There is much talk about the informal sector of the Jamaica economy. This ‘informal’ sector is usually spoken of in a derisive manner as it exists in a grey area that is free from taxes and government regulations. Thus, it seen as parasitic, disorganized, inefficient, and even dangerous by both privately employed and government technocrats. You know, the type that likes to say “stakeholders”, “ICT”, “paradigm shift”, and other such vacuous buzzwords.
Most of the solutions to the “problem” of the informal sector consists of having them register with government to become legitimate. The problem with this solution is that, if it made sense to register a business in Jamaica, there would be no informal sector. The sad fact is, only the most masochistic of our citizens actively choose to interact in anyway with Jamaican government, and when a citizen (inevitably) does deal with the government, he inevitable finds the processes unsafe, the procedures insane and his options non-consensual.
But what of the people and organizations that are legit? Look a little deeper and you realize something interesting – they are almost always extensions of government functions. The most recent industries created in Jamaica are mirror images of government functions that only exist because of the inefficiency, ineptitude and ineffectiveness of the government proper. Just consider
- That if the Ministry of Justice ever got crime under control, most of these security companies would have to go out of business
- That by simply adding a few oversized,(for Jamaica) buses, half of the robot buses and taxis are bawling because they’re losing money
- That if the Ministry of Education ever got some teachers for cheap from Nigeria, Ghana or India, and started building some high schools, then all those Quality Academics, Hutton’s and Maths Unlimiteds would have no reason for existing
- That simply maintaining our road networks by grading and using proper drainage would put a lot of mechanics out of business
The results of letting the private sector play government? Dangerously overcrowded buses, an underperforming private school system, a security guard industry that treats its dogs better than its employees, among other failures.
The obstacles to legitimize a business in Jamaica can, for the most part, be blamed on the on the government’s inefficiency and bureaucracy. The only place for one to register a business in Jamaica is a small office on Grenada Way, even though it would take almost nothing to create a website that on could register one’s business with. The very failure of the Jamaican government to carry out its tasks has not only lead to the creation of an informal private sector that consists of 50 percent of Jamaican businesses, but of another informal one that is itself dependent on government being unable to carry out said tasks. If ever the Jamaican government were to be run properly. During the 1970s we found out the danger of letting government run the private sector. It would seem that in the New Tens, we are finding out the dangers of letting the private sector play government.