by Lipton Matthews
Politicians are vilified for every perceived wrong and (in reality they get very few things correct and in the case of Jamaica mostly everything wrong), but the reality is that politics is a thankless profession; there is a great disconnect between what any system of governance can deliver and the demands of the citizenry.
Usually, citizens expect political administrations to be the provider of all services. Or the politicians project that then can do so.
Astute politicians will carefully present themselves as the problem solvers of every ailment affecting the country. Even with problems which are better rectified by the private citizens in free markets, government continues to grow to “help” us, until it evolves into a destructive bureaucracy which stifles creativity and serves the interest of a permanent political class and their cronies.
It is quite unfortunate, but too many of us live in an alternative universe, we want a pro-business environment to be created, but we are not willing to support less regulations and a smaller government. Then surprisingly, when our debt stock increases and investors and Jamaicans alike migrate, we blame politicians for not having political will to execute reforms which we would normally vote against.
Government must provide essential services, no one is doubting that, but operating enterprises and financing social programmes are not the functions of government (certainly not a limited government). If we want social programmes then clearly tax rates will increase, because every service has to be provided at a cost. Contrary to popular belief, Government is a consumer of wealth, not a creator of prosperity.
At least one former politician, Dr. Christopher Tufton was rather cogent in his analysis of Jamaica’s economy at a recent media forum:
“Jamaica needs a dose of pragmatism and leadership … we need to facilitate ready projects within three months – Government needs to say, where a private investor has an investment proposal and the capacity and willingness to finance that investment, Cabinet will give priority to ensure affirmation of investment … we need to fast track divesting non-core activities – the Government cannot be all things to all men,” he said.
Any administration embarking on such reforms, especially privatization, will be accused of ‘selling out Jamaica’, by misguided statists who are yet to understand the market.
Big bloated governments only harm the economy and the evidence is overwhelming, according to a study conducted by the European Central Bank which reviewed 108 countries over a 38 year time period….
”government consumption is consistently detrimental to output growth irrespective of the country sample considered (developed and emerging economies)”.
Many persons claim that the IMF programme will result in a more efficient government, but to real free marketers it’s quite tepid. No politician is brave enough to create a less state-centric economy and if such a politician existed, he wouldn’t last long.
Because we refuse to change our individual statist views on economics and governance, we should expect the years of slow growth and high debt to continue. The only glimmer of hope is with a legitimate Opposition who truly believes in an opposite way of governance than the status quo. I am not optimistic that will happen with the JLP and the masses do not favour them, so we are trapped with the PNP for 18.5 years again.
This article first appeared as a letter to the Editor in the Jamaica Observer newspaper on Wednesday April 23, 2014. It was reedited for this publication.
Lipton Matthews is a first year law student and is unusual in being a young Jamaican Libertarian-Conservative who believes in the virtues of Capitalism. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org