Op-Ed: Cutting Down the Cost of Government in Jamaica

By

By Ramesh Sujanani
Op-Ed Contributor

 

LOOKING AT this weekend’s headlines in Jamaica I found a stunning reminder to the people of Jamaica, rich or poor, that it is the government’s apparent feeling that they deserved the cars that they have purchased, with taxpayers’ money, which they have drawn from the bare treasury of the government. Is it in the government’s budget? Did the Auditor General, the Contractor General, Governor-General, approve, consent to, or otherwise give support and consent to purchase them? Excuse my flippancy.

We need to look at this whole matter again, starting all over. Most countries seem to have a pool of cars being used for their officials, with attendant drivers being drawn from security forces. The cars often travel with government ministers when they have a special duty for the country or in some official capacity. Prime Ministers and Presidents may be allotted two or more vehicles, in which they are chauffeured. That seems official policy in most countries of the world. So no one politician has a vehicle for his personal use. He would have to use a vehicle he owned for any personal purpose.

Vehicles in government services should be well secured, by armor plate if necessary, and should be under the control of government security at all times, limited to abuse, subject to permission for their use, and driven by security. What is causing the demand and expenditure of funds?

When the MPs were assigned to various ministries, did we need so many as 20 or 28, including junior ministries? Each Ministry brings with it a cost of operations including personnel, office space and equipment, various other capital goods.

In a way, these appointments should be kept to a minimum. What if there were only seven basic appointments, two each from Cornwall, Middlesex, and Surrey, and perhaps one extra for Kingston and St Andrew? Some rationality must exist to save costs.

Each person at that level costs money, in salary, in medical benefit, in transportation (as seen), and I do not believe that nine-to-five hours are always completed by Ministers at their job, which lacks a full day’s work. Then housing, overseas travel, special training, all other perquisites’ cost more money, and we could be looking, by my estimates, at J$10 million each, not including the apportioned annual cost of the vehicles.

When I look at these numbers, that seems, at 20 ministers, that is J$200,000,000 dollars a year; and we have yet to cover insurance for the cars. At 28 ministers and juniors that would be J$280,000,000 of cost incurred.

We should request a reduction of ministers, considering always, that the Ministry expenses, related operational expenditure, personnel and the like may very well vanish with the Minister. This meets one of the IMF’s requirements in staff civil service costs.

Then we seem to have dozens of consultants, in various phases of the operations, and I question, what they have done in the past 12 months? Can each one for the sake of good order, put out a written statement of their tasks done or are doing for the government of Jamaica, for reprint in a newspaper. This is necessary just to eliminate frivolous work being done. The people of Jamaica are their employers, and wish to know how much they are paid, and what they are doing.

There is another purpose: There may be retired Jamaican persons who would do a consultancy for the government within a time frame: Look at Don Wehby’s contribution to Jamaica’s government business. Very commendable, and it has I am sure done him good.

The one consultant we may need is an Industrial Engineer to review the operations, and costs of government, and recommend changes as I indicated (and if we have one consult him/her). Put him/her under control of an independent person or persons paid by the private sector. If we use a company employee made available, we should ask his company to contribute to his/her salary.

My conclusions are simple: follow the plan, reduce the Ministries, reduce the amount of cars needed, and effect savings by this operation which will satisfy the IMF. Showing every effort to save money will be feathers in our cap.

Ramesh K Sujanani can be reached at rsujanani78@gmail.com.

Note: the opinions expressed in Caribbean Journal Op-Eds are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Caribbean Journal.