Reorganising Government and Leadership

For about the last five years or so, I’ve been giving some serious thought about how the Jamaican government is structured and what, if anything, can be done to not only make it more efficient, but also more responsive to the public. I have also given some thought as to why the leaders are seemingly so incapable of making certain decisions and, when they do, follow through on them. Let me say that what follows is strictly my opinion and that I’m not privy to any inside information from government/political sources in formulating said opinion.

Over the last few years, I have written letters to the newspapers in which I’ve advocated for a smaller government. I did the same earlier this year when I wrote an article that appeared in Abeng News again advocating the need for a smaller government. I have taken P.J. Patterson, Portia Simpson-Miller and Bruce Golding to task for having big governments that have failed to be more responsive as well as more nimble in addressing the needs, questions, and concerns of the Jamaican public. I am always hoping that someday someone will assume the leadership and take it upon themselves to finally (and seriously/objectively) look at the government structure and look at where it can be pared down and made not only better but more efficient.

If one lives in a dual-income household with two kids where the salaries total say, $100K (US) or its Jamaican equivalent per year, it’s probably fair to say one might be able to enjoy a certain lifestyle that would likely include some indulgencies. Nothing wrong with that. However, if circumstances arose where one individual lost their job and the income is now, say, $55K (US) or its Jamaican equivalent, then certain decisions are going to have to be made in that household. Now, all expenditures are going to be more carefully scrutinised and prioritised and it’s likely that some indulgencies will be sacrificed to make ends meet on less income. All of this would, of course, be explained to the kids in a way that would try to minimize and, otherwise, mitigate any hurt or shame they might feel.

One way government can possibly spend less money is to reduce the number of ministries from the present number to twelve. You do this by combining some ministries and creating executive agencies. For example, do we need a Youth, Culture and Sports ministry? No. Let Youth and Culture become part of the Education ministry and Sports be an executive agency.

Another example would be the Information ministry. Do away this ministry and let the head of the JIS, the government’ information arm, be the government spokesperson. Combine Justice and National Security into one ministry to be run by the Attorney-General. Create a Commerce Ministry and in this ministry you would have Foreign Trade and Industry. Telecommunications would fall under the purview of the OUR and Mining and Water would become part of an Environment/Land Use ministry which itself could be part of the PM’s portfolio. What is it with the Ministry of Transportation and Works? What exactly is ‘Works’? Will someone please explain this to me?

With regard to the army, I would do away with it. Yes, I know it sounds callous but as I’ve stated previously, the army is a luxury Jamaica can do without at this time. An army, in my opinion should serve as a means to protect a country from external aggression/invasion, at least that should be its primary mission. I don’t believe for one moment that most Jamaicans feel that the JDF could really fulfill that mission if it were to happen. In fact, I believe that a significant number of Jamaicans would probably welcome an invasion if it meant that some of the bums in government and the Opposition were to get the proverbial boot and be gone from public life.

Combine the army with the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). There would be compatibility and cultural issues to overcome but I believe they would be. There’d be two immediate benefits: a) more police personnel and b) likelihood of less corruption in the JCF. The primary shortcoming? Probably still not enough police personnel but it’s likely that getting new recruits would not be so difficult.

Another area to be addressed would be the courts. My ideas are this: there would be Civil Courts, Criminal Courts, Court of Appeal and a Supreme Court. You would also have a Family Court, Probate Court and Juvenile Court with a Juvenile Detention Facility in each county. In certain cases where a heinous act was committed by a juvenile, they should be tried in a criminal court if it is determined that that juvenile was aware of the severity and how heinous that criminal act was (in other words, tried as an adult).

Certain civil and small claims cases (up to a certain dollar amount) would be handled by justices of the peace who would be given a crash course in basic aspects of the law.

Judges appointed to the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court would be appointed for life or until they choose to retire. They would be selected in consultation with the Opposition party so as to remove the specter and doubt of politicization of the judiciary. The only way an Appeals or a Supreme Court judge could be removed prior to retirement would be by violating his/her oath or otherwise engaging in (an) action(s) that bring those courts into disrepute.

Sentencing guidelines should be looked at and, if possible, be adopted in certain cases. Justice must not only be done but be seen to be done.

Doing all the above will cost some money but in the long run it will help in streamlining not just government functions but government itself. After all, the aim of government should be to make itself more responsive to the needs of the governed. This is where leadership comes in. One would hope that the PM and the Opposition Leader would confer on some of these changes and then explain to their respective party executives and those affected the reason(s) for the changes. They would also address the nation to explain and sell the changes and the positive impact they’ll have on society.

Finally, apply the laws that are on the books and do so in a manner that is not seen as arbitrary and to the benefit of one party or part of the country. To the government ministers and employees: you are civil servants and you work for us. That’s a favour we grant you and not one you’re doing us.

     

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