Ministry of The People and Social Development

New ministry to address complaints.
By Ria Taitt Political Editor
Trinidad & Tobago Express | Thursday, June 3rd 2010

"Yesterday, Dr Lincoln Douglas, Minister of State in the Ministry of the People and Social Development, was sworn in at a private ceremony at Knowlsey House, Port of Spain. Speaking after the swearing-in, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who this ministry was the brainchild of, said she envisioned the ministry as one that would have interaction and participation from the people, ’instead of them just coming up against the (government) bureaucracy’." Read more...
I am very interested to see more details about how this new Ministry will function. From what I am reading here it seems like citizens coming up upon brick walls will have recourse to an agency which can assist with specific problems. This is an excellent idea and it should be taken further and probably this aspect has already been considered but not yet formulated - the problems experienced by citizens can be caused by inefficient departments but sometimes these problems are really symptoms of problematic policies that need to be reworked or discarded. This Ministry should also actively engage citizens and solicit their input at the level of policy making.

Some years back, I looked at Singapore's Public Service and their approach to serving citizens and how they understood and actively pursued the satisfaction of the need for continuous improvement. I remember being particularly interested in the Government Feedback Mechanism (REACH).

This is how it is described on the webpage, Public Service for the 21st century (PS21).":
"Engaging citizens

"In the 21st Century, it is not enough to describe a policy to the population when we implement it. It is not even enough just to explain it. We need to consult and connect with our citizens even while the policy is being formulated and designed.

"The Government Feedback mechanism, REACH, has a consultation portal where policy papers and proposals are made available online for public feedback and suggestions. Public officers can also use this medium to explain the rationale for their policies.

"As part of connecting with our citizens, helpful and understanding customers are recognised. For example, the National Library Board (NLB) has a Customer Appreciation Day; PUB, the National Water Agency, has a Friends of Water programme to recognise customers who have contributed towards raising awareness about water; the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) recognises members of the public who give suggestions that lead to significant improvements.
Some of the other initiatives are:

EXCEL - Excellence Through Continuous Learning And Enterprise:
"PS21 seeks to harness the creativity and diversity of the Public Service, reinforce the spirit of continuous improvement, experiment with new ideas, and make training and learning a way of life for our officers."

The Enterprise Challenge (TEC):
"The Enterprise Challenge (TEC) is an initiative to harness innovative ideas for the Public Service. It provides support for the trial testing of innovative ideas that have the potential to create new value and bring about improvements in the delivery of public services. TEC charts a milestone in the Public Service's journey to excellence through innovation and enterprise."
One of the services of the Enterprise Challence initiative falling under "Understanding customers' needs" is the No Wrong Door policy introduced in 2004.
"Since our customers perceive the government as a single entity, it is important that the Public Service works well across agencies. In 2004, the No Wrong Door policy was introduced. It requires all public agencies to put members of the public in contact with the correct agency so they are not turned from one agency to another to have their queries attended to."
The page is well worth a visit but it is just one of the pages in the online version of the "Corporate Book" of the Singapore Public Service. We imitate so much that is inappropriate or harmful. With equal effort we could actively search for and consider initiatives that would definitely improve the quality of life for all citizens.

I believe that the Ministry of Information has been disbanded and that its functions will now fall under the Prime Minister's Office? Perhaps the word "information" could be replaced by "intelligence" and instead of the top down flow as in the delivery of propaganda or fiats the hierarchy could be flattened so that government is in the very centre of mass-line communication, informing the nation about the work of the nation but also informing itself by respectfully seeking and openly using feedback from the nation to improve effectiveness. (This is quite different from eavesdropping on the private lives of citizens or using information to manipulate the population.) I use the word "intelligence" without any qualms because I believe that intelligence is a good thing. It is how the organism actively seeks and processes the information in its environment to maximise its chances for survival.

Whether we use this intelligence for the good of ourselves and the good of the nation while recognising the correlation between the two is another matter. It depends, I believe, on whether or not our families, communities and leaders have consistently made efforts to socialise young minds, by example and instruction, to value and strive only for that which does the least or no harm to ourselves, our brothers and sisters and this beautiful natural environment in which we live
"Patria est communis omnium parens" - Our native land is the common parent of us all. Keep it beautiful, make it even more so.

Blessed is all of creation
Blessed be my beautiful people
Blessed be the day of our awakening
Blessed is my country
Blessed are her patient hills.

Mweh ka allay!