Published On: Mon, Dec 31st, 2012

Public Administration in Curacao

The interim government headed by Mr. Betrian appointed, on their last day in office, a new management team of the Ministry of Governance, Planning and Service for a period of nine months. I will give the new team of ministers, who will start on 31 December 2012, and the appointed management team the benefit of the doubt.  Although I have a few big questionmarks. Everything is better than what we had the last two years. By now eve the government noticed that the organization 2.0 is not working (http://news.caribseek.com/index.php/caribbean-islands-news/curacao-news/item/33524-kambionan-den-management-team-di-ministerio-bpd). There seems to be a confidential report that states that the organization is too big and understaffed in key positions. As an expert in public administration let me provide some free advice, on how we can consolidate what we have and slowly start to move towards government 3.0. Number one: there is a lack of specialists in all departments.  To illustrate my point: How many economists are there in the Ministry of Economic Affairs?  The persons I have interviewed say not even one.  This lack of specialist is all across the board, with a possible exeption of the Ministry of Finance. Of course me need people specialized as generalists but they cannot replace specialists.  A second piece of advice: management meetings and other periodic meetings are mandatory.  I have heard that there are departments who have not held these meetings for months.  A third piece of advice is: go back to basic.  Everybody must do their task: Answer letters, provide service to the citizens.  If you do not know the answer or next step in de procedure, ask a colleague for help instantly, do not wait. Learn from your colleagues so next time you can do it on your own. Start documenting the procedures. Reintroduce a quality management systems.  And update the website weekly.

It is time for new ideas. New people.  There are consultants involved with government all their life and this is the best they could do.  The idea to start a school of governance has been somewhere in government for over ten years. The government has chosen not to properly training to civil servants and now we see the result.  When will this school start? I hope that when it starts that real experts is public management will develop and teach the at the school. Because a school without experts is no school.

The point I am trying to make is that over the past years a culture of anti-intellectualism has taken hold of the island.

“Anti-intellectualism is aggression towards and mistrust of intellect, intellectuals, and intellectual pursuits, usually expressed as the disrespect of education, philosophy, literature, art, and science, as unworkable and shameful. On the otherhand, self-described intellectuals who are supposed to fail to hold on to rigorous standards of scholarship may be described as anti-intellectuals although pseudo-intellectualism is a more commonly, and perhaps more accurately, used description for this phenomenon.

In public discourse, anti-intellectuals usually perceive and publicly present themselves as champions of the common folk — populists against political elitism and a cademic elitism — proposing that the educated are asocial class detached from the everyday concerns of the majority, and that they dominate political discourse and higher education.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-intellectualism)

Even (pseudo-)intellectuals do not read, write and debate in the appropriate way and level anymore. Those who did were persecuted by a handful of populist political leaders and their followers. Some were crushed.  The fact that the President of the university, the centre of intellect, was fired, was only protested by three intellectuals. One being Prof. Carlos Weber on 29th of August 2011. And Hans van Hulst on 31 Augustus 2011 in Antilliaans Dagblad. Els van Capelan also wrote in July 2010. A few stood up for their peers.  Some even activly explained that nothing was happening and stating that these things happened all the time. Many remained silent and looked the other way. Others were opportunistic and sold their soul to populist.  Those who sold can be placed in several categories. Some were appointed in high positions and did what they were told.  Others wrote what they were told to write.  The effect is that the young country of Curacao has no intellectual thinkers.  There is not much brain power left to tackle all the problems that need to be handled.

The irony is that many intellectuals who were put aside are still on the sideline and it is not a priority of anybody in this country to use these brains, with the exeption of a few.

And here is the big danger. The intellectuals who were appointed as ministers in the so called government of experts, carry a heavy burden.  If they do not succeed, they will be used as the ultimate proof that intellectuals are the problem of this country and that the populist are the solution.  So let us hope that they will succeed because much is at stake. One last piece of advice: ask for help from other intellectuals when you need to, because much is at stake. And you know what? You will have to deal with the consequences.  And one day you will have to answer the question: Where did you stand? I hope that you can answer: On the right side of history.

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