The natives are getting restless as the dark clouds descend, it is as if there is an expectation of bad news. While ministers and their advisers, clearly out of their policy-making depths, struggle with a patchwork of policies initiatives, mainly around the exhausted tourism sector, the rest of government and the private sector is in lock down. People are talking as in a Tower of Babel, but the noise is not making any sense, often lacking in coherence and simple logic, while in the meantime nothing is happening. Even so, what passes for policy is usually a further waste of taxpayers’ money: Four Seasons, Almond Village, Sandals, Transport Board, Gems, the chaos at the central bank – we all know the score. Absent from this roll call are any new and persuasive ideas from parliamentarians, technocrats or policy advisers. It is as if there are no answers to the nation’s problems, that the millions we have spend on education since 1966 has all been in vain, that together as a people we cannot put country before party or ego and come up with viable solutions to our problems.
Recently I received a review copy of a book, The Entrepreneurial State, by Mariana Mazzucato, professor of economics at the University of Sussex, and it is a wonderful read. If I though it would have been appreciated, I would send a copy to every member of parliament – government and opposition – so that they can get new ideas on the pioneering role of government in economic development. Prof Mazzucato gives a long list of the new technologies and sectors, from the internet to Apple, Google, pharmaceuticals, and numerous others developments that would not have seen the light of day had not for early State support and intervention. It was State funding – government, military, health service, universities – that funded the early stages of most of these developments before they were transferred to the private sector.
It is a development that we have seen with the global banking crisis and the subsequent sovereign debt meltdown: a crisis that started with Bill Clinton’s removal of the Glass/Steagall barrier, which led eventually to banks over-dosing on cheap credit and, inevitably, the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Then the language of big business changed, from calls for minimum government to one of systemically important banks which had to be bailed out by taxpayers, removing huge unprecedented debt from the balance sheets of private banks to that of the State, ordinary taxpayers. Then calls for a solution, led by academics with access to policy-making, with one set calling for austerity, while the others lined up behind the so-called Australian School, calling for lighter government. But, as Prof Mazzucato has shown, there is room for State intervention, provided it is sensible and prudent and the outcomes are measured and productive.