In July 2012, the Jamaican government launched a massive campaign, with a big advertising budget, to collect between J$1 to J$2 billion dollars on thousands of traffic tickets that were outstanding for a number of years. 6 months later however, less than 20% of the projected fines have been collected, 60% of which were paid at the 9th hour (on the last day). Additionally, the process was marred with numerous complaints by persons, some of who were just disgusted with the many errors in the government’s records.
As an entrepreneur or company intending to do business in Jamaica, what can you learn from this experience? Here are 11 lessons for you about working the Jamaican people, the Government and the Police (and law enforcement).
- High level of compliance – People want to clear their name. People want a clear conscience. That was what came home to me strongly when I saw the lines stretching for metres down the road. Hearing about the rush to pay (albeit at the last minute) and listening on the radio to the many cases of persons wanting to pay, or paying twice, really reinforced the point that many Jamaicans would like to be in line with the law.
- Law abiding …when under pressure – with 60% of the revenue collected on the last day, it is clear, that majority of the persons never intended to pay the fines, some of who paid because of herd mentality (they realized everybody else was doing it).
- The Government grossly underestimated the amount of errors in its system… or it never cared (enough to check). Or probably it couldn’t, based on the amount of errors. – Almost everyone new someone close to them who was on the ticket amnesty list, but
- was never given that ticket,
- already paid for it, or
- went to the court and cleared it up, among other reasons.
- Target misalignment – Of the J$2 billion projected only J$340 million has been collected so far. Was the target too high (maybe because of the number of errors)? Or was the level of compliance too low?
- Time wasting and costly exercise – Advertisements placed in the paper, tax office and police staff working long hours, public and private sector staff loosing productive time from their work to join long lines at the last minute, and citizens (and the government) wasting time to clarify items which were already paid, are some of the many time wasting activities that took place in this amnesty. All this minused from the J$340 million reported could actually put this exercise in the red.
- Erroneous system – The world is now certain that the government’s records are very erroneous… at least as it relates to traffic tickets. The jury is out as to everything else.
- Online payment? – Nobody thought about this? Was there no way it could be facilitated?
- Just in time system? No updates within the 6 months? – Frankly I was hoping that as the time went by, I would be able to check on the system and see it updated. As someone said, the system was wrong at the start of the amnesty, and the information online is still wrong 6 months after.
- Revenue still below target – The aim of this exercise was revenue collection. I’m sure it wasn’t to get majority of the country’s citizens in line with the law. Now that it has failed the objectives, what’s next. Somebody asks property tax? The government is cash strapped and its revenue projections are waaay below target.
- Jamaicans are too last minute – Why wait till the very last 2 days to be heading to the tax office to clear your name? Obviously you weren’t serious about doing so over the 6 month period.
- Bly, time extension, extra time – I realize from this that there are some people who ALWAYS think that in everything they must get extra time, an extension, or a bly, and it doesn’t matter that you initially gave them 6 months to clear their name. Probably it was 6 months in the first place to allow enough time to deal with the magnitude of errors which the government foresaw.
- Bonus: Legality of the Government’s actions – Someone mentioned tonight the issue of tickets more than 9 years old being on the list, which in law would make it statue barred. If that is the case, then you can understand the type of government we’re dealing with.
What are some lessons you learned? Was your name on the list? Did you have difficulties paying?