Strengthening public fiduciary systems have received a considerable amount of attention on a global scale in the last few decades. So far, attempting Public Financial Management (PFM) reforms has been perplexing for most developing countries with not much to show in terms of desired results and impact. Many factors have been posited for this including; the lack of political drive to execute reforms in a timely manner, too many incoherent projects not in sync with country systems and priorities, the “one size fits all” approach based on preconceived best practices stemming from dissimilar economies, inadequate situational analysis and research, just to mention a few.
Nevertheless, it is evident that a strong PFM system goes hand in hand with a sturdy economy. A strong PFM platform supports not only transparency and accountability but equates to a “solid foundation” that facilitates economic growth and allows for stabilization in times of economic turmoil.
Jamaica has made its fair share of investments in PFM reforms. Yet, a comparison between the 2007 and 2012 PEFA results (PEFA is a tool used to assess a country’s public fiduciary systems) indicates no progress. With varying perspectives as to where Jamaica went wrong, a common sentiment is that inadequate sequencing and coordination of the myriads of “silo-type” PFM initiatives contributed to the damning results.
Recently, the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) invited their key PFM players, including the International Financial Institutions (IFIs), to a session entitled “Public Financial Management Reform Meeting with International Development Partners” to present their comprehensive PFM Reform Action Plan (PFM RAP). There the IDB was noted as the largest PFM partner. The PFM RAP outlined a set of “low hanging” legislative, policy-based and technological reforms that will systematically lead to a world class PFM system. Initiatives ranged from the passing of the first stand-alone procurement legislation by March 31, 2015 to the implementation of a Treasury linked Central Accounting & Reporting system by March 31, 2016. The activities were ranked in order of priority; high, medium and low, and a monitoring mechanism was outlined that will ensure timely execution. The PFM RAP represented a thorough roadmap of GOJ’s PFM Reform agenda. The presentation was impressive. It was a demonstration of realism, research, maturity and most importantly unprecedented ownership of the process. For me, the presentation was simply evidence that the GOJ is now in a better place to lay that solid foundation.
Brodrick Watson is CJA Operations Senior Associate at the IDB Country Office in Jamaica.