by Lipton Matthews
It is the duty of government to create a competitive regulatory framework to facilitate private investment, but many bureaucrats do not understand their role in promoting investment, since the public sector operates like a trough for party faithfuls. Although, various reports have outlined the solutions for reforming the public sector in Jamaica, no political will exists to implement these findings. Simply because it is not politically profitable to do so.
Notwithstanding, the pro-market claims of both political parties, the view that the state should also be a driver of growth in the economy is still purported by many. Fortunately, a major policymaker like Chris Zacca (even though he is in bed with political elites), understands the type of growth that is needed to propel Jamaica to greater heights.
He says it outrightly. Mr. Zacca was correct when he asserted that, “This growth must be equitable. It must reach large and small businesses and it must create jobs. It needs to be entrepreneurial at its core. It cannot be state capitalism or statist in nature and it cannot rely on a few large infrastructure projects alone”.
Despite all the pronouncements emanating from Gordon House about reducing bureaucracy, the problem has not improved. Bureaucracy has become the biggest obstacle to do business in Jamaica, according to the World Economic Forum latest research on competitiveness. Decisive steps must be taken to make Jamaica attractive to investment, and solving the impediments hampering the development approval process, is one initiative.
Jamaica should create an online business licensing service similar to what exists in Singapore. Singapore’s Online Business Licensing is a one-stop shop that offers all business licenses available in Singapore, along with update, renewal and termination services, of even greater importance is that the creation of this online facility reduced approval time from 21 to 8 days, privatizing some aspects of the developmental approval process is another workable suggestion.
Since, local government is the campaigning arm of both parties, no politician would abolish it, though it is a major contributor to bureaucratic inefficiencies. Local government should not be involved in the issuance of construction of permits, this aspect of the approval process can be outsourced to the private sector, and the government should regulate the process. Parish Councils are incompetent and expensive to maintain, costing the country $7 billion a year and we do not need them.
We want a political party and leader that understands the free market. We need a truly transformational leader like Margaret Thatcher, to unleash the productive capacity of Jamaica. Is Mr. Holness willing to be that leader?
The truth is we keep hoping to get the right people in power to do the right things to solve our myriad of problems. On the contrary:
This article first appeared as the Daily Gleaner’s Letter of the Day on Monday November 25, 2013. It was edited for this publication.
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