Finally, public sector efficiency programme to get moving
The Government plans to establish 23 business registration kiosks across the island by 2016.
As part of a public sector efficiency programme, for which US$31.6 million in loans has been secured jointly from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Chinese Government and the European Commission, 1,200 government employees are also to be trained in new procurement curricula.
The five-year project aims to implement a new E-tendering software, establish a new technical office to enhance the oversight role of parliament and train 240 more internal auditors.
Other objectives include the reduction of the number of days to get electricity connection from 96 to 86 by 2018 and the reduction of time it takes to register a business from seven days to two within five years, through an e-Government strategy, training, and the establishment of a one-stop shop for business registration.
"The IDB has approved a US$31.6 million loan to improve the efficiency of the Jamaican public sector by strengthening the capacity of the government in human resource management, information and communications technologies management, and control systems and accountability mechanisms," said documents on the IDB's website.
The multilateral institution will put up US$14 million of the financing while the China Co-financing Fund for Latin America and the Caribbean will provide up to US$11 million. The European Commission will provide a project specific grant of up to (euro) 5 million.
Creating a public sector that costs less and delivers better services is one of the biggest challenges facing the Government today.
According to the Global Competitive Index 2013-14, Jamaica scores 2.5 out of seven and ranks 117 out of 148 countries in the world on government efficiency in public spending.
"Recent works in public sector efficiency show that an improvement in efficiency is obtained by reducing the administrative costs," said the IDB. "In addition, more transparency, accountability, and control of corruption increase government efficiency."
The relatively low efficiency of the Jamaican public sector is largely explained by excessive bureaucracy and red tape, a high wage bill relative to GDP (11 per cent), duplication of functions, under-utilisation of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), and silo operations resulting in high transactional costs and the absence of economies of scale.
Furthermore, weaknesses in the control systems and accountability mechanisms also hamper a more efficient use of public resources.
The Government has already commited to reducing its wage bill to no more than nine per cent in 2016/17 under its latest arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
But it still needs to fix how it manages its operations.
Consequently, the Government, through the IDB loan programme, which was approve this month, aims to combine the management of all public sector employees through a centralised and integrated human capital management system integrated with payroll by 2018.
It also plans to provide 60 per cent of public sector workers with access to HR shared corporate services within five years.
"Cost reduction is expected to be achieved by realising economies of scale through the aggregation, standardisation and centralisation of common 'back office' corporate functions such as finance, human resources, payroll, IT, and procurement," said the IDB document.
Up to now the Governement has been slow in taking advantage of ICT to transform and rationalise the public sector, and it still lacks an e-government strategy, basic ICT norms and regulations while the governance framework for ICT is still evolving.
The United Nations e-Government Survey 2012 places Jamaica in the 108th position just above Cuba and Haiti in the Caribbean Region.
In the Online Service Component of this index Jamaica scored 0.31 out of 1, below the 0.46 average for the Americas.
"This score indicates a relatively low automation of public services and suggest that the Jamaican public sector still predominantly operates with paper documents and files," said IDB documents. "The consequence of this is the prevalence of inefficient service delivery reflected in large numbers of procedures, long delays and high transactional costs.
"Securing electricity service, registering a business, and duplication of back-office services are specific examples of this situation."