Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 11th 2013 Contents JULY 2013 • WEEK TWO www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
NEWS | BG7
The slow pace of public sector reform is
hampering T&T s ability to move up on
the international competitiveness index,
a leading academic from the University
of the West Indies Arthur Lok Jack
Graduate School of Business (Lok Jack
GSB) has said.
Speaking to the Business Guardian after a June 26 forum
on Transformation in the Public Sector, Lok Jack GSB
Leadership Institute director Dr Kamla Mungal said: "The
institutions continue to be one of the major factors keeping
us in transition, keeping us from moving forward, and
it has a great impact. It s one of the 12 pillars (of the
competitiveness index), and unless we can build the
institutions, which will create the required platform for
businesses to function and operate, we can t sustain
the changes in the private sector."
She conceded that "yes, there are issues with the
private sector itself, but certainly, the more you have
an accommodating, and a greater institutional platform,
a stronger institutional framework to work with,
where people are very clear about the laws; where
things will not change when governments come
and go," the more the country will advance on the
She said investors need to know they "can come in
and do business for a long time; those are the things
that are needed."
She said that "what we re seeing here (in T&T), are
pockets of change in the public sector."
Emphasising the "are" she said: "There are pockets
of change. What we need to do is to find a way now
to make that seamless across the system."
She said she wondered if she were to ask anybody
what is the vision for T&T if they would have
an answer. Yet, "owning and sharing that vision"
is what public servants should be able to do.
Mungal said that T&T s ranking on the com-
petitiveness index will not improve until the
public sector reforms. "I would say so. It is
one of the basic things that need to happen.
Institutions need to develop and grow."
She said that without strong institutions,
progress will de difficult. She said that
the institutions drive progress and if
they are not reformed "you ll have a
lag in general" in this country.
The professor said the public sector
needs to also focus on "building lead-
ership capacity." She said: "I think
together we need to build leadership
capability, and professional capability
within the public sector." She said that
they (the speakers at the forum) made
a point that a new human resource
plan for public sector is on the table.
At the start of her presentation she
had said that over 40 per cent of
Lok Jack GSB students are from the
Mungal said that what is required
"is building a professional public
sector; a well resourced public
sector," referring to human
She added that what is also
necessary is "developing sys-
tems that work." She said:
"There needs to be a constant
focus on reengineering systems,
so that they work, so that they
are more efficient, so that they
are more effective. That means
bringing in some private sector
logic in there. So I think that
some of that will (begin) reducing the gap between the
public and private."
There are some countries where the engineers in the
public sector lead the private sector, she said. Mungal
noted that in countries, like India, where there are many
public private partnerships (PPP), the public sector pro-
fessionals are often better paid and qualified than the
private sector professionals. She said they "understand
how to manage those PPP contracts" and they use their
knowledge to look after the best interest of the public.
She said: "They are not just protectors but they re facil-
itators. That s what we need to do more of. We need to
Mungal began her presentation with the spider graphs
from the 2013 World Economic Forum s Global Compet-
itiveness Index results for T&T and Singapore. She said
she did this "to show the gap in the institutions. It s the
gap I wanted to show, and also to show that that in terms
of our macroeconomy, we re almost at the same level
(with Singapore)." Singapore ranked second in this year s
index but first in 2012 and 2011.
Public sector's view
The other speakers on the panel at the forum were
Independent senator Corinne Baptiste-McKnight, Arlene
McComie, permanent secretary, Ministry of Planning and
Sustainable Development, and Jearlean John, chairman,
Urban Development Corporation of T&T (UDeCOTT),
and managing director, Housing Development Corpora-
Early in her contribution, John said: "To say that the
public sector is lazy is not true."
She said from her own experience, very early in the
mornings people are there. She said an organisation takes
on the DNA of its leader, so that if the leader gets there
at 10 am, the day will start after 12 noon. She believes
attitudes have changed in the public sector.
McComie agreed, saying when people come from the
private to the public sector, "they are surpised at how
much work takes place." She said the public sector has
changed significantly, citing the example that 75 per cent
of the permanent secretaries in the civil service are now
female, which did not obtain in the past.
She said, too, there are also now a lot of contract per-
sonnel in addition to the "establishment professionals."
The Lok Jack GSB auditorium heard that, as part of the
new HR plan, contract personnel will be phased out and
absorbed into a the new "establishment." She said that
right now, many important jobs such as information and
communications technology (ICT), vehicle maintenance
and more, do not form part of the establishment, and
that the government has found itself having to turn to
contract employment to fulfill these functions.
Baptiste-McKnight, who worked in the public sector
from 1958 to 1998, said that now, looking back as a con-
sumer, "the service has deteriorated considerably." She
said: "There has not been an effort to keep abreast with
the changing environment," and cited as an example the
fact that the Public Service, instead of changing the estab-
lishment, has put critical functions in the hands of contract
"It seems like they just don t know where they are
going. They must reorganise the establishment," she said.
The independent senator said she sees "demoralisation
of staff" as the biggest problem facing the public sector.
John and McComie did not see eye to eye with Bap-
tiste-McKight on some of the issues. Giving some insight
into her leadership style, John said she does not allow
staff to tell her it is her (John s) job to motivate them. She
said her response to such talk is, "Let your light bill
Slow public sector reform hampering
T&T's competitiveness firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Kamla Mungal
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