Gov't wants a performance-based public sector, says PM

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, September 22, 2017

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PRIME Minister Andrew Holness said yesterday that a performance-based public sector is necessary to produce the efficiency required for increased economic growth and a sustainable economy.

Speaking to the media at his quarterly press briefing at Jamaica House, Holness said that he was not satisfied with the current pace of public sector reform, noting that a previous attempt at reforming the sector, which started in 2009, floundered after dragging on for years.

“I am not going to allow the same thing to happen this time,” he told the audience, which also included senior civil servants and fellow members of the Cabinet.

However, the prime minister said that while paying more attention to the necessary changes, in terms of policy development, regulation, sunset provisions, creative marketing and merging resources, he recognsed that the change would have to be to a performance-based sector as workers have a genuine claim on the issue of how they are rewarded.

“For too long we have had a system where people can hide and don't work and get paid, and we are paying for that all the time. Once you have a system that is not producing, and you have to pay, you have to borrow to pay

“So the transformation of the public sector is not just about closures and mergers and dismissing people. The transformation of the public sector is to make it performance-based,” he stated.

Jamaica, said the prime minister, is entering into a new paradigm, noting that in the old paradigm the country depended on the public sector to create jobs. However, he said that this has never created any form of a sustainable economy.

“We depended on the public sector to create jobs because we did not trust or believed that the private sector could create the jobs. So for politicians, the easiest way to address the issue of unemployment was to expand the public sector,” he stated.

He added: “But that never resulted in economic growth. It has never resulted in a sustainable economy. In the new paradigm, you have to build a new partnership with the private sector, because the real engine of growth is the private sector, and the growth of the public sector is to support the private sector,” he said.

“And it makes sense, because the taxes that pay your wages come from the private sector. The public sector doesn't generate tax, so, if you are really looking at the bigger picture, about better pay and better conditions of work, then that can only come from your economy growing,” he added.

He said that the model that Jamaica will have to pursue is one in which the public sector recognises its role as being efficient in the processes that, by law, it is required to do, including approvals, policy development, regulation, creating markets, and merging resources with opportunities.

“That is the role of the public sector, and the faster we are able to do this role the more the economy will grow,” he said.

Holness said that he had taken notice that the process has slowed down, despite the Government's systematic approach to the issue. However, he said that he will be paying closer attention to making sure that agencies identified for mergers are merged, and those with sunset provisions are taken off the Government's budget.

Said Holness: “We also have to look at performance, because the public sector has a genuine claim about how they are rewarded. It is not just that the public sector does not pay like the private sector. I think there is a bigger problem, and it is that the public sector does not pay by virtue of effort.”

He told the press conference that those who put out the greater effort get the same pay as those who put out no effort. “To me, that is the bigger problem, and if the members of the public sector look at this, too, they will agree that this is the bigger problem,” he said.

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