By Robert Wynter
Writing in last Sunday's Gleaner, Gary Spaulding posed the question: 'Can a jobs czar do it? Worrying unemployment rate sparks talk on need for a minister to drive growth'. The editorial followed suit declaring that we need a minister of economy and business. Both are trying to address symptoms rather than root causes.
The author posited that such a czar may be required because "the Portia Simpson Miller administration is failing to tackle the issues which are stymieing growth and development in the country".
Having articulated the symptoms (high unemployment and low growth), the story hinted at the problem (lack of vision, strategy, execution and leadership), yet suggests a solution to address the symptom (czar) instead of its root cause. This reminds me of the man who lost a shilling in the dark bushes on one side of a road, yet searched for it under the street light on the other side.
Anthony Clayton, Dennis Chung, Dickie Crawford and Joe Matalon were all not in favour of a czar, suggesting that rather than addressing root causes, such an appointment would be cosmetic and a waste of time.
Aubyn Hill, on the other hand, in claiming his proposal is geared at driving economic growth (symp-tom), agrees with the idea of a czar (solution) without any reference to the root cause. He suggests Jamaica adopt a Ministry of Knowledge and Economy such as exists in South Korea. (Name was changed to Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy in 2013).
In attempting to benchmark Jamaica against South Korea, Mr Hill should be mindful of the fact that the president, elected by popular vote, serves a single five-year term, with no additional terms being allowed.
The Gleaner editorial articulated the symptoms (four decades of little growth and unsustainable debt) and identified a problem (policies and strategies that underpin the IMF programme contradict growth, and as such both cannot be handled by the finance minister).
However, in articulating a solution (a ministry with responsibility for business and investment), the editorial admits that "there is now someone (Minister Anthony Hylton) who carries the portfolio for industry and commerce, including trade and investment promotion".
skirted the root cause
It appears that the goodly editor has skirted the root cause, which is the poor performance of Anthony Hylton. Rather than addressing poor performance, the editorial seeks a solution on the well-lit side of the road. Furthermore, in stating that the new minister would be substantially about, inter alia, aggressively driving a strategic vision for the economy and playing a coordinating role between the key economic ministries, is the editor levelling a veiled criticism on the prime minister's own performance?
The editorial concludes that "there has to be a new approach to this matter of business and growth"; and I agree wholeheartedly. However, "... failing to tackle the issues ..." is at the root of our lack of growth, unem-ployment, social decay, poor education outcomes, high crime rate, etc.
Cosmetic changes such as a jobs czar or a Ministry of Economy and Business will NOT address the root cause. What is needed is a clear vision; a strategy to achieve the vision; and transformational leadership to ensure flawless strategy execution.
While we accept that these ingredients in government alone will not be sufficient to drive desired national outcomes, they are absolutely necessary and are much more impactful than those by other areas of society.
Unfortunately, the National Development Plan, the Growth Inducement Strategy, the Mid-Term Economic Framework, the Public Sector Rationalisation Master Plan and other such voluminous documents are woefully inadequate as "strategies to achieve a vision". So, too, are a jobs czar and a minister of economy, knowledge or business.
Robert Wynter is managing director of Strategic Alignment Limited, which facilitates organisational transformation and leadership development. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.