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LETTER OF THE DAY - Time for Gov't to sacrifice too

Published:Monday | February 18, 2013 | 12:00 AM


According to Finance Minister Peter Phillips, Jamaica has no alternative to the earth-shattering announcements made last week which are guaranteed to put the economy deeper into recession, virtually wipe out the middle class, devastate minimum-wage earners and PAYE workers, and send pensioners to the grave even earlier.

While the country has been crying out for decades for a properly organised public service, no government would take the necessary steps. Instead, they always seek, as a first option, to sock it to taxpayers and pensioners.

God forbid that the Simpson Miller administration should lead by example by cutting that oversize whatnot and operating with a small, efficient Cabinet; getting rid of political hacks rechristened as consultants; fly economy; or drive ordinary vehicles.

Government has also refused to relocate ministries and agencies from expensive properties in posh New Kingston while tens of thousands of square feet of state-owned property lie idle downtown.

We have such a docile, compliant population which does not seem to be able to differentiate between performance and talk.

But apart from doing such basic housekeeping activities that can save billions of dollars and send a message that Government is prepared to make sacrifices too, there are changes to our current structure that can allow us to operate an efficient public service in a modern society.

I am speaking about the army and local government, as currently structured. What we need from an army is an efficient engineering corps, a well-equipped coastguard and a small air wing, not an overpopulated infantry whose only utility is to occasionally assist the police, something they are not trained to do efficiently anyway.

outgrown usefulness

Much could be saved from the army and the bureaucratic and bloated parish councils if they were restructured to meet the needs of a modern society.

Then there are agencies and statutory bodies that have outgrown their usefulness or have never performed. The ones that come immediately to mind are the Office of the Political Ombudsman, which really works one in every five years; the Office of Public Defender, which does not seem to work at all; and three anti-corruption agencies, when only one delivers.

I am sure there are many others that we can do without.

But why bother to strive for small, efficient government when the ever-complacent taxpayer is always here to 'jook' it to?