'Pay now or pay later'

Engineer advocates use of latest standards and codes

Sunday, September 23, 2012

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Loy Malcolm, acting Director of Technical Services at the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), is advocating use of updated codes and standards by those in the building and construction industry and infrastructure planners.

She said there is a price to be paid for ignoring them. The adaptation and embracing of standards at all levels and in all fields must be an integral part of development approaches, Malcolm said.

"Standards and codes are powerful tools, which when utilized properly can play a significant role in advancing the economic interests of entities and nations. Standards can also bring tremendous benefit: an independent macroeconomic study conducted on behalf of the UK Government in 2005 21 provided evidence to prove that standards make an annual contribution of GBP2.5 billion to the UK economy," she said.

"Moreover, 13 per cent of the growth in labour productivity in the UK from 1948 onwards was attributed to the role of standards. These benefits derive from efficiency gains in processes and reduced bureaucracy and improved product quality. They broaden opportunities for professionals," said the JSIF technical services expert at the recent Jamaica Institution of Engineers (JIE) Conference in Kingston,

The cost of ignoring standards, Malcolm said can be most clearly seen in the cases of Chile and Haiti.

"It's pay now or pay later. When caught in such a dilemma, consider Haiti and Chile and then see on which side of the argument you land. The commitment to such standards adds value to the development process and strengthens the outcomes," Malcolm noted, adding "invariably when discussions about codes and standards arise, there is the thought that additional capital is required and so the questions, the dilemma, the tendency is to seek a 'way around it'."

'Ways around' or the failure to conform are always more expensive, she argued.

A key element in the discussion, she said must be the link between standards and innovation. "If we are serious about regional development then we must invest more in innovation, research and development."

Malcolm noted that since the start of 2012, the Government of Jamaica through JSIF has invested almost $1 billion in community infrastructure, improving access to basic services for underserved communities. The infrastructures include roads and drainage systems, community spaces, sanitation, water and a bridge.

"These directly improved the lives of more than 40,000 Jamaicans. In the context of our small economy, this investment is significant and so we have an added responsibility as with public funds to ensure conformance to codes and standards, to ensure that they will stand the test of time," said Malcolm.

She noted that a 2010 report on the effect of standardization on the European Union said standards have the potential to support both the supply and demand-sides of innovation policy, and serves to validate new technologies and aid the entry across borders.

"It is therefore critical that as regional researchers undertake areas of study and establish new materials, methodologies or approaches that we seek to link them to or establish standards that allow for transferring of these," malcolm said. "It is with this approach that formal economic benefit can be derived and development take place."

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