Letters to the Editor

Do away with pork-barrel tactics

Monday, March 17, 2014    

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Dear Editor,

Any entrepreneur who is interested in long-term sustainability will refrain from making unwise business decisions. Unlike government bureaucrats, private entrepreneurs are actually punished by the market if they fail. Bureaucrats, therefore, do not understand the dynamics of market and so their decisions can be influenced simply by political idealogues.

Government involvement in the management of businesses remains a mystery. Despite the divestment of some entities, like the Wallenford Coffee Company, the Government of Jamaica is still too bloated.

Too many of our politicians aim their sights on 'solving' social ills to get cheap points, when these issue could be easily rectified by entrepreneurship. And what's worse, we act surprised when social initiatives don't result in long-term growth and development.

For example, the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) mission statement displayed on its website is quite clear: "Our mission is to contribute to the improved quality of life of all Jamaicans through social transformation by facilitating and providing quality affordable shelter solutions with security at tenure." The problem with agencies like the HAJ is that their main intention is not to make a profit, but rather only to provide some form of assistance to the poor. The situation is further compounded as, unfortunately, these government entities are usually managed by political operatives who lack technical expertise. And then we are surprised that the HAJ's deficit is over $300 million.

For example, the Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) mission statement displayed on its website is quite clear: "Our mission is to contribute to the improved quality of life of all Jamaicans through social transformation by facilitating and providing quality affordable shelter solutions with security at tenure." The problem with agencies like the HAJ is that their main intention is not to make a profit, but rather only to provide some form of assistance to the poor. The situation is further compounded as, unfortunately, these government entities are usually managed by political operatives who lack technical expertise. And then we are surprised that the HAJ's deficit is over $300 million.

Managing a business is not the forte of the government, and most government businesses have a social objective not a truly economic one. Abolishing the HAJ should be considered a practical solution since the existence of such an agency is a burden to the country at large. There are other agencies and programme carrying out the function more successfully.

The first time the HAJ made a profit was in 2010, and it was due to the sale of company-owned real estate, not its core operations of land and housing development. The private sector, where efficiency is measured, would have no use for such a business.

But the HAJ is not the only state agency that needs to go, the Jamaica Racing Commission should also suffer the same fate. Now this body was created to regulate the horse racing sector, although we don't need a commission to enforce rules. Furthermore, jockeys can create their own professional organisations to safeguard and invest in the industry. There should be no reliance on the commission's welfare programmes.

No political party in Jamaica, especially the present administration, has an interest in reducing the size of government, because a growing bureaucracy expands the power of government. And since most members of civil society and the public at large are statist, there is no group to lobby for less government. But when government agencies fail, these are the same people who complain. Jamaicans needs a real free market party to rescue us from the politics and quickly too.

Lipton Matthews

lo_matthews@yahoo.com

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