Tuesday, April 16, 2024

AS I SEE THINGS: Utilising scarce resources


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IN SMALL COUNTRIES like those in the Caribbean, financial and other forms of resources are relatively scarce.

Hence, it is important that everyone utilises those resources in as efficient a manner as is humanly possible. Given the very nature of our countries, it is quite obvious that governments play a huge role in managing the affairs of our economies.

Therefore, the extent to which efficiencies can be generated in the use of scarce resources will be reflected in the quality or lack thereof of public administration in the Caribbean.

Quite logically, the quality of public administration depends on various factors including the types of institutions that have been created over time and various laws governing the conduct of public officers and functioning of state enterprises.

For example, our public services’ commissions, our constitutions, and specific legislation such as the finance and audit act, are designed deliberately to ensure proper and effective public administration throughout the region. To date, these institutions and laws have served many of our countries extremely well, with amendments taking place to coincide with the changing times.

Despite the existence of this important apparatus, public administration in the Caribbean tends to suffer from the behavioural patterns displayed by some of our politicians and public servants. It is no secret that some politicians do demand “loyalty” from public officers.

And in many instances such demands force public officers to act in ways that clearly contradict many of the rules and regulations that govern their conduct. In other instances, public officers consider themselves as “political sympathisers” and hence take on agendas that are clearly consistent with satisfying the whims and fancies of those in control of the government.

When the demands of the politicians are combined with the political sympathy of public officers, the actions that emerge usually result in a breakdown in public administration. And it is within this context that the general public begins to lose confidence in the public service and the cries of inefficiencies become loudest.

But more important, when public servants become “too political” in the execution of their duties that situation undermines peoples’ confidence in governments. Hence, following a general election, if a new government assumes office it is forced into taking severe actions against some public officers for fear that their continued presence in the public service would undermine the efforts of the government in implementing its various plans and programmes for transforming the country’s economic and social landscapes.

More often than not, such actions by the new government lead to accusations of victimisation by opposing political figures and consequently legal action by those public officers who feel that their constitutional rights to work have been violated. Logically, these developments only serve to weaken the perception that many already have of chaotic public administration in the Caribbean.

Going forward, therefore, the quality of public administration in the Caribbean can be enhanced tremendously if politicians and public officers alike are willing and able to change their behaviour by ensuring that all of their actions are consistent with the rules and regulations that govern their performances in office.

And as a practical matter, whenever tempted to do things that are not in keeping with effective public administration, both politicians and public servants should always draw wisdom from this famous quote: “He who will not reason is a bigot; he who cannot is a fool; and he who dares not is a slave” – Sir William Drummond

Email: bfrancis@uwichill.edu.bb


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