DO C.E.O.s matter?

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Orlando Huaman

Here we go again, a new C.E.O. for M.A.F.F. For those with long and sharp memory will notice that regarding of how many C.E.O.s M.A.F.F. have had in the past, our agriculture is as unproductive as the day right after the Independence of Samoa from N.Z.  grip.

Progress? What progress? Today we are living on dependence to supply our food from other countries due to our insufficiency and lack of capabilities to be self sufficient.

 According to the C.I.A. 81% of Samoa’s physical surface is tillable. Are we making good use of it? Not at all. Why not? Because our M.A.F.F.’s C.E.O.s either they do not know how, don’t want it, or plainly don’t care. Or all of the above. In my honest opinion those C.E.O.s that have passed through M.A.F.F.’ position were not qualified to turn around our decrepit agriculture.

They are or were not technically, scientifically prepared to handle so important job for the benefit of the silent majority. On top of that neither the P.S.C. nor the Cabinet are technically qualified to hire C.E.O.s.

Why? because they don’t have professional employment interviewers. It is like using a nurse to operate a patient. Besides one interview is not enough. Result: low performance C.E.O.s are hired. The country pays the ineffectiveness of them thus poverty  is king.

When hiring (specially for critical position) hire only the best, wherever they come from. No rush, take your time. The risk is palpable. 

We can no longer base our agriculture on taro, banana, and coconut. Neither we can run our economy in buy and sell and not produce or manufacture from our natural resources. We have to make more scientific the way we produce our crops. This in order to increase the yield of every acre year around. Great percentage of the M.A.F.F.’s budget should go to this purpose and  cut the payroll in half. My friends, the job of the technical personnel of M.A.F.F. is in the field, not behind their desk pushing  papers. Just like a good boxer show his worthiness in the ring, or a good inventor in his lab, or a good pilot in his plane.  

To start, M.A.F.F. has to pay attention to the need of the farmers, better cultivating techniques, use of fertilizers, more productive varieties, plenty of good water, and most of all a good technical service, on a constant basis.

SACEP with 30 million USD so far, has been unable to show to the public that shop at the supermarkets, or the Fugalei Market that they have done their job. Expensive vehicles and a growing bureaucracy does not fill the stomach of the farmers.  How it is possible that some the best our hard working farmers can do is that at the end of the day can have only 6 tala for all her needs? Poverty is all around us. The PM is blind to the need of the population, better dedicate his time in opening new fales, businesses, or receiving advise from the stigmata woman. It took a Minister of Agriculture to escort that woman to Rome, after of course cutting the ribbon of a repaired fence of a church. Did he attend the FAO Forum? Or was he awaiting for the interpretation of the Hebrew writing of that woman?

Is the new C.E.O. is going to tackle that aberration, and by the end of his contract that  poor farmer would exclaim: Thanks to the new M.A.F.F.’s C.E.O. I have my Plantation producing more, excellent technical help, like marketing, fertilization, new and better varieties. Don’t bother to tell us what you are going to do with the Samoan agriculture. Go ahead and do it. We are tired of politicians making promises buying votes and enjoying a good salary while the job at hand is treated as of no importance or transcendence.

Results speak for themselves. Today 2016 we still depend from abroad for our fruit and vegetables. S.R.O.S. was founded with the strict purpose to give value added to our staple produce. 10 years later nothing has been done that we could say: yeah! that was developed (invented, manufactured, formulated, improved, patented ) by S.R.O.S.! If S.R.O.S. can’t do what its mandate, which is: “ …adding value to the development of primary produce for export (what a dream). Not to mention “…reducing the dependence  of imported fossil fuel through local research…”  Then S.R.O.S. should be closed, since they can’t achieve its vision. The lack of intellectual infrastructure in its staff is one cause of it. Any self respected scientific organization is staffed with PHDs and seasoned entrepreneurs  with specific goals. Otherwise is a waste of good Samoan money. Fancy name with a million tala equipment in the hand of tyros can’t produce miracles. See and check the finished projects  for the last 10 years. Used to be in their website, not anymore. Why hide it? because nothing is worth showing them? 

How do I know this? I worked there as a consultant for 1 year. I participated in hiring technical personnel. To my way of knowing about hiring none of them qualified for and organization such as S.R.O.S.. Yet, they were hired by the former MNRE minister. That was the kind of staff that the present C.E.O. inherited. Result: no results.

Now for solutions. For S.R.O.S. to be effective (yes, it is may be efficient) it has to be totally reorganized. 

Starting with the appropriate staffing, factual goals and some government check of its effectiveness. S.O.Es were created to produce money for the government, not to consume it. (Just like the Post office, inefficient. 

All your registered packages ended up in Australia, not where they suppose to go. Excuses plenty.) By that I mean; at least three added values to our staples (per year) at the reach of the consumer at our supermarkets and Fugalei marketa.

In paper they have milestones, but in practice nothing tangible. Whatever happened to the coconut water? Or the VCO?  The avocado oil never took off, and so on. While the  M.A.F.F.’s C.E.O. will advise the farmers how to produce quantity and quality the S.R.O.S. should  add value to that output. Anything different is waste of money and energy.

For our agriculture to be self sufficient it has to go through a process of mechanization and scientific methods. We have subsistence agriculture since day one. Let’s raise the level (economic) of our hard working farmers. M.A.F.F. and S.R.O.S. are well budgeted to change all that. If we have the brains and the desire to do it, what is holding them up?

The new M.A.F.F.’s C.E.O. should try to properly present our fish for sale at the fish market. That is:  covered with crushed ice or brine solution. Not shooing away the flies. Why? because the moment the fish is caught, innate bacteria start multiplying if not kept under freezing conditions.

Upgrade the intellectual infrastructure of S.R.O.S.; produce fruit and vegetable at the 20 acres available at the S.R.O.S. location; publish  of the R&D being done there.

On the forestry side: plant teak trees for export; multiply our “seed” cattle and sheep; built, once and for all a permanent abattoir; introduce hydroponics; improve the movement from farm to table of our produce. No new fence needed. Also, try Stevia. A few hectare will use half of Yasaki’s unemployed. Steer ahead David, make a difference.

If my memory does not fail me; none of the previous C.E.O.S had the temerity to use innovation. Least have the guts to try it! Here is your chance David. 3 years.

There is nothing wrong to be poor or unemployed. What is wrong is to want to stay that way and not shaking off that title. By the same token we Samoan don’t’ want to be dependent on somebody else food to feed us.

Our so called leaders have to have their priorities right to start with. No more white elephants, no more poverty, assign the right job to the right person. Remember you are measured by your performance, nothing else counts.

In that regard if we  tabulate the achievements of the C.E.O.S nationwide it is a big zero. They just fill the position, enjoy the perks and be happy about it.  It is well know here in Samoa that high positions are filled without training in that position. –I was trained by the USDA for 6 months before I could deal with food related issues.

No matai titles needed. Plain brains and proven effectiveness in previous jobs. Did the new M.A.F.F.’C.E.O. listed his achievements in his previous job? Like for instances: Yes sir: ”while a C.E.O. for S.R.O.S. my organization put in the market three added value per year to our staple produce” You can find them at any supermarkets and Fugalei.”

That is achievement, nothing else matters. The problem is: In the words of my job counsellor Dr Haldane:” There is something very backward in a system that fits inferior men into good jobs because  they were “the best men available,’ while superior men were fitted themselves  into inferior jobs because they were  “the best job available”. Think about that!

In the word of Mr. Li Yong-Director of UNIDO: “… virtually no country in the history of the world has been able to move  from a low-income status to a high level of economic and social development without  building a strong industrial sector.” Here we are we have the raw material, capable brains can be trained for this purpose. If we don’t take that path a dependent country will march into the horizon at the tune of poverty. 

Now back to the title of this article: DO C.E.O.s MATTER?  Perhaps to ask whether the C.E.O. really matters is to ask the wrong question. Perhaps the right question to ask is: When does leadership matter? Cutting-- edge research reveals that “ while some C.E.O.s clearly do make a big difference , many are merely the most visible cog  in complex machines.”

How much difference  can a C.E.O. make anyway? Here are some examples of outstanding C.E.O.s. To include General Electric Jack Welch, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, and Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett. These men  later became  full—fledged celebrities  lionized for single—handedly  lifting their companies  to stock –market superstardom.

For believers in the C.E.O.’s supreme importance, even the presence of ruffians and scoundrels in the C.E.O. ranks underscored the chief executive outsize influence. C.E.O.s could make great companies, and C.E.O.s could break them. Example. Dennis Kozlowski’s  fall from grace and into prison for looting Tyco International. Enron’s collapse was the inevitable  consequence of Jeffrey Skilling’s criminality. Same goes for autocratic Maurice Greenberg  who sank AIG into speculative madness. Apres mois, le diluge, indeed.

The question of the indispensability of the C.E.O. is one that has occupied  business scholars for 70 years. Charles de Gaulle (who was born the same day as I) said “The graveyards are full of indispensable men.” Vive la France!                     

Maybe that is the ultimate lesson here: “C.E.O. can matter, but we all might be better off if they didn’t. “Good leaders can make  a small positive difference; bad leaders can make a huge negative difference” Does it sound familiar to you? Bon voyage Mr. new M.A.F.F.’s C.E.O..

*Orlando Huaman is a freelance writer. Malololelei.

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