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Editorial | McDonald was good for PICA

Published:Monday | September 5, 2016 | 9:00 AM

No one could claim that it is without flaws. Yet, there is certain to be consensus that Jamaica's Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA) is among the most efficient and best-run quangos in the system.

Theirs is not an easy job. Each year, PICA processes applications for tens of thousands of passports for Jamaican citizens, manages the entry and departure of millions of tourists and other visitors to the island and works with myriad agencies, local and foreign, to secure the country. Mostly, it happens relatively smoothly, as reflected in the high ratings visitors generally give to their immigration experience in Jamaica.

It is perhaps telling, too, that while Jamaicans travelling within the Caribbean Community not infrequently complain of unfair treatment or harassment in some jurisdictions, there are no similar accusations or claims of retaliation by immigration officers in this country. Matters tend to be handled with competence and civility. And the agency accomplished the tasks with limited resources.

It could have been otherwise if PICA were void of strong professional leadership, for which this newspaper commends its outgoing executive director, Jennifer McDonald, who, since 2007, steered the agency from being a department of Government to a semi-autonomous executive agency, which is substantially required to fund its operations and meet performance targets.

 

MUTUAL DECISION

 

Ms McDonald worked across administrations, winning praise for her efforts. Her contract was not renewed, but whether the decision was mutual, the reason remains unclear. We can't, in the circumstance, contemplate that she was pushed. We hope that was not the case.

Indeed, we look forward to the explanation from National Security Minister Robert Montague for this development and his vision for PICA, which deserves a leader as good and professional as the one he or she will succeed.

 

Paul Scott saying the right things

Paul Scott has not yet laid out a full agenda for his presidency of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), the island's most influential business group, but his early signal suggests that his could be a productive tenure.

On the face of it, he will accelerate the PSOJ's recent shift about Jamaica's underperformance in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), to doing something about it. That will require the PSOJ, and private firms more broadly, thinking in new ways about the community.

"For so long, CARICOM has been essentially a political construct and has really not engaged regionally on some of the issues," said Mr Scott, the chairman of the Musson Group, among other groups.

Their counterparts in the region, especially in Trinidad and Tobago, are more engaged. They have leveraged domestic advantages and found in Jamaica a lucrative market.

Fortuitously, Mr Scott's intention to lead the private sector to work in favour of Jamaica is coincidental with a pivot by Andrew Holness' government away from his party's former scepticism of the community that fed a broader Jamaican lethargy towards CARICOM. It is appreciated that CARICOM as a market is relatively small, but traders in it shouldn't perceive their products only as visible goods. Moreover, as a single economic space, CARICOM can be a good practice ground for Jamaican firms preparing for the world.

Mr Scott's attention to the broader issue of growth is also critically important. He says, as the Government does, that new things have to be done. Importantly, however, he made the point that sustained growth is unattainable in the absence of fiscal discipline by the Government, to which the administration must listen.