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Use private sector to deliver some public services – CaPRI

Published:Wednesday | August 5, 2015 | 12:00 AMMcPherse Thompson
Co-Executive director of the Caribbean Policy Research Institute, Dr Christopher Tufton.

In a new study focusing on reforming the public sector, the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI) has suggested that the Government restructure the civil service by focusing on services that will not be provided by the public sector.

Public services that require the government to assume substantive risk, but which may be improved by private sector management, should be outsourced, said the study.

In addition, it said that where private companies can assume substantial financial, technical and operational risk, but still require government assistance, public-private partnerships should be formed.

"If public and private sector interests are better served by having the private sector deliver a public service, then such services should be divested," CaPRI said in the study, 'Reforming Public Sector Reform'.

In outlining aspects of the public-sector rationalisation plan, the University of the West Indies-based think tank pointed out that public-sector reform is a priority to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and has formed part of its recent agreement with Jamaica.

committed to transform

As such, the Government has committed to taking actions to transform the public sector, and, among other things, maintain a path of public-sector wages consistent with a reduction on the wage bill to nine per cent of gross domestic product by fiscal year 2016/17.

CaPRI, which investigated the reasons for the failure of other efforts to the public sector reform in Jamaica, suggested that one impediment was he Government's failure to clearly define its role and, as a result, to deliver public services focused on that role.

It outlined nine areas identified by the Public Sector Transformation Unit which it said the Government should influence, namely, a safe, healthy and secure environment; an effective and accessible justice system; a good-quality education system; access to basic health care; social-welfare support for the disadvantaged; public infrastructure and related services, an efficient public bureaucracy; an appropriate policy environment and regulatory mechanisms, and diplomacy.

In the June-updated memorandum of economic and financial policies submitted to the IMF, the Government said that while significant progress has been made in the first two years of the programme, much remains to be done.

It said major reforms to be taken forward in the third and fourth year of the programme include public-sector transformation and public pension reform.

On the basis of its action plan, the Government said it will put in place shared services within the central government, starting with legal services, with support from Justice Canada. The latter operation is slated for completion in October.

The report outlining an optimal shared service model for legal services and attendant service level agreements is expected to be completed within six months after it is accepted by the Government.

completed merger

The organisational structure for the merger of the Forensic Laboratory and the Legal Medicine Unit has been completed. It is expected that the new entity will be operational by September 2015.

The Government said it expects to complete the organisational structure for the merger of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission and Jamaica Racing Commission by September 2015, and expects that the merged structure will be implemented in May 2016.

It also expects to complete, by March 2016, the merger of the commodities boards for cocoa, coffee and coconut, and transfer the regulatory functions to the Jamaica Agricultural Commodities Regulatory Authority.

The Government said it also plans to continue reducing the size of the public sector, over fiscal years 2014 to 2016, through the elimination of posts and an attrition programme.

The new public-pension system is expected to be implemented by the start of fiscal year 2016/17. The requisite change in legislation to accommodate that system is a structural benchmark under the IMF programme, and is expected to be tabled by end November 2015.

mcpherse.thompson@gleanerjm.com