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Sandals make its presence felt in another important area of Jamaican life

Henley MORGAN

Wednesday, June 04, 2014    

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Below is the text of the speech delivered by Dr Henley Morgan at the launch of Butch Stewart Awards held Thursday, May 8, 2014 at the Jamaica Observer head office on Beechwood Avenue, Kingston 5.

There is a story told of a meat shop owner. Like any entrepreneur starting a new business, he opened with high expectation of welcoming his first customer. After what seemed an interminable wait, in through the door came a dog with a bag hanging from his neck. The dog ran up to the counter, placed his two front paws on it, and started making sounds as if beckoning for service. Desperate to make his first sale, the meat shop owner was not about to refuse service to a customer even if he bore a striking resemblance to a dog. He removed the bag and noticed there was a note inside along with money. The note read: Please deliver to my dog Rover five pounds of your choicest steak. The owner did as the note instructed; took the price of the steak and placed the bag containing the meat and the change around Rover's neck. The dog dutifully ran from the store.

There is a story told of a meat shop owner. Like any entrepreneur starting a new business, he opened with high expectation of welcoming his first customer. After what seemed an interminable wait, in through the door came a dog with a bag hanging from his neck. The dog ran up to the counter, placed his two front paws on it, and started making sounds as if beckoning for service. Desperate to make his first sale, the meat shop owner was not about to refuse service to a customer even if he bore a striking resemblance to a dog. He removed the bag and noticed there was a note inside along with money. The note read: Please deliver to my dog Rover five pounds of your choicest steak. The owner did as the note instructed; took the price of the steak and placed the bag containing the meat and the change around Rover's neck. The dog dutifully ran from the store.

Finding this to be more interesting than the prospect of additional sales, the meat shop owner went in pursuit of the dog. The chase continued a short distance into an adjoining neighbourhood. The dog entered a driveway, ran up to the front door of the house, placed the bag on the ground, and started to bark as if trying to get the occupant to open the door. From his hiding place behind an old oak tree in the front yard, the meat shop owner watched this strange episode being played out.

There is a moral in this story about the least among us, who contribute the most among us but are shown scant regard and paid even less respect. To quote Sandals Resort International Group Public Relations Manager Sheryl McGaw-Douse: "Too often selfless community advocates are overlooked and their work, though impactful, goes unnoticed. The Butch Stewart Community Awards intend to change that by shining the spotlight on those who deserve it most; the hard-working, dedicated and driven members of our Jamaican community."

Going back to the story about the meat shop owner and the dog, there is also a lesson that applies to Jamaica — a country that can be said to have gone to the dogs. Exactly one week ago on these very premises, guests at the Jamaica Observer Press Club debated whether the harsh economic times had pushed Jamaicans, particularly those living in so-called marginal communities, towards suicide. With the two major political parties in the house, it should surprise no one that the opinions were divided along political lines. Here is the unvarnished truth that bears no party colour and cannot be successfully refuted. Relative to its endowments — the talent and warmth of our people, the majestic mountains, verdant valleys and scenic seascapes and the island's strategic location — Jamaica's is the most underperforming economy in all of planet Earth; not just in these times but maybe throughout all of history. Who can deny it?

Beyond this single dose of realism, I will not use this historic and pleasant occasion to become mired in the seeming intransigence of the problems confronting our nation or to wallow in self-pity; and certainly not to cast blame. You see, once the conversation turns from blame-finding to solutions, we are all responsible. There are three sectors that have a responsibility and a role to play, "so that Jamaica may, under God, increase in beauty, fellowship and prosperity and play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race". The first sector — the Government and public sector — has awaken to the realty that, even in a free market economy, its role is the critical one and is at last displaying determination towards creating a stable macro-economic environment without which all other efforts are wasted.

The second sector — the private sector — too has a critical role to play. It was Henry Ford II who said: "Bringing these disadvantaged people out of the ghettos into the mainstream of the economy is a goal that can be accomplished only if business grabs the heavy end of the load." In today's event, we see the very best example of this being displayed by our home-grown international brand, the SRI/ATL brand.

But, there is a third sector. Jamaica, like a stool, will be unstable if the third leg is not in place and functioning properly. The importance of the so-called not-for-profit sector, or as I prefer to call it, the human services sector, should not be underestimated. By my estimation, the third sector contributes the equivalent of three to five per cent of Jamaica's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The Government should acknowledge this contribution in its budget process and plan for the sector in the same way it plans for its own operation and for the private sector. To this end, I acknowledge the recent passing of the Charities Act. I am using this occasion to call on the Government to go beyond registration of non-government organisations (NGOs) as an instrument of taxation policy and establish an independent Charities Commission, which will liberate the players in the sector to contribute more to nation-building.

In highlighting the third sector, allow me licence to mention one of my pet themes; the rise of social entrepreneurs, ie individuals, myself included, who use what would ordinarily be considered business methods to produce social outcomes. Two years ago, my organisation, Agency for Inner-city Renewal (AIR), inaugurated the first-ever Social Entrepreneurship Award. Gordon 'Butch' Stewart was the recipient. For those in business, who are similarly inclined, there is no better time than now to apply your business acumen toward addressing Jamaica's deep social problems. Our Government has passed, or is in the process of passing some useful legislation — the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Policy, the Green Paper towards a National Community Tourism Policy and Strategy, the National Cultural and Creative Industries Commission in the Office of the Prime Minister — these are significant developments that nourish the soil in which social entrepreneurship projects can flourish. We can dream of the day when, like the United Kingdom (UK), we in Jamaica will enjoy legislation to permit the creation of what are referred to as "community interest companies" to permit the use of for-profit and entrepreneurial activities for purposes that benefit the community. The UK has been described as a "hotbed" for social entrepreneurship with many British businesses aiming to change their community, the society, and even the world. Similar trends are emerging in some American cities, where social enterprise is being promoted through the use of low-profit limited liability companies (L3C), and in Canada where the Government appointed a parliamentary secretary for social entrepreneurship and has been contemplating the need for a new hybrid corporate form to encourage social purposes businesses.

It is to the third sector that the corporate foundations like Sandals Foundation and the emerging social enterprises, like AIR, belong. Marcus Garvey, George William Gordon, Mary Seacole, Elsie Sayle, and countless many no longer with us whose blood, sweat and tears bought our freedom and inspired hope of a better Jamaica; they too belong here. So too do the many unsung heroes working in our over 700 communities. Without reward or favour they labour selflessly and in love towards transforming Jamaica. The Butch Stewart Community Awards will shine the spotlight on you, not because you desire it, but because yours is an example worthy of emulation.

It is a distinct pleasure and an honour to declare the Butch Stewart Awards launched.

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