PM offended by use of expressions ‘rent seeking’ and ‘patronage’ in document
January 22, 2013
PM offended by use of expressions ‘rent seeking’ and ‘patronage’ in document

The use of the expressions “rent seeking” and “patronage” in a document about economic growth in the Caribbean has been critcised by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves.{{more}}

Rent seeking, defined by an economic website, is the instance where a company, organization or individual, uses their resources to obtain an economic gain from others without reciprocating any benefits back to society, through wealth creation.

Patronage is defined as the power to distribute, or appoint people to governmental or political positions.

The prime minister said “rent seeking” was a polite term the Washington Consensus uses for corruption.

The prime minister, in his address at the Methodist Church Hall on Thursday, was commenting about the inclusion of the terms in Caribbean Growth Forum document.

“Now, really? If we are starting the forum, we can’t start it with the view that the character of the Caribbean is rent seeking and patronage. That is just not true!” he said at a consultation, which saw public and private sector groups meeting to develop strategies for economic growth.

The sentence reads: “In a region such as the Caribbean, characterized by strong rent seeking and patronage, the chances in promoting pro growth policy reforms lie in the establishment of social action coalitions, linking public and private sectors.”

“You can’t begin a discussion about growth in the Caribbean and say that the character of the Caribbean is rent seeking and patronage; you will miss the boat,” Gonsalves said.

The prime minister, who is also Minister of Finance, said that although he appreciated the intentions of the forum, he believed that the sentence in which the words were included was not properly edited.

“There is more rent seeking and patronage in the inner cities of the United States of America than in Caribbean States,” he stated.

“We have to be careful not to misdiagnose what we have. Otherwise we will be talking about things which we are going to run into problems, because every single index on good governance,transparency and, indeed, corruption, because rent seeking is Washington consensus euphemism for corruption.

“So you can talk about rent seeking as much as you want and about patronage, I am not ducking them, I am just saying that we are not characterized by them, … other than three countries in the Caribbean region, to the best of my knowledge,” the prime minister added.

Gonsalves said that despite this view, he regarded the workshop as a worthwhile exercise, adding that he hoped it was not a substitute for receiving funding from the World Bank.

“… because the talk is not going to help me to build bridges and to repair the disaster after Hurricane Tomas or to build poor people houses. It’s not going to diversify the economy, it’s not going to provide the extent of start-up capital for CED.”

Following his speech, and after a brief discussion with World Bank’s Senior Country Officer for the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and Barbados, Alessandro Legrottaglie, the prime minister returned to the podium, indicating to the audience that Legrottaglie agreed with his view, that the sentence needed to be edited. (JJ)