COMMENTARY: The role of government

COMMENTARY: The role of government
Melanius Alphonse
Melanius Alphonse

Much can be argued about the role of government in modern economies, such as its responsibility to balance the concerns of the populace via meaningful consultations with trade unions, civil society, NGOs, and the private sector, to attain harmonized national policy outcomes, while recognizing the many challenges that plague the global economy.

Nevertheless, the role of government centers on the smooth operation of matters pertaining to national security, social services, economic development, the provision of oversight; protection of the public interest, equitable taxation and good governance in accordance with the rule of law, which creates the conditions for citizens to make the most of their resilient character.

If these interpretations above do not relate in harmony, the nature of our business environment will lead to significant economic decline, and force a reliance on state financing to prop-up uncompetitive temporary jobs, low wages, health benefits and social services at a hefty cost.

These drawbacks cause growing pains that undeniably cut the prospects for real growth and sound economic policy.

Government has the ability to create “work” and facilitate an environment for “jobs” directly or indirectly. However, should it be job attainment programs that satisfy political needs at the expense of growth and public debt of 80.2% of gross domestic product (GDP) and climbing, as is the case in Saint Lucia? Can government justify this as spending on resources for productive gains in the future that can begin to return the debt-to-GDP ratio to the recommended 60% level?

The role of government is vital – don’t get me wrong!

Government must play its distinctive function – to present a plan designed to spur investment in national projects, with secondary linkage to put the country on a growth path. Government also has a responsibility to set a sustainable base to support development. Government must likewise allocate adequate resource to ensure productivity blooms from that economic base.

If not, there will be an enabling environment that will lead to poor economic performance and further economic distress. The irony is that both shortcomings are evident in the estimates of revenue and expenditure for 2013/2014, tabled by Saint Lucia’s minister for finance Dr Kenny Anthony.

Moreover, the lack of leadership and management of the resources received by the incompetent Anthony administration may have contributed to higher unemployment, productivity issues and cost factors that may have stirred Small and Medium Enterprises, (SME’s) and foreign direct investment (FDI), to cautiously hold on to their capital and invest scarcely. Such situations most often strangle commerce, which leads to significant decline in government revenue and, by extension, forces significant downward cuts in government(s) budget estimates due to loss of leadership confidence.  A good case to reference is the forceful reduction of $130 million in Saint Lucia’s estimates of revenue and expenditure for 2013/2014.

What happen or didn’t happen is yet to be answered by incompetent administrators of the public purse. Especially, when the reduction is made in capital expenditure!

This is dead wrong!

A vital public prediction was that the minister for finance reduces recurrent expenditure to reflect its lack of revenue generation and to cushion the costs incurred.  However, two issues remain unclear with this administration; job creation and boosting job growth.
This will continue to pose a challenge to competiveness, growth projections and more preposterous assumptions from the Anthony administration.

The need now is to design a sustainable national implementation and resource allocation plan for nation building. And so, it is imperative that the Anthony administration of top heavy bureaucracy – steps back, seeks help, and reformulates practical workable solutions that are built on a sustainable private sector driven economy.

To achieve this, Saint Lucia must clearly define the type of development and investment (s) it needs. The mindless approach and clueless government leadership is not helping – without a vision, a plan and a strategy! Good governance must seek to transition citizens of traditional farm jobs, industrial jobs and service jobs toward a knowledge base and modern industrialize economy.  Also, government and citizens must be more responsive to acquiring the core needs of food self-sufficiency, housing, health-care, security and financial obligations. This would also set the basis for an improved standard of living to higher education, research and development needs for continuous renewal; and for value jobs that would be created by adopting an entrepreneurial agenda in the marketplace.

Everyone has a responsible role to play — the private sector, NGOs, civil society, trade unions and related stakeholders — and after meaningful dialogue to ensure that national policy outcomes clearly reflect their concerns as part of the way forward for our nation. But, the Kenny Anthony administration has a responsibility to get rid of “willful blindness” in order to get the role of government right!

Melanius Alphonse is a management and development consultant. He is an advocate for community development, social justice, economic freedom and equality; the Lucian People’s Movement (LPM) critic on youth initiative, infrastructure, economic and business development. He can be reached at [email protected]

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5 COMMENTS

  1. I have read this article and it has said a whole lot but doesn't answer the fundamental question of HOW!

    How does the LPM intend to "transition citizens of traditional farm jobs, industrial jobs and service jobs toward a knowledge base and modern industrialize economy"?

    Of course, the public sector is just too big . . . I agree there must be cuts. But how do we cut public sector jobs and not increase the unemployment rate?

    We know that the public sector is weak and will not be able to assimilate the laid of government workers. So, how do we reconcile this problem?

    There is always a need "to design a sustainable national implementation and resource allocation plan for nation building". This I believe has been done by all administrations . . . so, how would yours be different and what will be different?

    Again, we are loosing sight of some important fact: we are small, we do not get as much aid as we used to, we cannot be industrialized as we want to because of economies of scale.

    The only way out for us is OECS integration! And none of our politicians are talking to this point!

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  2. A well written analysis. The writer however fails to address the key factor which makes it possible for such a clueless bunch with no vision to actually hold the reins of power. As I see it, the critical issue is the extremely high illiteracy [read: ignorance, lack of independent thinking] in this country, and an education system which perpetuates it. How else do you explain the masses buying into the Labor Party's promise of "BETTER DAYS ARE COMING"? Anyone who stopped to give even a moment's thought to the promise of "$100 million in 100 days" would have realized instantly that it was the pipe dream of an absolute fool, someone woefully out of touch with current-day reality. They would have dismissed it instantly.
    I submit therefore that the path out of our situation is to completely revamp our education system and make it relevant to our present-day reality. We need a critically-thinking citizenry, who make sound decisions based on FACTS not allegiances, real or imagined. We need a nation that will demand leaders who inspire to higher achievement, not rabble-rousers who delve into the mud, seeking the lowest common denominator.
    Will ever this happen? I don't know. However I will not hold my breath, because those in a position to make the decisions benefit from the ignorance of the masses. It is what makes it possible for an absolutely clueless bunch of idiots like those we have presently to occupy the seat of power. I therefore don't see them changing that which props them up. That would call for a level of statesmanship that is certainly not present in today's government circles.
    I have no doubt that my comments will raise the ire of some party hacks, but I challenge them to forget the messenger and respond to the message.

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  3. You think Kenny will ever stop for a moment to smell the coffee? I don't think so. The only role this man understand is how to provide jobs and favours for a few SLP supporters.

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  4. i really like these guys approaches, i see this administration taking the country on a slippery slide downwards. we hear talk of a sustainable approach however we see the recycling of the same old faces who are bankrupt of ideas and not open minded to think outside the box. we hear talk of the youth but many of young professionals can't get their ideas listened too by those who decide nor are they given a chance to implement what they know. why do we have a government who will bring back those who have managed for decades and have clearly failed( make reference to our current state of affairs) but at the same downplay or ignore those who have fresh and outside the box ideas? i see our economy contracting in the manner that dominica and grenada's own did cause we are following a policy of higher taxation to spend on largesse and to keep party hacks happy

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