PM should look to Master Plan

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, January 14, 2013

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IF you want Portia Simpson Miller to give a cracking good speech, take away the script. We remember that brilliant speech she gave after her party's victory at the polls on December 29, 2011, and that stirring tribute she gave at the funeral of her late friend Howard Aris.

I do not believe the PM was adequately served when she faced the teleprompter to have her address to the nation recorded. Barbara Gloudon's Pantomime, Schoolaz (catch it soon — it's great fun) has a comical take on how audiences get into a stupor when speeches miss the mark.

Nothing beats inspiring content and credibility. It is puzzling that our leaders are not quoting Jamaica's first national hero, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, in their speeches — talk about power and purpose! Imagine using this moving Garvey quote: "The ends you serve that are selfish will take you no further than yourself, but the ends you serve that are for all, in common, will take you into eternity."

But here is the catch. When the speaker gives the word, the receiver needs to believe in the speaker's sincerity to be in any way moved. Garvey took risks, sailed the high seas, went to jail for his beliefs. The Jamaican people are really not sure if any active politician has a fire in his or her belly for the nation, or just a belly for power.

Imagine if the prime minister had opened her speech with: "Fellow Jamaicans, my Government would like to show solidarity with you our people. My Cabinet and members of parliament have decided to take a 10 per cent pay cut. All the advisors we have hired have also agreed to have their fees rolled back."

Such an opening would have wiped away our cynicism. Instead, we were given a pale performance, mercifully in a short 15 minutes. I admit that some solid work has been done in the past 12 months in most ministries, but it really has not been a sparkling first year.

The Jamaican public should know that the country does have a way out of this slump: a Master Rationalisation Plan (MRP) for Jamaica's public sector developed over three years in consultation with the Permanent Secretaries' Board, inspired by successful international models and supported by grants from the UNDP and IADB.

This was accomplished by the Public Sector Transformation Unit (PSTU) headed by the excellent Patricia Sinclair-McCalla, whose mandate was "to facilitate the establishment of an efficient, responsive and cost-effective framework of operations for the public sector, consistent with good governance, in order to promote national growth and development."

A voluntary body called the Consultative Monitoring Group (CMG) spent long hours reviewing findings and making recommendations for this comprehensive MRP. The CMG was chaired by that unflagging patriot, Peter Moses, city country officer, Citibank Jamaica. Other members were Ambassador Douglas Saunders, cabinet secretary; Dr Wesley Hughes, former financial secretary; Professor Alvin Wint, University of the West Indies (UWI); Wayne Jones, trade union representative; and yours truly.

So impressive is the MRP, that it is being viewed as a model to be used in several other countries. Unfortunately, only 20 per cent of the recommendations have so far been accepted by our Cabinet for implementation. There is, of course, a great deal of fear surrounding job cuts, but there are many public servants who are about to retire, and those may well make up the majority of cuts needed.

There are also models of privatisation that can be applied for certain agencies and departments, such as the Employee Share Ownership Plan (ESOP) implemented at the former Government Printing Office.

And so we are back at Marcus Garvey, whose gospel of self-reliance is what our leaders should be preaching. Why are we not more dedicated to Garvey's philosophy? Is it because once a man is educated, he will no longer want to hang out of a bus window ringing a bell or waving an orange flag? Is it because education will prevent folks from swallowing those platform platitudes?

"Transformation of the public sector is an imperative that must be dealt with expeditiously if the country is to move forward in achieving national growth and development," wrote Mrs Sinclair-McCalla in her December progress report published on the Cabinet Office website. "The political will to make this happen is critical for this to be a reality."

Having been so up close and personal to the work of the PSTU, and having worked with another public body, the EAC/ECJ as they reformed our electoral system, I know how complex and difficult change can be.

The reason that the then EAC was able to reform those laws eventually was that there was consensus among the political parties and strong independent members. I hope therefore that the next step will be for Government to form such a group so they can agree on the way forward for this important Master Rationalisation Plan. Hopefully, this plan and willing hands were the stars of the just concluded current Cabinet retreat.

Finally - below 300 road fatalities

Yesterday we gathered at Webster Memorial Church to give thanks that the National Road Safety Council, convened by Dr Lucien Jones and comprising Police Traffic Division, National Road Safety Unit, National Health Fund and several other bodies, had achieved below 300 road fatalities after a four-year campaign.

We have been privileged to work with the council on the promotion and realise now more than ever the huge impact of crashes on families, their financial well-being and our health services. Reduce speed, use seatbelts, obey traffic signals: it's a matter of life and death.

Prayer Breakfast on Thursday

The National Leadership Prayer Breakfast is an annual event at which the churches of Jamaica join with our leaders in prayer for unity and national healing. Why pray? Ask any person in a crisis and they will tell you praying helps.

Please join the live broadcasts of the event on Thursday morning on leading television and radio stations. "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of."




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