Categorized | Editorials

An Unsustainable Game

Very many of the men and women who run things in this country are – relatively speaking – some of this land’s most distinguished, lettered and publicly unknown folks.

They owe their power to the positions they hold in this nation’s permanent and pensionable establishment. Unlike politicians who come and go, these men and women remain.

Indeed, politicians can be expected to do what politicians do best. They take their place in Parliament, they debate issues, they pass laws and when their time comes, they leave.

But those men and women who occupy perches in this or that public office stay put. As they dig in, things sometimes go from bad to worse. Interestingly enough, when things sour politicians get the blame.

We make this point as today we reflect not only on the high and rising costs associated with running and manning the public administration, but also because this sector is need of major reform.

Even when a government bureau is doing what it is supposed to be doing – their work finds itself vitiated by the fact that most of the funds budgeted to them go for the payment of personal emoluments.

Sadly, much of this money received is never bench-marked against performance; thus the persistent charge that the public service is manned by men and women who are being feather-bedded.

Matters are made even worse when comparisons are made between what managers and others such do in the private sector as opposed to the mediocrity that seems par for the course in this nation’s bloated public service bureaucracy. Things are made infinitely worse when bloat, rot and corruption infect and infest the ranks of the armed forces and that raft of other people in the employ of the state. The time is now for action.

No matter where you live, what you do for a living – or how you pay your way in the world, there are certain inexorable economic laws that always determine how much you get for your labour. By the same token, whatever is to be had by state authorities for policing, schools, health-care and other publicly provided goods are always apportioned according to the same economics-ridden laws and logic.

We make these points as we take note some of what James Smith, a former minister of state for finance and Central Bank governor has had to say concerning the current state of the Bahamian economy – this to the effect that it was contracting. But whether contracting or not, on two working days before the end of each and every month, tens of thousands Bahamians make their way to this or that bank to collect money owed them for the jobs they hold as public sector workers.

In turn – and as night follows day – the administration in office borrows the money that they have either worked for or get because they have a government job.

This game is unsustainable. No matter the party in power – a new administration’s room for policy maneuver is invariably constrained by what is either happening or not taking place at the economic level. This elementary fact seems to have gone missing on the new Christie administration.

There is also every indication that this administration is being constrained in its choices by some of its own employees who collectively consume so very much of the nation’s budget. Making the matter at hand worse has to do with the fact that most of the money paid out to these people derives from debt piled upon debt.

This game will – one fine day – prove ruinous; and clearly, there is every indication that this dread day of reckoning is on its way. Sadly, successive regimes – going all the way back to the earliest days when the late Sir Lynden O. Pindling happened to be the man in the saddle – have decided to delay the coming of that day when the hard decision is finally made. There are times in life when hard decisions must be made. Those who now govern may – one day – concede that they have reached their limit. What matters – when the chips are down – has to do with whether you have in hand the materiel, money, tool-set and skill-set sufficient to the task at hand. One matter that must now be dealt with has to do not only with figuring out how to deal with a bloated public bureaucracy, but also how to really deal with this nation’s ongoing fiscal crisis.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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