this week: A break from the norm
A monster called bureaucracy
The Lorry Sant days when ministerial blessing was required
to implement every administrative decision are no longer with us. Since
1987 the country has slowly come out of the feudal system where a colour
television could not be bought unless authorised by a minister or an
import license was only granted if the minister deemed fit.
Under subsequent Nationalist administrations ministerial supremacy has
been positively diluted to make way for different levels of decision
What the pre-1987 Labour administration lacked in bureaucracy was amply
made up for in the post-1987 Nationalist era.
But now the pendulum has swung too far away from the centre of power.
Ministers have become powerless in the face of powerful bureaucrats.
Consumers, businessmen and the tax-paying general public are often faced
with rows upon rows of bureaucracy that shackle efficiency and growth.
Faceless civil servants and unaccountable authority employees seem to
have one mission in life: turning the lives of their clients into one
And what do politicians say when faced with complaints from their constituents?
You probably know the answer.
Nationalist ministers have shed responsibility for the actions perpetrated
by the authorities, foundations and departments they themselves have
Parliamentary secretary Edwin Vassallo has every right to criticise
the bureaucratic straitjacket that does little to help improve the economic
situation in the country.
He is defending the people he represents when he takes the various government
departments and authorities to task over their unfriendly
attitude towards business.
But Vassallo cannot shoot from the hip without acknowledging that he
has formed part of the government that created these countless authorities
and agencies with little effort to introduce a system of checks and
A balance needs to be found between the strategy to devolve power to
different entities and the shouldering of political responsibility to
ensure that these entities are actually delivering.
Nobody wants to return to the Lorry Sant days. But neither do we want
to put up with a situation where individual entities have become mini
empires with no accountability.
When setting up these structures it must be within their brief to streamline
as many operations as possible and to make life easy for their clients.
Furthermore, government must make sure that people chosen to run the
agencies are competent and business-minded. A jobs-for-the-boys mentality
will only serve to perpetuate the incompetence and inefficiency that
has hounded this country for too long.
And while waging war on senseless bureaucracy, the Nationalist administration
would do well to dismantle a couple of other illogical policies such
as the limit imposed on the number of pharmacies and the white taxis
and port workers monopolies. Business, consumers and taxpayers need
to experience the new spring.