Remarks at the Launch of the Transformation Programme, Ministry of Finance and Planning, Jamaica by Dr. Arun Kashyap, UNDP Resident Coordinator

Jul 31, 2015

Honourable Peter Phillips, Minister of Finance and Planning;

Honourable Horace Dalley, Minister with responsibility for the Public Service;

Mr. Devon Rowe, Financial Secretary;

Ms. Therese Turner Jones, Inter-American Development Bank, Country Representative;

Ms. Galina Sotirova, Country Manager, The World Bank;

Ms. Audrey McKenzie, Deputy Financial Secretary;

Ms. Dianne McIntosh, Director General and Programme Coordinator, Ministry of Finance and Planning;

Representatives from the media;

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen;

 

A very good morning to all of you. I am gratified to join the launch of the Transformation Programme by the Ministry of Finance & Planning as a catalytic step to advance its commitment to expand human capabilities that lead to inclusive and sustainable economic growth. Already, the efforts under its Economic Reform Programme are showing progress and contributing to macroeconomic stability.

The transformation programme being undertaken by MoFP aims to strategically ensure the integrity of fiscal principle in keeping with best practices and promote fiscal discipline, improve overall efficiency in its operations and increase national revenues including through the implementation of key reforms in pensions, taxation, excise and customs, etc. while offering a leading example for the public sector.

In our experience at UNDP, there are points in time when the need and opportunity for change converge ….. and transformation becomes necessary, and with deliberate and thoughtful action, possible. This is one of those times, an optimistic time for UNDP. And, for the UN’s largest development Agency this was presented by the grounds of optimism – our perceived ability to now address the possibility of eradicating extreme poverty, halting and reversing growing inequalities and achieving universal access to basic services -- bringing everyone above a minimum threshold of well-being.

In order to tactically optimize new and/or emerging opportunities stemming from the unprecedented transition that the world is going through, what is required is a challenge at the fundamental level to learn from new knowledge and experiences and to rethink development. The change process brought us to the way forward to a solution offered by sustainable development when complemented by the process of human development. The latter focuses on enlarging people’s choices, looking both at the formation of human capabilities and the use people make of their acquired capabilities.

Jamaica, I believe, finds itself at a similar transformational juncture based on grounds of optimism at this time. In addition to create opportunities for increasing and maintaining the pace of economic growth, Jamaica like many other MICs is exploring prospects to leverage economic democratic processes to use the fruits of growth for social advancement. As Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen argue (p. x; Uncertain Glory – Indian & it’s Contradictions), “growth generates resources with which public and private efforts can be systematically mobilized to expand education, health care, nutrition, social facilities and other essentials of fuller and freer human life for all, it is the expansion of human capabilities that, in turn, allows a faster expansion of resources and production, on which economic growth ultimately depends.” So, the vision of the Transformation Programme led by a centre of excellence to retain and retrain talent, and configure an employee sensitive/employee driven organizational renewal programme to achieve sustainable economic growth and inclusive development, is commendable.

Peter Drucker said that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. As some of the management experts would also argue – if strategy is for breakfast then the structure is for lunch. Culture influences individual decision making – by drawing upon interrelated arrangements of meaning that people use when they act and make choices. Not surprisingly, Culture invariably reasserts itself in any restructuring. Hence the importance of a learning culture for all teams and units so that they can seamlessly learn and adapt. And successful transformations improve teams and their units by building on their existing culture.

At the same time, there are efforts to redesign development policy based on careful consideration of human factors, viz., how human beings think; how history and context shape thinking and therefore how development policies should be designed and implemented by targeting human choice and action. Learning from this approach has shown that such an approach provides larger number of entry points for policy interventions and new tools for practitioners to achieve their efforts to reduce poverty and increase shared prosperity.

These are also in line with insights from modern behavioural and social sciences that highlight a symbiotic linkage of people, systems and processes for successful reforms of organizations and institutions. The central message is identical; viz.; understanding of human behaviour that takes into account human factors, can improve development policy and generate creative and effective interventions that are also cost effective.

It is therefore very heartening that Ministry of Finance & Planning’s transformation programme is piloting a cutting-edge change management initiative (document signed earlier this morning) “Developing Capacity in the Ministry of Finance and Planning to manage change within and across Ministries, Departments and Agencies” - based on a behavioural approach to support the change in perspectives, mental models, and mindsets that would adapt to changes in systems, technology, and procedures programme to bring about complete transformation. Drawing on the principles of “Freakonomics” to better understand how people act in the real world, the initiative would use the principles of “nudging” to explore the possibility of steering people towards better decisions by presenting choices in different ways. And, UNDP is pleased to be partnering the Ministry of Finance and Planning in the implementation of this innovative initiative. While the Project Management Office will oversee this transformation to lead change management as a best practice and as a priority, UNDP will provide support through technical backstopping for capacity development, access to global knowledge of best practices re organizational and national transformation, and project oversight including the replication of the transformation process in other institutions – if, and as required.

We are now approaching the final compact on Sustainable Development Goals (17 Goals with 169 targets) that are universal and will be agreed upon at the September summit. As the development partners collaborate with the Government of Jamaica to facilitate the implementation of the Goals that could accelerate the achievement of Vision 2030, Jamaica, it would be important to ensure greater synergies within our work while also ensuring that we build upon creativity and innovatively approach the development priorities in an integrated manner. Such an approach would provide greater support to the Transformation Programme of the Ministry of Finance & Planning.

We have already witnessed the added value brought by the Public Finance Management system to the Economic Reform Programme under the Stand-By arrangement with the IMF. UNDP is working closely with PIOJ to put in place a Development Effectiveness strategy that will advance the efforts of all partners to work together to contribute to achieving the national priorities in a transformational mode.

The Government of Jamaica has also requested the United Nations to work to “Deliver as One.” Drawing on the guidance provided by the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (The General Assembly adopted on 21 December 2012 a landmark resolution on QCPR of UN operational activities for development) work and Standard Operating Procedures we have already initiated this important process.

The UN system in Jamaica stands ready to support the Transformation Programme of the MOFP as it catalyses the achievement of Vision 2030 Jamaica.

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