JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Improving productivity, through modernisation and transformation of the public sector, is a key priority of the Government, as it works to meet economic objectives and make Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.
  • Focus is being placed on improving skills and qualifications through training; enhancing efficiencies through provision of technology; improving turnaround time and service delivery to customers; and reducing costs.
  • Part of measures by the Government to enhance labour productivity is the pending introduction of flexi-work arrangements.

Improving productivity, through modernisation and transformation of the public sector, is a key priority of the Government, as it works to meet economic objectives and make Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.

Labour productivity measures the output per worker in a period of time, and is an important factor in determining the productive potential of the economy. Countries with strong labour productivity growth tend to benefit from a higher long-run trend rate of growth.

Under the Public Sector Modernisation Programme (PSMP), the operations of Ministries, Agencies and Departments (MDAs) are being improved to create a more productive and robust workforce that can deliver on the objectives of the Economic Reform Programme (ERP) and the four-year agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Focus is being placed on improving skills and qualifications through training; enhancing efficiencies through provision of technology; improving turnaround time and service delivery to customers; and reducing costs.

Reducing Debt

Director General of the PSMP in the office of the Cabinet, Veniece Pottinger Scott, tells JIS News that the transformation process, which started in 1996, is critical in achieving the debt reduction targets under the ERP.

The programme aims to cut public debt in order to achieve sustained economic growth and long-term development.

Mrs. Pottinger Scott says part of reducing the debt is containing spending, which means the labour force, particularly the public sector, has to significantly improve productivity in order to achieve and surpass growth targets.

The IMF agreement is a critical component of the ERP, where Jamaica has committed to reducing the wage bill as a portion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by at least nine percent by 2016.

“(The agreement) includes getting the debt rate down from 145 per cent of GDP to 96 per cent over the four-year period. They have to keep a primary budgetary surplus with a target of 7.5 per cent, contain public expenditure, including public sector salaries, reduce public sector wage to GDP from 10.6 per cent (in 2013/14) to nine per cent,” informs Mrs. Pottinger Scott.

Ease of Doing Business

She tells JIS News that in addition to improving efficiencies and reducing costs, the initiatives being undertaken under the PSMP will make is easier to do business in Jamaica, thereby enabling the country to attract investments needed for growth.

She says that already, the public service has undergone “massive improvements,” with the Executive Agency model and the institution of citizen’s charters changing the way the sector operators.

“If you look at some of the agencies that deliver service to the public, how it was then and how it is now, we can make those comparisons and identify exactly where there have been changes,” she notes.

She cites the example of the Registrar General’s Department (RGD), which now has an online application option and the opening of branches across the country.

The Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA), Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ), and the Jamaica Customs Agency, she says, also stand as models of improvement in public sector productivity.

Mrs. Pottinger Scott says the public has an active role to play in ensuring that the MDAs maintain a high standard of productivity by holding them accountable to their citizen’s charter and stated objectives.

The PSMP Director General tells JIS News that the transformation process is ongoing with consistent training, upgrading of technology, among other things.

“The idea is to make this a continuous thing because there are better ways of doing things as we go through life such as technological improvements. We will constantly have to ensure that the public sector reaches and maintains, in a sustained way, a high level of performance through the use of technology, training, and making staff more efficient,” she notes.

Productivity Training

As part of the process, two projects with be undertaken this year, which will strengthen the capacity of the public and private sectors in the area of productivity.

Business Process Re-engineering Specialist within the PSMP, Victor Brown, tells JIS News that a training programme will get underway in May, which will provide technical assistance to Government entities to “identify productivity initiatives and help to implement them.”

The 12-week training is being spearheaded by the Jamaica Productivity Centre (JPC) and the Management Institute for National Development (MIND).

“There is also the Hugh Lawson Shearer Trade Union Education Institute training programme that will be geared towards the union membership and the private sector,” Mr. Brown further informs. The training will start in June and last for about 12-13 weeks.

Flexi-Work

Part of measures by the Government to enhance labour productivity is the pending introduction of flexi-work arrangements.

Senior Productivity Specialist at the JPC, Latoya Miles, says flexi-work should result in increased labour productivity as “people will have a better work life, which should translate to less stress and greater efficiency in the workplace.”

The flexi-work bill, passed in Parliament late last year, is characterised by variations in the work schedule. This means instead of working the traditional Monday to Friday work week, all days of the week can now be considered as work days. Also, the work period may be extended from eight hours per day, to 10 hours.

While the legislation puts a structure in place, within which employers and workers can operate, Mrs. Pottinger Scott argues that the attitude of workers is crucial and must change, if there are to be consistent improvements within the public sector.

“If things are done the same way, like working for only half of the day and then calling that a day’s work, or you take a long time to give people responses…if we continue to work like this in the public sector, we will not contribute effectively to increased productivity and increased output,” she stresses.

She contends that, “when the public sector operates in a way that makes it easier for its customers, then it makes it cheaper for people to do business with the Government and if that is so, then the private sector is able to move faster and hence be [more] productive”.

The JPC makes policy recommendations to increase productivity in the economy and assists with measuring and tracking public sector productivity performance.

Ms. Miles says Jamaicans can contribute to the success of the ERP by “supporting local producers, purchasing locally produced products, paying taxes as required and in a timely manner, contributing to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), acquiring additional certification in an effort to improve skills-set, especially in keeping with labour market trends, and practicing energy conservation”.