We have, in this space, been lamenting the fact that the state bureaucracy has been choking off investments, both local and overseas, by entangling the approval process in burdensome red tape.
In our view, it is highly likely that member of parliament Richard Azan - in the Spalding Market affair - and Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell - in the bidding process for construction of the proposed 360-megawatt power plant - sought to circumvent the bureaucracy, flawed as their efforts turned out to be.
We believe that Monday's reports by the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) in respect of the conduct of both men, provide an excellent opportunity to re-examine our national business processes and the need to devise new rules about the application process to get things done in a timely manner.
When politicians are involved in a debate, it is our custom to downplay the critical issues and expend great energy on the wrongs and rights, depending, of course, on party affiliation. It would be a serious loss of opportunity if we were to miss the essential lessons from the Azan and Paulwell matters because of a love for political bloodletting.
Until the Director of Public Prosecutions, and subsequently the courts, find that Mr Azan corruptly used his office for personal gain, we are constrained to sympathise with his desire to take poor people out of the sun and off the streets into the Spalding Market grounds to eke out a living for them and their families.
Unfortunately, the OCG, given its mandate, cannot take this into account.
We have no doubt, as we have said before, that Mr Azan tried to get around the established process by facilitating the construction of shops on Clarendon Parish Council property, without the requisite approval. Given the yards and yards of red tape that is usually involved, those shops might have still not yet been built. But as the bureaucracy now stands, Mr Azan had no legal right to have intervened in the way he did.
In the case of Mr Paulwell, again we feel some sympathy for his desire to unfetter the development and growth of Jamaica by dragging down energy costs which are generally accepted as one of the biggest obstacles to investment.
It is conceivable that the bid from Hong Kong-based Energy World International is the best deal for Jamaica. The energy minister also appeared to circumvent the bureaucracy by going straight to Cabinet for quick approval. If that is the case, calls for his resignation might be premature, as the Cabinet would have to bear some responsibility.
But all this is indication of the conundrum in which our present bureaucracy has left us. We can't do anything quickly, no matter how urgent it is to the growth of our economy. That is why former Prime Minister Bruce Golding tried to shock the system by saying that any application for development projects should be taken as approved, if the relevant government departments did not respond within 90 days.
Only last week, Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips quantified the problem of the bureaucracy in the following manner: "I believe that there are billions of dollars worth of investments that are being held up in the local authorities or the governmental apparatus which, if unlocked, could add another per cent or two to our growth rate."
We have to revise the current rules of engagement or continue to throw the baby out with the bath water.