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Leadership needed to exit vicious circle

Dear Editor,

Not only in Sint Maarten, but in the entire Caribbean, there are huge expectations from governments to be a major employer in the economy . This probably stems from the colonial period when government jobs were steady and risk free, whilst the public sector, particularly agriculture was inconsistent.

This expectation of the people, and the fact that politicians often unashamedly use the prospects of government employment to strengthen their position, means that Sint Maarten, like many other Caribbean territories finds itself in a vicious circle that limits the pace of development, and will in the long run, cause frustration to young people choosing careers.

In so many territories we see public sector budgets having allocations for staffing that are at a level that the country is prevented from investing to the maximum degree possible and consequently limiting the development trajectory of the country .

In the long run, there should in principle be no difference between employment in the private or public sector. In a labour market where the emphasis is on “market” the labour conditions, future prospects, stability of employment and employment conditions should be very close to the same, whether the employer is government or private sector. If there is a significant difference, then this will point to there being something wrong in how the market is functioning.

As time goes by and the quality of management in all sectors improves, there will be a natural tendency for this levelling out to occur. This process will be slowed when politicians choose goals that are directed at a particular voter base rather than the country as a whole. This process will be slowed when politicians choose to promise public sector jobs to some voters rather than choosing to promise the best government services to all voters .

The point I want to make is that we, as a country, are in a vicious circle. The more the populace is convinced that government can meet their employment needs, the less chance we have of investment and high-quality government service. The more politicians promise that, the less the chance of high productivity in the public sector. The poorer the productivity in the public sector, the less chance of investment and the private sector booming and creating tax revenues

Like all vicious circles, informed leadership provides the greatest chance of exiting the circle .

Robbie Ferron

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