by Lipton Matthews
Any entrepreneur who is interested in long-term sustainability of his/her business will refrain from making unwise business decisions. Unlike government bureaucrats, private entrepreneurs are actually punished by the market if they fail to act in their businesses’ self interests. Bureaucrats do not understand and are uninterested in the dynamics of markets, as most of their decisions are influenced simply by political ideologies and expansion of government’s sphere of influence.
Reasons as to why the Jamaican government is involved in the management of businesses in the 21st century remains a mystery. Despite the divestment of some entities, like the Wallenford Coffee Company, Air Jamaica and the Sugar Company, the Government of Jamaica is still too bloated.
Too many of our politicians aim their sights on ‘solving’ social ills for get cheap points, when these most of theses issues could easily be rectified by entrepreneurship. And what’s worse, we act surprised when social initiatives don’t result in long-term growth and development. Statist’s sole aim is the show how much ‘good’ they aim to achieve with well intended programmes, new Ministries or agencies. Actual results and outcomes are irrelevant.
For example, the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) mission statement displayed on its website is quite clear:
“Our mission is to contribute to the improved quality of life of all Jamaicans through social transformation by facilitating and providing quality affordable shelter solutions with security at tenure.”
The problem with agencies like the HAJ is that their main intention is not to make a profit, but rather only to provide some form of assistance to the poor. Very good and noble intentions. But overall it has not achieved anything.
The situation is further compounded as, unfortunately, these government entities are invariably managed by political operatives who lack technical expertise. And then we are surprised that the HAJ’s deficit is over $300 million.
The first time the HAJ made a profit was in 2010, and it was due to the sale of company-owned real estate, not its core operations of land and housing development. The private sector, where efficiency is measured, would have no use for such a business.
Managing a business is not the forte of the government, and most government businesses have a social objective not a truly economic one. Abolishing the HAJ should be considered a practical solution since the existence of such an agency is a burden to the country at large. There are other agencies and programmes carrying out pretty much the same function more successfully.
But the HAJ is not the only state agency that needs to go. The Jamaica Racing Commission and Caymanas Track Limited should also suffer the same fate. Why government is into the horse racing business just boggles the mind. Now these bodies were created to regulate the horse racing sector and manage the Caymanas Track. Why can’t the owners, trainers and jockeys create their own professional organizations to safeguard and invest in the industry? There should be no reliance on the commission’s welfare programmes.
No political party in Jamaica and certainly not the incumbent administration, has an interest in reducing the size of government, because a growing bureaucracy expands the power of government and that is the aim of statism. And since most members of civil society and the public at large are statist in their outlook on economics, social evolution and politics, there is no group to lobby for less government. It is perplexing that when government agencies inevitably fail, these are the same people who complain.
Jamaicans needs a real free market party to rescue us from the politics of statism, and quickly too.
Lipton Matthews is a first year law student and is unusual in being a Libertarian-Conservative Jamaican Adolescent who believes in the virtues of Capitalism. He can be reached at email@example.com.