THE recent reduction in the price of gas and other petroleum-based fuels has, in our tough economic times, been long awaited and much-anticipated. For the expectant Saint Lucian consumer, every cent saved when purchasing petroleum products represents an extra cent that could be invested in some other activity. As the saying goes, “a penny saved is a penny earned.”
For the manner in which it processed and communicated the reductions in the cost of the petroleum-based products, the Saint Lucian Government has attracted much attention and criticism. The government was criticized: for seemingly changing the pass-through mechanism used to regulate the price of fuel; for not being generous enough in reducing the cost of fuel; for not suspending the pass-through mechanism to immediately pass on savings to consumers; and for the hasty and untimely manner used in communicating the changed prices to petrol dealers.
Ordinarily, the petrol dealers would have received advance notice of the updated pricing information, to allow an orderly transition to the new pricing structure. They were the heroes in this process. They demonstrated nimbleness in the face of sudden change, coping with minutes of notice, not with days of notice. Their response even overshadows some criticism levelled at the government, such as being oblivious to the operational difficulties imposed by switching petrol prices in that way.
Consider what it means for our government to move so swiftly (in computing jargon, “in real time” and in our local parlance, “now for now”) when servicing the needs of its citizens. Specifically, what the government could learn from the petrol dealers’ prompt handling of this change.
If the government was prepared — or able — to transact business as speedily as the petrol dealers, it would mean a real transformation in the quality of service experienced by the citizen. With improved computerisation and streamlined business processes, could you dare to imagine a new experience when: processing a driver’s licence; applying for a new passport; or even an identification card?
We could positively look forward to interacting with efficient government departments, instead of sacrificing valuable hours queuing up to receive service from slow, lumbering, bureaucratic institutions.
Maybe this experience could be interpreted as a start, and vindication, of governmental modernization efforts, and much-advertised productivity improvement. Or probably, herald a change in public expectation in the operation of government.
Then, we would be cooking with gas!