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PM wants change in bureaucratic culture

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, July 12, 2018

PRIME Minister Andrew Holness said yesterday that, while he understands the fear of increased bureaucracy leading to more corruption in the public sector, he could not ignore the rules of procedure.

Holness, in response to critics that the procedures revealed on Tuesday in the House of Representatives to handle alleged corruption at Petrojam were increased bureaucracy, said that he recognises the need for a change in the bureaucratic culture but could not ignore the rules at this time.

The guest speaker at the official opening and ribbon-cutting for the new Jamaica Special Economic Zone Authority (JSEZA) at Waterloo Road in Kingston, he said that he has heard the arguments that too much bureaucracy creates more room for corruption.

“But, in order to get the outcomes we have to either pay for the expedition of service, or totally ignore the rules of procedure,” he told attendees.

The prime minister said that as the society evolves and develops as a country, a part of that development must be a change in its bureaucratic culture.

“Bureaucracy is not bad, but bureaucracy does not mean that the deal must take 10 days if it can take one day,” he argued.

“It is hard to get that down to the level of the secretary [for example], whose job it is merely to sign off on a document. But, until it gets to that level, then we will continue to struggle in realising the true potential of our country,” he added.

Holness said that he has given a challenge and a mandate to JSEZA that, while the process must be as quick as possible, it must also be efficient and effective.

He added that the small staff assigned to the authority was a deliberate attempt to tackle such issues, as a huge institution was not necessary to deliver service with efficient use of technology. He urged the JSEZA administration and staff to set an example in being small, but efficient and effective, and in helping to create a more transparent public sector.

JSEZA Chairman Metry Seaga assured the prime minister that it has a “fantastic team” which will be held to account, and which will play its part in delivering major transformational investments in the country.

“If we want to grow as a country in a significant way, we must raise the standard of operating, both from the government side and private sector as well,” Seaga said.

He noted that both the special economic zones (SEZs) and the authority were about raising standards.

“We want to ensure that we adhere to standard operating procedures and timelines. We want to ensure that international best practices become the norm for our business,” he said.

Seaga said, too, that in just over one year there was already more than US$500 million in investments in the SEZs, and more than 5,000 jobs.

“At last count, we projected approximately US$5 billion in investment, with over 100,000 jobs being created in a range of sectors, including manufacturing, logistics, business process outsourcing, just to name a few,” he pointed out.

He also stated that, the authority will be employing a strategy to realise success within the SEZ regime, including: The development of a clear plan which must be integrated into the larger economic development strategy; continue to establish a sound legal and regulatory framework in which adaptability will be key; and a high-level leadership and inter-agency coordination.

Seaga called on all agency heads, permanent secretaries and Cabinet ministers to “put weight behind the authority… for our country, Jamaica”.

The JSEZA was founded in August 2016 with the repeal of the Jamaica Export Free Zone Act.

A special economic zone is a defined geographic area of new business, where local and international investors apply to have their businesses so defined, which can lead to significant economic benefits.