As outsiders to government, think tanks offer independent monitoring of public policy, propose policy alternatives and have greater affordances for disruptive thinking. They nurture development by minding the gap between knowledge and practice. Governments always take a long view as stewards of the nation’s interest and assets, but they are tempered by the shorter-term of political cycles. By making their own choices outside of such cycles, think tanks influence the future.

Unlike regulators and lobbyists, think tanks ground their recommendations in independent analysis. Financial self-determination gives them liberty to conduct applied analysis aimed at improving public policy. Few universities enjoy power over their own choices like Harvard. And fewer yet have any claim to a long history of institutional sovereignty undergirding intellectual freedom that emanates from financial independence- which is the real Prize. This is precisely why think tanks embedded in university settings do not toe the line.

As brokers, they stimulate national policy dialogue. Establishing think tanks dedicated to political economy and fiscal responsibility can help catalyse richer public policies. They also stimulate public debate which in turn builds the “fiscal legitimacy” of the government. Beyond surmounting the challenge of fiscal legitimacy or trust, they can also nurture the growth of indigenous, independent research, and aid in the monitoring of capacity that gives developing economies greater manoeuvrability and ownership in policy decision making.

The Cato Institute is a multi-billion, multi-issue think tank with over 200 faculty and administrative staff. Named after Cato’s Letters, which is a collection of leaflets published in England in the 1720s establishing the philosophical foundation for the American Revolution. The mission is to enlarge the parameters of public policy debate and give greater consideration to the principles of limited government, individual liberty, free markets, and peace. Thanks to a sizable donation by the Ford Foundation, The Belfer Center at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University is a permanent research centre providing leadership in advancing policy-relevant knowledge about the critical challenges confronting humans today.

Studies of the Brookings Institution are the most widely cited by the media. Brookings has influenced and contributed to the creation of such historic phenomena as the United Nations and various policies of deregulation, broad-based tax reform, welfare reform, and foreign aid. Moreover, its scholars embody the most varied points of view. The Earth Institute at Columbia addresses global issues such as sustainable development and the needs of the world’s poor. The institute is composed of 18 separate units, all of which conduct their own research and writing. Many of Reagan’s policies drew considerably from the “Mandate for Leadership,” produced by the Heritage Foundation. Human Rights Watch in NY has offices in eighteen major cities around the world. The Guttmacher aims to generate new ideas about some of the most divisive topics.

If development is freedom, then democracy must be a pillar of development. This is why private and official donors, and generous families like the Kaisers have been placing increasing emphasis on good governance. A central feature of democratic governance is fiscal responsibility. It is the case however that developing-economies fail to deliver adequate public services, with taxes and transfers playing a diminished distributive role. In the long run, poor quality fiscal policy undercuts “fiscal legitimacy”. This erosion of trust makes the people less open to new tax regimes or reforms. This in turn reduces revenue that frustrates public expenditure aimed at propelling development. Fiscal policy is an area of economic policy where independent research bodies can influence policy through high-quality research and help reverse this “vicious circle”.

Analytical capacity and indigenous knowledge are strong assets in identifying effective fiscal-policy options. For Jamaica to truly own its strategies for economic development, it intends to foster the activities of independent, local third-party institutions with the knowledge, technical competence and leverage to bring transparency and expert scrutiny to its economic policy making.

Dr. The Honourable Nigel Clarke, who graduated from Linacre College, Oxford, with a DPhil in Numerical Analysis is Jamaica’s Minister of Finance. Dr. Clarke started his career as a derivatives trader in London at Goldman Sachs. On his return to Jamaica, he structured and negotiated over US$1 billion of inbound investment for private equity, business development, acquisition finance, trade finance and infrastructure development including the acquisition of Kraft Foods and Nestle’s manufacturing businesses in Jamaica.

Cabinet has endorsed the concept of an independent fiscal institution, and the Government of Jamaica has procured the services of technocrats to design a think tank. The Andrew Holness administration has worked towards legislating for the institutional permanence of principles that would: enhance accountability of the policymaking process; deepen transparency of government finances; strengthen credibility of Jamaica’s fiscal path; promote inclusiveness in the policy discussion space; and take greater societal ownership of Jamaica’s economic direction. Dr. Clarke believes that the establishment of a think tank that embodies these principles is crucial to the achievement and maintenance of Jamaica’s (1) economic independence, (2) expansion of economic opportunity for all and (3) the protection of the vulnerable. These three policy planks will enable Jamaica to balance a range of sectorial interests with conflicting agendas.