Research to find cure for national illsSunday, February 05, 2017
The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, Research Days last week gave us myriad examples of the power of research to improve our lives. In the areas of medicine, agricultural science, social and environmental research, we can see its impact and the benefits it would offer to Jamaica’s public sector transformation process.
At a ‘Policy Research Impact Forum’, Rickert Allen, senior general manager at National Commercial Bank, said that his company underwent radical transformation since 2001, turning to research to develop a strategy that would take the once-failing bank to its number one position in Jamaica today.
"There is a lot of research taking place, but no one is reading it," said business lecturer Dr K’adawame K’nife. Interestingly, he noted that although there was not a strong research culture in Jamaica, the Jamaica Constabulary Force was one of the organisations that uses this resource to inform their strategy. I recall a group of young men in downtown Kingston making Clarks shoes knock-offs being rounded up, luckily by officers who had been trained in community policing. Instead of locking them up, the policemen recognised their talent and took them to the Jamaica Business Development Centre (JBDC) for guidance. With help from JBDC and the Digicel Foundation they are now on their way to becoming young entrepreneurs, and Dr K’nife, who has been their mentor, can show you the excellent shoes they made for him.
In a spirited contribution, Professor Dale Webber said that it was the in-depth environmental research of the Kingston Harbour done by himself; his wife, Professor Mona Webber; and 25 graduate students that resulted in its rehabilitation. Their study showed that the bacterial content of the harbour’s water was 250 per cent above the accepted level, resulting in a stop to careless sewage disposal and the construction of the Soapberry facility. Dr Webber said that his team’s research was so significant that an entire bulletin of the
Marine Science publication was dedicated to their findings.
So much can be developed and improved when the research has been done.
This year’s lecture in the Cobb series was presented by Ambassador Aloun Assamba, attorney-at-law, CEO of COK-Sodality Credit Union, former high commissioner, government minister and Member of Parliament. The enlightening lecture series was created and sponsored by ambassadors Sue and Charles Cobb for exploration of issues that affect Jamaica’s development.
US Ambassador Luis Moreno disclosed at the event that Ambassador Sue Cobb is so highly respected by the US State Department that an award was created in her name to recognise outstanding US ambassadors worldwide. During her tour of duty here in Jamaica, Ambassador Cobb founded Jamaica’s Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) and, with her family, sponsors the scholarships for rural students.
Ambassador Assamba’s topic was ’Education and Health Care: The Equitable Imperative for Jamaica’. She contrasted the challenges faced by Jamaica’s lower-income earners to those who could afford private medical assistance. For example, a poor person may have to wait all day just to secure an appointment to see a specialist. In education, she noted that the removal of auxiliary fees had negatively affected the running of schools in which underprivileged children have unequal access to some areas of learning. She said children in deep, rural areas have the additional challenge of transportation, resulting in poor attendance.
Similarly, she said that the abolition of user fees in the health system is hobbling our medical services. She referred to an incident where an expatriate stayed in the St Ann’s Bay Hospital for six weeks, and on being discharged asked for his bill. He was told that the hospital had no facility to produce one.
Ambassador Assamba declared that she was not speaking from any political platform: "Politicians like to talk about free things," she said, "but I have been there and done that, and I have moved on." She said that the reinstatement of realistic user fees will level the playing field and called for the data to be gathered via surveys and focus groups to bring a change in the planning for health and education.
STEPPING UP FOR DEVELOPMENT
Prime Minister Andrew Holness’s policy statement earlier last month on the public sector transformation process is heartening to diligent taxpayers who are constantly tightening our belts to meet our financial responsibilities to the State.
Under the Bruce Golding Administration, the Consultative Monitoring Group, chaired by the ever-patriotic Peter Moses, had been mandated to oversee the preparation of a comprehensive plan by the Public Sector Transformation Unit, led by that brilliant public servant Patricia Sinclair-McCalla. Implementation of the approved plan has now been accelerated with the Danny Roberts-led Public Sector Transformation Oversight Committee tracking its progress.
According to a Jamaica Observer report, Holness told the media that: "A public sector transformation implementation team has been appointed to carry out a slew of measures to transform the sector towards efficiency in the push for economic growth. These include the implementation of shared corporate and human resource services, mergers and divestments, public service reform, and compensation reviews." It’s about time, Jamaica.
STEP UP, COUNCIL
The Jamaica Council of Churches and other church umbrella groups should have a registry of churches and pastors, as well as ethics committees which should warn and sanction wayward clergy. Untrained individuals should not be allowed to snap on a pastor’s collar and call themselves ‘bishop’ and allowed to prey on unsuspecting folks. Too many members of the clergy have reportedly abused and betrayed their followers. It cannot be business as usual.
FAREWELL, WONDERFUL SOULS
We say farewell to two stalwarts. We are crushed by the news that Peter Abrahams may have been murdered. This South African-Jamaican journalist and author stirred the minds and spirits of several generations with his fine commentaries and writings.
Family and friends gathered at the UWI Chapel last Thursday to give thanks for the life of educator and nationalist Jeanne Robinson. Her colleagues from the ICWI Foundation and the WLI recall a gracious and generous lady who passionately sought better for others and no praise for herself.
Condolence to the families and close friends of these great individuals.