Virtue of being on time

speaking out


The IT manager at Swiss Bank put forward a case to improve disc resilience that would have cost $100,000 to implement. His proposal was rejected.    Two weeks later the disks crashed, costing the bank over $2 million.

Even though the lesser figure was a lot, it could have saved the bank a pretty penny overall.

In the same vein, what we consider the “softer” or “lesser” virtues – tidiness, common courtesy and punctuality – can have significant economic value and savings.

One of the sessions put on by the World Economic Forum in January looked at the experience of the Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway – which have fared better than most during the now infamous global economic crisis. There was the usual yada yada about balancing the budget, diversifying the economy, investing heavily in education and encouraging free enterprise. What the session also highlighted was the great deal of respect these countries have for punctuality: “They are first to show up at meetings, prepared with an agenda.”

We joke a lot about Bajan time, but it could be costing us big time. An article in The Economist noted that “punctuality is not a Latin American comparative advantage”, and referenced an estimate that put the cost for tardiness in Ecuador “upwards of $700 million per year – more than four per cent of GDP”. There is also evidence that tardiness has cost some African economies a pretty penny, but to point that out would only get you branded a racist these days.

One of the ironies of our so-called scientific age is that citing empirical evidence that does not line up with the vision of the elite could get you ostracized or branded a bigot. If we point out that poverty rates among black married couples in the United States have been in single digits every year since 1994, we are “judging” other “alternative lifestyle arrangements”.

Lawrence Harrison, in Central Liberal Truth, points out that “the lesser virtues can translate into hard economic data: punctuality is practised in all the top 15 countries on the World Economic Forum’s competitiveness rankings”.

Whilst it is true that Government has a part to play when it comes to tax policy, encouraging free enterprise, and so on, the “lesser” virtues are matters of the human heart we have to deal with as individuals. What does it profit a nation to encourage business and then not bother to open on time?


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