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Good time for public sector reform


rhondathompson, [email protected]

Good time for public sector reform

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THE PENDING REDUNDANCY of public sector employees is perhaps a good starting point for this country to get back – in a serious way – to reform of this sector. It is obvious that we cannot continue with a public sector in the 21st century operating as it did 50 years ago.
While there has been a lot of talk about reform, the truth is that it has been just that – a lot of talk and not really much action. Now that the political directorate and even the trade unions seem to accept that the status quo can no longer be maintained, this is perhaps a good time for decisive action.
The public sector is the largest spender and employer in this and virtually every developing country, and it sets the policy environment for the rest of the economy. So we have to be realistic about the changes that can be made. Public sector reform is a complex issue and will require political will and an understanding of the sequencing of both the issues and objectives which are required.
The effectiveness of the public sector is important to the overall national development. Hence we must have an efficient sector which offers sound financial management, an effective revenue administration system and operates in a transparent manner with strong administrative skills and where anti-corruption measures are well entrenched.
Understandably, there are many defenders of the public sector, ranging from the political class to trade unionists, with many of the officers themselves who like to loudly state that they are no less capable than their private sector counterparts. But we also need to acknowledge that there is far greater underutilization of human capital within the public sector, particularly the statutory corporations, often bolstered to meet political requirements.
One of the first priorities must be to move away from a top-down public sector tradition we inherited from the British colonial system. Barbados needs a public sector primarily geared at improving and delivering performance-based results across Government, its fully-owned companies and the parastatals.
There is always the argument that the pubic service has generally served us well, but the truth is that this country must have a public sector which must be driven by certain clear objectives: delivery of quality service, greater accountability, transparency and governance, results management, and effective communication and change management.
The people of Barbados must be better served by its public sector. They are not asking any favours as they demand greater open government, all in an effort to build trust and accountability.

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