Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
ARGUING THAT Jamaica was now facing a "national economic emergency", government Member of Parliament (MP) Fitz Jackson said the country urgently needs a "development investment czar".
During discussions at a meeting of the Economy and Production Committee on Thursday, Jackson contended that the czar should be given the requisite legal mandate to bulldoze bureaucracy which stood in the way of development.
Committee Chairman Karl Samuda, who was presiding for the first time since his appointment, gave full support to Jackson's seemingly impromptu proposal.
The committee was discussing plans for upcoming meetings and highlighting issues that have a direct impact on the economy.
According to Jackson, the country should treat with the "national economic emergency" as if it had declared a state of emergency against serious crime.
He reasoned that during a state of emergency, law-enforcement officers are given "discretionary powers". He suggested that the development czar should be given the authority to eliminate bureaucratic hurdles which pose a barrier to economic growth.
"You are going to have some victims. Whether it is environmental or social, … there will be some consequences … . It should be done in a balanced way, … but we can't make good the enemy of perfection and, in the process, we all suffer and Jamaica falls further behind," Jackson said.
"I might be affected by the decision of that czar, but so be it. For the greater good, I am prepared to give up [some thing], if we are serious," the government MP stressed.
In his comments, Samuda said respective administrations have talked about bureaucracy, but fell short of introducing the required measures to remove the red tape that inhibits investment.
"There is no magic to reducing bureaucracy if a country is determined to proceed and implement the required legislation to support it," he said.
Samuda said the National Development Council, which was established to remove obstacles which hinder implementation of development projects and impede business activities, had been reduced to a talk shop.
According to Samuda, the council has been "rendered redundant because it has achieved precious little".
The Economy and Production Committee chairman said the prime minister needed a "single powerhouse person" to ensure decisions taken at the level of the council were implemented.
"You need to have vested in an individual that heads an organisation devoted to ensuring that decisions taken are implemented and the procedures required are clearly understood," Samuda concluded.