduce the number of persons on the PATH programme. At the same time, we must have business friendly fiscal and low taxation policies that will encourage entrepreneurship, the inflow of investment, technology and skilled personnel into the country. It will also stop the brain drain which has been ongoing for decades
With business and economic growth, demand for employees and job creation naturally follows in the private sector. This would lead to increased revenue flowing into the coffers of (a smaller) government, with which we could tackle our debt burden more effectively. With steady employment, competitive incomes and low inflation, citizens won’t need a crutch from government to survive and our tertiary graduates would not be migrating, as they would see Jamaica as a country where they could maximize themselves.
We are at a critical juncture in our history. Hard decisive actions must be made; we can ill afford to make a misstep. In his inaugural address (Jan 20, 1981), Ronald Reagan stated: “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.” How apt for Jamaica.