THE EDITOR: Sir:
There has been much debate about the perceived lacklustre nature of the private sector, but the discourse is void of context since most commentators choose to ignore Jamaica's hostile economic climate. The decisions of the corporate world are based on economic realities and not altruism. Businesses exist to maximise profit, therefore, we ought not to expect rational businessmen to invest heavily in the productive sector when the cost of doing business is not only exorbitant, but the economic environment is one of great uncertainty. Since the government should only play a facilitatory role in generating growth, we expect policymakers to consider the suggestion of noted consultant Trevor Hamilton.
According to Dr Hamilton, the developmental approval process should be privatised, thereby eliminating inefficient bureaucratic practices. The authority of government bodies to approve projects would be transferred to professionals like architects and civil engineers. It took the approval process for the Courtyard Marriott Hotel three years to materialise. This is a perfect example of the public sector's lethargy; hence the need to reduce the role of government in the economy.
Too much red tape
A Gleaner report on September 4, 2013, highlighted the challenges faced by Swiss House Jamaica Limited in securing tax breaks and building permits within Kingston. Despite submitting applications to the Urban Development Corporation and the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC) for a permit to construct a parking garage several months ago, even in September they were yet to be approved. In the words of the town clerk, Errol Greene, "The KSAC is bound by law to seek the input of other agencies, and if they do not respond expeditiously, there is nothing we can do."
The UDC is one of those agencies. It is examples like these that validate Dr Hamilton's suggestion. Politicians claim that Jamaica needs foreign investment, but they do nothing to abolish archaic laws like the one which prevents the KSAC from acting independently. The present administration wants to amend the Contractor General Act to prevent the Office of the Contractor General from engaging in certain projects at the pre-contract stage. It would be good if reducing bureaucracy were pursued with the same vigour. In the developed world, there is no need for an excessive bureaucracy. For example, company incorporation in Singapore is a simple process involving two steps (company name approval and registration with the Company Registrar). This only takes a day. Before critiquing, the private-sector PNP activists should ask themselves, what has the prime minister done to inspire confidence?