Editorial

Dr Phillips can now name a new economic team

Sunday, November 18, 2012    

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JAMAICA will, we are assured, have an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) by the end of this year. This is the product of the work of Dr Peter Phillips and his technical team that was assembled by then Finance Minister Audley Shaw.

Dr Phillips has led this team of Mr Brian Wynter, governor of the Bank of Jamaica (BoJ), Dr Wesley Hughes, financial secretary and Dr Gladstone Hutchinson, director general of the Planning Institute of Jamaica.

Mr Wynter is a former BoJ deputy governor who left to work with an IMF affiliate. Dr Hutchinson took a sabbatical from university in the United States. Dr Hughes was at the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) since the late 1979s and has been involved with Jamaica's economic policy over the last 32 years.

Mr Shaw dispensed Mr Derick Latibeaudiere and two financial secretaries including Mr Colin Bullock, who went back to the University of the West Indies where he began his career in the late 1970s.

Two members of the Shaw team are leaving and this leaves Dr Phillips a chance to pick his own team. Dr Hughes is certain to be retained in the public sector in some capacity, probably as an advisor or on some special project like reorganising the finance ministry, a task he did not have the time to do while he was financial secretary.

Professor Hutchinson will return to academic life in the USA, having done a good job while ruffling many feathers. His legacy will be the Vision 2030 work.

Dr Phillips has to fill two very important posts and his criteria must be the very highest calibre technical expertise and appropriate policy experience. The ability to get along with counterparts from other institutions is desirable but not essential. The person must be willing to strengthen thee supporting cast in their institutions, including utilising technical assistance from abroad.

The dilemma for Minister Phillips is to find persons who meet all three criteria. If he cannot find people with all three criteria, then technical competence should be ranked as the most important consideration. If this is so then he is not restricted to promoting from within the Ministry of Finance and the PIOJ.

Dr Phillips can recruit from the global labour market but the downside of this are resistance from civil servants, even if the person is a Jamaican from abroad, and the steeper learning curve they will have. One challenge too will be trying to pry the Jamaicans out of their usually lucrative posts.

If Dr Phillips regards appropriate experience as paramount then he will recruit from within the public sector, certainly for the post of financial secretary. This is less of a consideration for director general of the PIOJ where the precedent of bringing in outsiders eg Drs Norman Girvan, Clement Jackson, Omar Davies and Hutchinson, The longest serving came from within the government sector eg Messrs Mills, Bonnick, Brown and Hughes.

Ironically, the private sector is full of talented and highly qualified persons who are too well paid to afford to work in the government even for two or three years. What ever happened to national service? Are there no more Don Wehbys, Chris Zaccas and Mark Goldings?

Far easier to voice criticisms especially if it enhances profile and promote their business, even if it involves irresponsible ranting about default, devaluation and deflation.

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