Signs that discussions about Jamaican economy are maturing: all a matter of trust?

Three articles in The Sunday Gleaner of April 15 suggests to me that there is an interesting change taking place in Jamaica.

The first article, “Judging the Budget Debate“, by Ian Boyne, assesses what qualities can be expected in the discussions, coming ahead of general elections, especially in terms of leadership. He hopes that the leaders focus on substance rather than theatrics. He draws on some recent analysis from the University of West Indies Department of Government in a book entitled “Probing Jamaica’s Political Culture”, which looks at trust. Essentially, people in government are trusted by fewer than 10 percent of those surveyed. budget.jpgThe warning is that international studies have shown that low-trust societies get through economic problems with more difficulty than those with high trust. Will the budget show the right leadership and increase trust? 

The second article, “Wanted: economic model for Jamaica“, by Robert Wynter, draws on the author’s expertise “in facilitating organizational change for breakthrough economic transformation” to give a model for national economic transformation. His first of 9 element is the need for a “shared vision for the country”, and has other elements dealing with “national values and attitudes”, a “mission for government”, broad goals for government, developing strategic choices, identifying the actions needed, and most important implementing the policies flawlessly and keeping them monitored continuously. This last element is argued to be much more important (being 95 percent of the success) than all the rest. In the bottom line assessment, the author says that first government has to be honest about performance. (This sentiment links back to the previous article’s point about trust.) Low growth is inadequate and should be stated to be such. National resources such as bauxite, and elements that support tourism tend to go against growth, and it is important to see how well policy has been implemented before attempting to dismantle what is probably good policy.

The third article about “bashy” cars, by Tyrone Reid, with the byline “Public Access Granted” about the purchase with public funds and use of “posh” cars (SUVs and luxury cars) by Jamaican government and central bank officials. gleaner-suv.jpgThis comes at great financial costs to the country and is not clearly justified by need. (The article has an interesting comparison regarding the relative transparency of the Bank of Jamaica (too busy to give information) and the Central Bank of Barbados (apparently quite open), which should at least lead the PR people at BoJ to put out some more effort.) The bottom line is again whether or not we can trust public officials to wisely use and honestly explain their use of public funds.

Putting the issues of trust, good governance, and transparency up for public discussion suggests to me that in Jamaica at least a certain maturity has arrived in discussing economic performance and public responsibility. This is just a start in a long journey towards better management of the country’s welfare and its future. Let’s watch and listen to the Budget debate and hear from officials as they justify the spending on, and use of those high cost vehicles.

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