The STAR Businessweek
In a landmark recent study published by the Inter-American Development Bank entitled “Better Spending for Better Lives”, the bank delivers a sobering analysis of what Caribbean nationals have known for generations—that our governments are superbly inefficient, with many bordering on total dysfunction. According to the IDB, however, inefficiency could be costing us more than we originally thought, with government waste bleeding the region for as much as US$220bn a year, or more than 4 per cent of Latin America and the Caribbean’s annual GDP. This is hardly a surprise and is no wonder why inefficiency and government have become synonymous with one another, almost inseparable. Our experience in the Caribbean has been one of tacit endorsement of these inefficiencies and, more often than we would like to admit, inefficiency has been encouraged by the citizenry and even vehemently defended by political stalwarts disguised as civil society. The countries of the Caribbean are some of the youngest nations in the world, with many countries like Saint Lucia having achieved independence only 40 years ago. Armed with that perspective, the work of many nations in the region has been applaudable—at least to some degree—in transitioning our people from post-colonialism to the era of globalization.
The phrase “What have you done for me lately?” seems pertinent here though as the era of green gold has long passed its shelf life, fainter as the years go by, and today, nothing more than a mere anecdote that stale politicians, who are fresh out of new ideas, continue to cling on to.
The opening lines of the IDB report encapsulate this intergenerational tolerance and contemporary frustration perfectly: Most countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have recently reached, or are close to reaching, middle income status. As such, citizens in the region are demanding more and better services from their governments. This juncture is crucial: if governments can cope with these new demands, countries stand a good chance of climbing up the development ladder. If not, social tensions may arise, stalling development, as has happened time and again in many promising countries. For more on this lurid analysis of public spending patterns in the Caribbean, be sure to begin with our lead story “Curbing Government Waste” starting on the cover page.
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