The IMF’s light-touch analysis looks as if it was not intended to cause offence, rather than to provide a roadmap to help the nation escape its present economic problems. Reference to the erosion of the tax base is one example, a situation cause by micro-managing, a lack of a broader policy agenda and political interference. The routine waivers and exemptions, along with the underwriting of debt, are the outcome of policy failure, which the report should have made clear, and the corruption of ideas. Nothing better illustrates this than the apparent secret deal the government has made with the Butch Stewart-owned Sandals. It is an agreement that should be made public as soon as possible, if only to stop rumour and suspicion. However, it has pinpointed the urgent need for improvements in the management of public revenue: “In addition to revenue losses from tax expenditures, staff analysis found gaps in revenue yield caused by weaknesses in collection, including for example a low ratio of tax collected to tax payable at the Inland Revenue administration and weak control and audit functions. “In addition, both revenue administrations lack management reports that could be used to improve performance monitoring.” In other words, gross incompetence across the revenue management section of the civil service, which comes directly under the remit of the prime minister or the minister of finance. Further, to obfuscate and fool the public, the recent change in the Auditor General’s report, from one in which departments were named and shamed to one in which the juxtaposition of accrual accounting figures has introduced an element of opacity.
The IMF’s report’s call to strengthen public finance management should lead to widespread sacking of all those accountable. This reminds me that sometime ago I asked a senior politician if newly appointed ministers were given any training about financial and personnel management, given that many of them came from backgrounds of being lawyers in small practices, and her/his reply was no. So, people without any experience of managing people or money, on being elected can often find themselves being accountable for budgets of millions of dollar s and staff of hundreds.