2011 OBA Reply to the Throne Speech – Part Four

Continued Economic Policies

“The OBA will reform policies, practices and systems that hamper economic growth.”

– Suspend the current term limit policy for a period of two years pending a search for a new policy;

I generally support term limits, in as much as they help prevent expatriates getting into the unfortunate situation of setting down roots here, children born and socialised here, and then having to rip those roots up and move away. It can be very traumatic for those involved, and I would rather the majority of expatriate workers avoid that experience by having the foreknowledge of their set time here. I would, however, support tweaking of the term limit policy, which in practice I understand generally rolls over for many expatriate staff as it is. I am not opposed to searching for a new policy, or tweaking the existing one, but I am wary about suspending the existing policy while we do so. What will the expatriates brought here during that two-year holiday expect in terms of stay? Can we retroactively force the new policy on these expatriates? Could the OBA provide an idea of what the new policy would be, even the germ of it? How would the OBA handle the long-term implications of expatriate workers? They point out the short-term implications of the term-limits, but ignore (seemingly) the long-term ones.

– Set up a Spending & Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission to streamline Government processes, improve delivery of services, make Government more efficient, more cost-effective, more transparent and more user-friendly;

I am not opposed the general ideas invoked here, although it seems to be an additional layer of bureaucracy (ironically with the mission statement of reducing bureaucracy). It also seems somewhat redundant in that Government previously introduced the facility for civil servants (and for outside input) to make suggestions on just these issues. However, I am generally in support of this initiative all the same.

– Freeze the size of the civil service and reduce it through attrition;

The PLP has already (and prior to this speech) adopted this position. I personally don’t see this as being as clear-cut as it first sounds. I do think we have a lot of inefficiency within the civil service, and it can certainly be improved. There are some Departments with under-utilised excess staff, or demotivated staff on roll-over temporary positions. And this may indeed involve creating a ‘slimmer’ civil service. On the other side though, we have Departments that are severely under-resourced and are inefficient due to the lack of resources and manpower. Implementing a lot of these policy proposals will require cutting here, adding there. And while it sounds good to impose the above policy, it does force one into a very rigid position, generally leads the existing staff to burn-out (or in capital terms, depreciate quicker) and could, in the long-run, lead to even greater inefficiencies.

– Cut consultants and frequent travel;

I think there is a need for some consultants, but I do agree that we need to more critically review this need and its execution. There is the perception that it is all too often abused for what has come to be termed ‘Friends & Family’ purposes, or that the results their work are substandard or redundant (with the same results being obtainable through cheaper more inclusive means). As for travel, I’m not against travel per se, but I do agree that we need to institute greater restrictions on what the State should cover, in terms of flights, hotels, meals, ground transportation and additional charges (credit card allowances).

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