Robert Wynter, Contributor
Were St Paul of Tarsus alive today and giving advice to Jamaicans at this point in our history, I suggest he would have modified his famous letter to the Corinthians to read: "If I articulate my plans in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not execute, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of visioning and can fathom all opportunities and threats, and if I have faith that Jamaica can be the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business, but do not execute, I am nothing. If I love the poor and sacrifice my body to hard work that I may boast, but do not execute, I gain nothing."
Audley Shaw's recent revelation that only $400 million will be available when the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) gestation period is finally over has sent jitters throughout the business sector, as everyone is expecting a windfall with the signing of an agreement. This has been the mood ever since Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller reportedly told a Bloomberg reporter at the investment conference that Jamaica would do well with a "Greek-style bailout". (Bloomberg later retracted the statement.)
While it is true that the IMF agreement will also be a stamp of approval to borrow from multilaterals and others licking their chops to lend us money, the resulting mounting debt will go counter to the wishes of Finance Minister Peter Phillips to significantly reduce Jamaica's debt stock. Our only hope, it seems, is to make sure that whatever loans we receive will add value of greater proportions than the interest charged.
Executing needs patience. Executors must be kind to all, they ought not to envy, they ought not to boast, and they ought not to be proud. They must not dishonour critics, they must not be self-seeking, they must not be easily angered by those who oppose them; they need not dwell on or defend their wrongdoings. They must not delight in evil, but rejoice in truth. Executors must always protect, always trust, always give hope, and always persevere.
Under successive administrations, Jamaica's record of extracting value from loans has been dismal. This has been borne out in the estimated average 40 per cent achievement of the objectives under the programmes accompanying our bilateral and multilateral loans. The fundamental reason has been our governments' (cabinets', ministries', departments' and agencies') affliction with acquired implementation deficiency syndrome, or AIDS. In fact, others may go further to say we have AEDS (acquired execution deficiency syndrome), as there is a subtle yet very important distinction between implementation and execution. The former focuses on actions, while the latter focuses on results or performance targets.
Executors may fail at first, but with a focus on the vision and with perseverance, they will succeed. But where there are naysayers and critics, they will cease; where there are forked tongues, they will be stilled; where there is misguided knowledge, it will pass away.
Audley Shaw's recent broadside of the Government's affliction with AEDS, while founded, suggested that he and his administration were not so afflicted. I find it very hard to understand Mr Shaw's declaration that he had commenced the implementation of the public-sector reform programme.
This is far from reality, as although Bruce Golding's Cabinet accepted the Public Sector Transformation Unit's recommendations to restructure government for greater levels of effectiveness and efficiency, the JLP gave it only lip service, while fully afflicted with AEDS. This has carried over to this administration in no uncertain fashion.
Not to be outdone, Senator Bobby Montague delivered an extremely emotional presentation in the Upper House on November 9, for which he earned, as fellow senator, Lambert Brown put it, the privilege to buy a couple rounds of drinks. Senator Montague suggested that the Government fire all consultants and use the savings to fund the Students' Loan Bureau (SLB).
Year in, year out, we get a constant diet from opposition parliamentarians and supporters that somehow we are wasting valuable resources on consultants. While some consultants are usually retired parliamentarians, unsuccessful candidates or other party functionaries, the accusations are blanket statements without the concomitant data to back up said accusations.
With the consultants being paid roughly $200 million per year, not significantly different than when Senator Montague was a Cabinet minister, it boggles the mind why the goodly senator has failed to suggest using some of the $150-billion public-sector wage bill for the SLB. Senator Montague can, therefore, be characterised as being penny wise and pound foolish in opposition, as he, too, was afflicted with AEDS while in government.
For we know, in part, and we execute, in part; but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked liked a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child, I planned like a child. When I became a man, I put away the ways of childhood behind me.
THE WAY FORWARD
In a recent discussion hosted by Garfield Burford on CVM, panellists had differing views on the cause of our economic challenges, the way forward, and the performance of Government in addressing these challenges. Government senator Lambert Brown, who in a previous life criticised the Government for its affliction with AEDS (my interpretation), now seems quite prepared to accept and defend his Government's affliction.
Senator Brown suggests there is genuine hope, that the prime minister has articulated an overall vision (which he never shared), and that the Government is doing little things here and little things there.
Economist Ralston Hyman points to the current account deficit and suggests that high energy, food and manufactured items' import costs are the main culprits. Mr Hyman failed to mention the other side of the current account equation, which includes the export of goods and services.
The fact is that we need energy and food, and at this time it is much easier to import than to produce ourselves. What we need to do is find a way to earn enough to pay for the imported energy and food. This is not happening because we are afflicted with AEDS.
Financial analyst Dr Adrian Stokes was spot on when he said the country's low competitiveness was the problem. However, while Dr Stokes correctly pointed to the uncompetitive firms, he failed to mention the uncompetitive government afflicted with AEDS.
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; soon we shall see face to face. Now we know, in part; soon we shall know fully, even as we are fully known. And now these three remain: visioning, planning and execution. But the greatest of these is execution.
Robert Wynter is the managing director of
Strategic Alignment Limited, which facilitates organisational
transformation and leadership development. Comments are welcome at