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The Public Service's Role in Promoting Economic Development

March 02 2015 - by Joan H. Underwood, CLP's Regional Project Manager

On March 4th, CLP will host two outstanding Caribbean public servants as they explore the role of the civil service in promoting economic growth and development.  Grenada’s Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Timothy Antoine along with Dr. Wendell Samuel, Deputy Division Chief in the Caribbean II Division of the IMF Western Hemisphere Department will form the panel when CLP hosts the latest instalment in its series of webinars on topics of grave interest to the Caribbean. 

Bright Spot

This forum comes in the wake of a recent blog appearing on http://blogs.iadb.org heralding Jamaica’s success as documented in the 2015 World Bank Doing Business Report.  Overall Jamaica rose twenty-seven places in the Doing Business Rankings between 2014 and 2015 – moving from the 85th to 58th spot.[1]  The most notable gains were in the following areas:

  • Starting a business (moved up 14 places in the ranking – i.e. from 34th to 20th)
  • Getting credit (moved up 113 places in the rankings – i.e. from 125th to 12th)
  • Paying taxes (moved up 5 places in the ranking – i.e. from 152nd to 147th)

Using an appreciative inquiry approach which is an essential element in CLP’s Leadership Development Programme (LDP), the IADB blog goes on to highlight five lessons which the Caribbean can glean from the experience of our brothers and sisters in Jamaica – namely:

  1. Recognize the rankings and the associated importance – as nations, we need to be paying attention to where we stand competitively;
  2. Political will – if governments don’t acknowledge the issues and make a concerted effort to address them, then there is little likelihood of recording any improvements;
  3. Forge national partnership to build consensus on priority areas and action plans;
  4. Capitalize on available support from the donor community and development partners – e.g. IDB, IFC and Compete Caribbean; and
  5. Commit to ongoing reforms and improvements – it’s not a case of once and done.

Cautionary Tale

Even as we take the time to extract the lessons learnt from Jamaica’s performance over the past year, it is instructive to recall Grenada’s accomplishments between 2010 and 2011.  As a direct result of an aggressive reform programme supported by the IFC, Grenada moved from 98th to 73rd in the world rankings.  Among the specific interventions were the establishment of the Office of Private Sector Development and a separate unit of Corporate Affairs and Intellectual Property.  The launch of an electronic entry processing systems at Customs was also credited with reducing the number of days it took to register a business from 20 to 16.

Unfortunately, the hard-won gains were relatively short-lived.  The 2015 Report now has Grenada ranked 126th overall.   What are the factors that might have contributed to the erosion of the significant improvements recorded just a few short years ago? 

Among the factors to be considered is the fact that, in a competitive arena one can lose ground just by standing still.  As other economies throughout the world work diligently to improve their own competitiveness and governments focus on proactively facilitating trade and commerce, those of us who opt to stand still or maintain the status quo may inevitably find ourselves being run over.  Could this be why Dominica (94th à 97th); Barbados (103rd à106th); and Suriname (159th à162nd) all lost ground between 2014 and 2015 while Singapore maintained its #1 ranking and Malaysia rose from #20 to #18?

World Bank Rankings

As public sector leaders, what are your thoughts?  As you execute your individual and collective responsibilities, to what extent does the promotion of economic growth and development factor into your decision-making, policy formulation and programme design?

Register today to join CLP at 1:45 p.m. Eastern Caribbean Time on Wednesday March 4th to discuss these and other issues related to the public sector’s contribution to economic development.  While registration is free, space is limited.  So why not just follow this link right now to secure your place in this important conversation? http://www.caribbeanleadership.org/en/news/live-webinar.