It is probably apocryphal.
It is about the death of the Rockefeller Committee.
As the tale is told, the Americans, mostly Fortune 500 types, were often frustrated with the red tape that impeded business in Jamaica. Mr Rockefeller often complained to Mr Seaga.
At one meeting, with Mr Rockefeller's blue riband group at its wits' end, they were informed that the problem was solved. Mr Seaga had installed a telephone hotline, red in colour, on his desk. The prime minister would field calls and give instructions to remove investment logjams.
What would be different is that the phone would be answered by Mr Seaga's hand rather than dealing with the core goal: elimination of red tape.
Mr Rockefeller thereafter concluded that he would be unable to make a significant difference to investment and long-term growth in Jamaica.
That story is brought to mind by this week's launch by the investment and commerce minister, Mr Anthony Hylton, of a toll-free hotline, 1-888-REDTAPE (the colour of the instrument was not disclosed) via which people can complain about the same problems that purportedly frustrated Mr Rockefeller three decades ago.
There is, however, a difference this time. Mr Hylton won't field the calls. His staff, apparently, will collect and collate the information so that at the end, "adequate data would have been secured to inform the development of a more robust and comprehensive mechanism to address these issues".
We suspect that that bit of 'bureaucralese' has something to do with making Jamaica more business and investment friendly, areas on which we do not do well.
In the latest Global Competitiveness Report, Jamaica ranked 97th out of 144 countries, down from 85. On the state of its macroeconomy, we ranked 141st; 104th with regard to the quality of health and primary education; 97th regarding our institutions; and 85th on the state of our infrastructure with respect to competitiveness.
Matters affecting Jamaica's Ranking
Mr Hylton may well argue, credibly, that these matters, although they impact his portfolio, are beyond the immediate purview of his ministry. He is more directly concerned with the matters covered by the World Bank's Doing Business Report, in which Jamaica ranked 88th of 183 countries, falling behind Caribbean Community partners such as St Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, and St Vincent and the Grenadines. Our ranking is affected by matters such as the time and cost (96 days and 355 per cent of per capita income, respectively) to obtain an electricity connection and the average 145 days it takes to get a building permit.
Mr Hylton and the Government do not need to be told these things via a hotline. Nor should they obtain a new inventory of what's wrong. What they need to do is just get on with the job of unravelling the red tape.
That starts with a philosophy - that the private sector is a partner, rather than an adversary, in economic development, and that it is better to err on the probability that a business-friendly environment entices investment, while paper-wielding commissars are likely to have the contrary effect.
As the Rockefeller story makes clear, hotlines are not the answer.
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