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LETTER OF THE DAY - Improving Gov't's performance

Published:Thursday | January 24, 2013 | 12:00 AM


THERE HAS been much discussion about the lacklustre performance of several ministers within the Portia Simpson Miller-led Cabinet, some of whom are wrongly assigned. Such non or underperformance of ministers is not unique to this Cabinet, though, as cabinets before have been also similarly handicapped to varying extent.

As a result of that challenge, aside from merely creating jobs as payback for political loyalty and support, consultants and advisers are otherwise employed to provide the skills and competencies of which the ministers are devoid.

One way to lessen the need for the huge number of advisers and consultants is for both major political parties to select more than just 'pedigreed', deep-pocketed, popular, or 'winnable' candidates to run for office. Greater emphasis should be placed on selecting candidates with particular competencies and track records that will afford for the election of parliamentarians from whom more talented cabinets can be formed.

Naturally, this move would bring about an improvement in the overall platform of governance, as the people would more than likely be better represented, and the apathy, lack of respect and distrust of the politicians could be ameliorated.

Given our system of government, the prime minister does not have the latitude to pull suitably qualified people from the larger society to occupy ministerial positions, except for possibly appointing up to four such through the Senate, so he/she has to depend largely on the elected parliamentarians from his/her party to form the executive.

Admittedly, even with skilled ministers in place, there would still be instances in which certain expertise and highly technical skills would be needed. However, a lot fewer advisers and consultants would be necessary.

Parliamentary internship programme

Another way to avoid employing those advisers and consultants who do not bring any highly technical or particular expertise to the job is to implement a parliamentary internship programme, which would see talented tertiary-level students, and/or recent such graduates not yet fully employed, interning with parliamentarians/ministers and, in so doing, obtaining credits towards their degree programmes.

Stipends, far less than the salary packages given to the consultants and advisers, could be offered to the interns, which could assist in satisfying their college-related expenses or provide a little assistance to the graduates in the interim.

Our parliamentarians, outside of the executive, do not have a proper support staff and several of them are not particularly skilled, nor have the time or the know-how to engage in certain research to better inform their positions on matters brought before the Parliament for debate. Interns could, therefore, come in handy there.