Old habits die hard: bureaucratic inefficiency is more general than particular

Jamaica, like any country, is made up of little stories. The cherry pickers will take what they want and leave the rest.

I was infuriated the other day by what I’m told is a piece of “that’s how we do things”. My father’s house is insured and the policy is up for its annual renewal. The insurance company sent me the reminder a few weeks ago and a form that my father needed to sign, which he did. I paid half of the premium to keep the policy active, agreeing that the remainder would be paid next month. The insurance company needed to get the signed copy back, so I took the opportunity of my visiting Mandeville to drop off the form. So far, not very eventful. However, let me flag some pointers.

  • The insurance company acted in a modern way by sending an email–though the first time without the document attached (but, that’s just one bit of admin snafu that happens all the time).
  • I paid the premium by bank transfer, having done that last year, and refusing to carry cash to pay it at the office.
  • It would be nice if the company invested in software to make it possible to complete and sign the document, electronically. (That may run afoul of Jamaican laws, but I pose the idea.)

So, on the productivity side, the company is doing things to make my life easier and to keep things efficient for them. They spend little getting a form to me, and get money into their account in a blink.

But, when I returned the form, we suddenly saw regression. A lady said it was good that we came in as there were some other forms to complete. That’s when the steam started to press the whistle of the kettle. What!?

Ready to sink under the weight?
Ready to sink under the weight?

Why could the forms not have been sent by email in the first place, and if they had been omitted, why not send them by email anyway? Why be smug about how ‘luck’ had brought me into the office?

People in Jamaica often rail about government bureaucracy and its inefficiencies, and I often retort that there is a general culture of poor administrative practices, that slow down how things are done, or wastes time. I will happily take convincing evidence to the contrary.