Job descriptions ‘desperately needed’
Financial analyst argues against material increase for political directorate without guarantee for improved productivity
ECONOMIST AND financial analyst Dr Adrian Stokes has argued that the material increase in the cost of the public bureaucracy to Jamaicans has come without a commensurate guarantee of improved productivity. “This is a problem for a country that has...
ECONOMIST AND financial analyst Dr Adrian Stokes has argued that the material increase in the cost of the public bureaucracy to Jamaicans has come without a commensurate guarantee of improved productivity.
“This is a problem for a country that has a big problem with labour productivity. The status quo of material wage increases without an ironclad performance management system isn’t sustainable,” he said in response to questions posed by The Gleaner.
The announcement of massive increases in the salaries of the political directorate of more than 200 per cent on Tuesday has triggered increased debate about how members of the public can hold Cabinet ministers and parliamentarians accountable without established job descriptions, clearly defined responsibilities or performance-based targets.
And Stokes is of the view that the Government should lead from the front and urgently implement an effective performance-management system for the public bureaucracy, including the work of parliamentarians.
“This is not a novel idea since examples can be drawn on from other countries. Singapore has demonstrated that the pay of public workers at the leadership level can be performance-based,” he said.
Stokes said he supported better salaries to attract talent in the public sector. However, he said this must go along with an effective performance-management system.
“From a negotiation point of view, it is problematic to implement an effective performance-based system after you’ve granted material wage increases,” he said.
The economist suggested that Cabinet ministers especially should have defined job accountabilities and a clear performance-management arrangement.
According to Stokes, the massive increase in public-sector wages will move the country’s wage to GDP (gross domestic product) ratio to over 11 per cent of GDP for years to come.
He noted that the country agreed years ago that a wage to GDP ratio of nine per cent was sustainable.
Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis, in her review of the Government’s Fiscal Policy Paper (FPP) in February, indicated that the FPP did not explicitly address the risk of wages and salaries being outside the nine per cent debt to GDP target.
She, however, noted that the nature of the public sector compensation reform would also have resulted in the reallocation of resources from the programme expenditure to wages and salaries, leading to an increase averaging 11.4 per cent of GDP over the medium-term.
Monroe Ellis said that although the finance ministry stated that the wage to GDP target was being considered for review, no reference was made to it in the FPP for financial year 2023-24.
Stokes insisted that every job, public or private, should be performance-based. He stressed that “job descriptions are desperately needed for Cabinet ministers”.
“Focus priorities should be agreed with them at the start of each fiscal year and annual evaluations conducted to assess effectiveness in the roles,” he added.
The financial analyst contended that the clearest way to improve accountability and performance in the public sector is to start right at the top.
“The Cabinet should lead by example and implement performance-management systems to evaluate the effectiveness of Cabinet ministers,” he stated.
Stokes reasoned that Prime Minister Andrew Holness was on to something when he indicated job descriptions and an accountability mechanism for Cabinet ministers would be implemented.
The financial analyst said the prime minister should be urged to follow through on his promise.
Noting that Jamaica suffers from low labour productivity, Stokes said that this is one of the reasons the country had struggled to grow real GDP consistently above two per cent.
He said that one of the keys to improving labour productivity is to have a transparent performance-management system, which is urgently needed in government.