Among his many outstanding institutional innovations for Jamaica, the late Prime Minister, the Most Honourable Edward Seaga, ON, PC played a pivotal role in the formation of the Planning Institute of Jamaica. Specifically, he engineered and piloted the transformation of the National Planning Agency (NPA) into the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) in 1984. The Planning Institute was given a broader mandate than its predecessor in order to strengthen its role as the premier organization responsible for providing policy advice to the government and other stakeholders, as well as coordinating development assistance for the country.
As one writer stated, “The change amounted to a significant raising of the bar with respect to enhanced autonomy of the organisation which was now vested with legal personality, and the deepening and broadening of its functions…”
In a 1984 speech to the House of Representatives, Mr Seaga indicated that the legislation would establish the PIOJ as a statutory body with the legal authority and responsibility to commence and coordinate comprehensive development plans, ‘and by so doing it is intended to put an end to the piecemeal planning and establish some degree of integration of the planning activities of the various planning units in the public sector….’
Under his leadership as Prime Minister, the PIOJ was integral in the development of the Agro 21 Programme from which special projects, such as the Self-Sufficiency and the Export Development Programmes emanated. In addition, a comprehensive Manpower Plan commenced as a prerequisite for addressing unemployment. Focus on poverty alleviation and other social issues resulted in the establishment of programmes such as the Social Well Being Programme, the Social Safety Net, The Food Stamp Programme and the Poverty Eradication Policy and Programme.
Mr Seaga laid the foundation for integrated development planning, and the PIOJ has continued on that trajectory. In line with this concept, the PIOJ developed a National Population Policy; and four macroeconomic models: the Output Model; the Monetary Model; the Fiscal Model; and the Aggregate Demand Model to strengthen the Institute’s forecasting capabilities. A Five Year Plan (1990–1995) was also initiated. As Minister of Finance, Mr Seaga presided over the preparation of the first Public Sector Investment Programme which was then the responsibility of the PIOJ, and which was aimed at integrating the planning process with budgeting, to ensure resources were allocated to strategic priorities.
In a paper presented at the PIOJ’s Economic and Social Development Planning Conference in 2005, Mr Seaga noted:
“It should be recognized that the imperatives of globalization are creating the need for an over-arching layer of harmonized policies, the framework of which must be reflected in a far greater degree of comprehensive, integrated planning. This is a role I perceive that can be best implemented by the Planning Institute of Jamaica, which in the past has played the central role in integrating all technical assistance programmes… The Planning Institute of Jamaica, throughout all its stages has always been staffed with the brightest and the best. I have worked with most of them in my 18 years of involvement with planning institutions and commend them for their service to Jamaica.”
On the occasion of the PIOJ’s 50th anniversary in 2005, the Planning Institute paid tribute to Mr Seaga, which read in part:
“As Prime Minister, you directed the change from the National Planning Agency and signalled a major shift in the institution’s development agenda to focus on a major challenge of the time – to structurally adjust the economy to face the global realities. By so doing, you not only increased the relevance of the organisation, but also re-fashioned its identity and increased its status. Your initiative and vision enhanced the autonomy of the organization while simultaneously broadening the scope of its responsibilities.”
The ending of that tribute was appropriate then as it is now. “Mr Seaga, the Planning Institute of Jamaica recognizes your visionary leadership and celebrates your commitment to the achievement of state planning and nation building.”