by Lipton Matthews
There has been much debate about the perceived lacklustre nature of the Jamaican private sector, but the discourse is void of context, as most commentators choose to ignore Jamaica’s hostile economic climate.
The decisions of the corporate world are based on economic realities and not altruism, businesses exist to maximise profit, therefore we ought not to expect rational businessmen to invest heavily in the productive sector when the cost of doing business is not only exorbitant, but the economic environment is one of great uncertainty.
The Jamaican Government should only play a facilitatory role in generating growth, akin to an umpire in a cricket game. You allow the players to play and you adjudicate disputes based on rules of the game that have been established. But the temptation has always been to adjudicate in favour one over the other for political expediency and populism.
We expect policymakers to consider the suggestion of noted development consultant Dr. Trevor Hamilton. One suggestion by Dr Hamilton is that the developmental approval process should be privatised, thereby eliminating inefficient bureaucratic practices. The authority of government bodies to approve projects could be transferred to professionals such as architects and civil engineers.
The UDC is one such agency. A report on September 4, 2013 highlighted the challenges faced by Swiss House Jamaica Limited in securing tax breaks and building permits within Kingston. Despite submitting applications to the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) and the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC) for a permit to construct a parking garage several months ago, a 90 day process. Up to September they are yet to be approved. In the words of the Town Clerk Errol Greene: “The KSAC is bound by law to seek the input of other agencies, and if they do not respond expeditiously, there is nothing we can do.”
A second example. It took three years for the approval process for construction of the Courtyard Marriott Hotel to materialise. These examples highlight the bureaucracy and the public sector’s lethargy; validating Hamilton’s suggestion and the need to reduce the role of government in the economy.
Politicians claim that Jamaica needs foreign investment, but both sides whenever they are in power do nothing to reform or abolish archaic laws, like the one which prevents the KSAC from acting independently.
The present Administration is pursuing with fervour an amendment to the Contractor General Act to prevent the Office of the Contractor General from engaging in certain projects at the pre-contract stage. It would be good if reducing bureaucracy was pursued with the same vigour.
In efficient parts of the developed world they figured out that there is no need for excessive bureaucracy. For example, company incorporation in Singapore is a simple two step process (company name approval and registration with the companies registrar) and this only takes a day. Just one of the many reasons they rank as the easiest place in the world to do business and is the least corrupt nation on Earth.
Before criticising the private sector, the PNP’s socialist-anti-business-activists should ask themselves, what is the prime minister doing? Instead, I see that the administration will be will be engaged in more time wasting (with more of mine and your taxpayer dollars) with a new “Productivity Campaign”, through the Labour Ministry. Over to you Minister Derrick Kellier.
Lipton Matthews is a first year law student and is unusual in being a Jamaican Conservative Capitalist Teenager. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org