Attracting the brightest and best is not the solution – Jamaica Observer

When was the last exodus or most recent resignations of parliamentarians because of low salaries or other reasons, as traditionally observed with nurses and teachers?
Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke declared the massive hike in parliamentarians’ salaries was to attract and retain the “brightest and best” in politics. This clearly suggests the brightest and best are not attracted or retained, but given the extremely fierce competition to enter representational politics and the large number of career politicians, it would be instructive to know Dr Clarke’s criteria for the brightest and best’ and how nurses and teachers are rated accordingly.
Who would you place in charge of your enterprise, average competent managers who are accountable or the brightest and best managers without any accountability? But what if it’s the country’s economy, should there be a similar concern for accountability?
It is often observed that having brilliant minds in any system with low or no accountability increases the likelihood that they will exploit its weaknesses for personal gains and easily conceal their misdeeds. Of note is that Dr Clarke recently confirmed on TVJ’s All Angles television programme that no system has been implemented to evaluate the performance of parliamentarians — seven years after it was promised.
I think judges, high ranking civil servants, ministers, parliamentarians, and public sector leaders should be well compensated without ignoring the plight of other professionals and civil servants. People at the top are naturally paid more or much higher. But the finance minister should remain mindful that the strength of a building is not achieved by focusing mainly on the roof. If primary school principals are highly paid but the teachers are poorly compensated or demotivated, instructing pupils in congested classrooms with shortage of furniture and learning resources, then a poor education outcome is expected.
Our human resources are of paramount importance, but the available tools and environment in which people function are crucial for performance. The best Jamaican chefs cannot prepare curry goat or pepper steak without curry powder or pepper. And if a bus can only travel 20 miles per hour because of transmission defects, a pay hike or employing a better driver will not make the bus go much faster when the solution is to fix the transmission.
Governance and public service require team effort. People’s competence is only one of many factors interacting to determine efficiency and productivity. Remuneration is crucial, but equally important are vision, philosophy, policies, accountability, and the regulatory framework to ensure and improve efficiency as well as increase productivity.
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