Lee Chin says 5-in-4 needs public sector accountability

Lee Chin says 5-in-4 needs public sector accountability

Says some permanent secretaries holding back growth

Senior reporter

Friday, November 22, 2019

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With quarterly growth of 0.3 per cent, chairman of the 41-month-old Economic Growth Council (EGC), Michael Lee Chin, says that the permanent status of permanent secretaries under the Jamaican Constitution, has to be removed to enable higher gross domesitic product (GDP) growth levels.

Lee Chin, who was speaking at the latest press briefing held by the council at Jamaica House on Wednesday, said that until the lack of accountability related to the permanency of the job is removed, there is no possibility of achieving growth at the level of five per cent in four years, which had been projected by the EGC.

He noted that in the context of private corporations, the person responsible for implementation is the CEO, and in government the responsible person for the implementation of policies is the permanent secretary (in the ministry).

“Accountability is what makes plans work. In corporations, if a business plan is not executed, the CEO is fired. In government, if policies are not implemented on a timely basis, no one is fired. Until we fix this lack of accountability the public sector will continue to (fail to) achieve our desired goals; until we fix this lack of accountability issue, there will be no public sector transformation and until we fix this accountability issue achieving five per cent growth in four years will be an uphill task,” he stated.

The Canadian-based, Jamaican-born billionaire investor who chairs the country's largest and most profitable commercial bank, the National Commercial Bank (NCB), however, suggested that Jamaica can fix the lack of accountability and resume stronger GDP growth if both the Government and Opposition party work together to achieve it.

“We can fix this lack of accountability issue only if both sides of the House [of Parliament] work diligently together to change the laws and part of the Constitution pertaining to the removal of the permanent secretaries when they are underperforming,” he said.

“Presently, the permanent secretaries are permanent, they cannot be removed based on the Constitution. In Canada it is not the case,” he added.

Lee Chin said the EGC has worked diligently over the past three years and five months to achieve the projected growth of five per cent in four years, based on their experience in running successful private corporations.

“We have had the experience dealing with difficult issues. But, while there are good people in the (Government) bureaucracy doing their best every day, their efforts are being frustrated by the basic structure of our inherited governance structure of not being able to remove the permanent sectetaries for underperformance,” he explained.

“I am therefore calling on both sides — the Opposition and the Government- to work together to change the laws protecting non-performing permanent secretaries from being removed,” he stated.

An obviously disappointed Lee Chin noted that the EGC was formed in April, 2016 to do everything possible to achieve the projected five per cent in four years growth target which was set then.

He said that the objective was necessary to transform the life of every Jamaican and to make Jamaica, “a place to live, work and play.

“It was a necessary objective to lift our people…to give each and every Jamaican the opportunity to achieve their fullest potential. The objective was necessary to wake up from the poor stewardship that they have had since independence,” he stated.

He noted that over the past three years and five months, the EGC has had 450 meetings with stockholders.
“I came from Canada every other week to meet with the stakeholders in Jamaica. We listened to their concerns and also the prescriptions that they had for solutions, and after the first 75 meetings we prepared our 'Call to Action Report', which is a collative of what you heard in terms of the solutions,” he also noted.

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