Good evening and thank you for the invitation and opportunity to address you. It is an honour for me and Lady Allen to share in this event, because it involves honouring excellence in industry.
I wish to pay tribute to the Standards Council, management and staff of the Bureau of Standards for your dedication in ensuring for the past forty years the nation’s industries have been built on high standards.
Through your insistence on adherence to standards many local companies have been able to break through the stringent quality standards set by markets abroad and are now certified under the International Organisation of Standards (ISO) Quality Management Systems. Information received from the National Certification Body of Jamaica indicates that several Jamaican companies have been certified or registered to the ISO Quality Management Systems. Thirty companies are certified ISO 9001, twenty are certified under the ISO Environmental Management Systems and four are certified under the ISO Food Safety Management System.
By meeting and surpassing these standards, Jamaican products and services are now internationally competitive and several locally manufactured products such as beverages, spices and canned foods have successfully taken their place on supermarket shelves all over the world.
COMMENDATIONS FOR THE BUREAU OF STANDARDS
Before Jamaican products can be acceptable in overseas markets, local consumers should first have confidence in the quality of goods and service they purchase. As the Jamaican adage goes “you have to dance a yard before you dance abroad.” The National Quality Awards programme implemented by the Bureau of Standards in 2004 was therefore a step in the right direction, as it seeks to acknowledge and reward companies that apply high standards and quality systems in the production and delivery of goods and services.
The programme has enhanced the recognition of Jamaican products in the local market and increased consumer confidence in the quality of locally manufactured products. The awards programme has also created a national medium for business excellence by promoting excellence as an increasingly important element in competitiveness. The National Quality Award programme also assists in improving quality management systems in Jamaican industries which results in maximized consumer satisfaction as well as improved competitiveness. In addition, the award promotes improvement in quality and productivity, which redounds to increased profits.
The Bureau of Standards has as its remit the oversight of the manufacturing, commercial and retail sectors, to ensure the protection of Jamaican consumers from defective and unsafe products, either imported or produced locally. The awards that have been presented since the inception of the programme is a testimony of the hard work and diligence of the Bureau of Standards in ensuring that companies establish and consistently maintain high standards of excellence. Approximately 30 companies have so far been awarded for setting and maintaining high standards in the manufacturing, service and small business categories.
REPLICATING STANDARDS ACROSS THE SOCIETY
Any society without standards is bound to be chaotic. The insistence on quality and standards so ably advocated by the Bureau of Standards should therefore be replicated in every sphere of society. Standards of discipline have fallen in many areas including in our schools and at the community level. It is evident in how we use the roadways and the way in which we deal with the natural environment upon which our very existence depends.
Ethical standards and values such as honesty, punctuality, respect, tolerance, forgiveness and caring for others have also seen better days. My point is that falling standards are crippling our ability to develop and realise the dreams of our forefathers when they championed our move toward independence in 1962. These falling standards and ethics and lack of respect for each other have manifested themselves in:
§ The wave of crime and violence affecting the society.
§ A strain in interpersonal relationships even at the level of the family
§ A falling off of standard and ethics in job performance in several professional and skilled areas.
I believe that we all must play our part to put an end to declining morals, standards and ethics by first lifting our personal standards. We must first believe in ourselves and then believe in what we can do. I believe also that this must first begin at the personal level with one’s value system that has to be inculcated and developed in each of us at the level of the family. It is within the family that the values of integrity, responsibility, fairness and trustworthiness are passed on to children, to be reinforced at school and through involvement in the Church and youth and other groups. The values and principles that parents teach their children must then become the foundation of the standards and ethics to which we adhere in our daily lives.
At the collective level we should also be asking ourselves, what is our vision for the kind of society that we want to achieve and work vigorously to make it a reality. Our young people are already championing those values and attitudes and are leading the way in many areas including athletics at the 2008 Olympics and recently at the World Championships in Berlin. The Microsoft ‘Imagine Cup’ team from Northern Caribbean University continues to inspire us with their innovative computer programming ideas.
I believe these young people and many others like Kei Miller who yesterday received the Musgrave Silver Medal for Outstanding Merit in Literature, and Courtenay Foster for Community Services, have pointed us to a vision of excellence and high standards of performance. The feats of Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser, Melaine Walker, Brigitte Foster-Hylton, Asafa Powell, Kei Miller and other young people are demonstrations of their habits and practices and a conviction that persistence, discipline and consistently maintaining high standards will get you to the top.
I challenge you, ladies and gentlemen, to believe with me that we can restore high standards in all spheres of national life. I believe that despite our challenges, our setbacks and our despair, we are a nation which has been blessed with a rich heritage and abundant resources, and the prospect for a bright future. It is for that reason that I call on:
§ Leaders in industry and banking, businessmen and entrepreneurs to conduct their business with high moral integrity and adherence to quality and standards.
§ Builders, architects and engineers to become acutely aware that in building sound and solid physical structures they are also helping to build the nation.
§ School principals and teachers to hold high educational standards
o Increase their efforts to mentor students
o Do not settle for mediocrity or bad behaviours and attitudes
§ Community organisations to help restore the community as a place where the concept of ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ can again be highly regarded in this nation.
§ I call on youth clubs, schools, the Church and service organisations to help in highlighting the family as a nexus where education, childrearing and community development can come together and set the stage for maintaining standards, values and ethics in our society.
I believe we can accomplish what we will and keep Jamaica land we love to her pride of place as the pearl of the Caribbean.
I join in congratulating those individuals and entities that are recipients of national quality awards for 2009. You join a distinguished list of Jamaican companies that continue to excel in product and service delivery.
Allow me to congratulate the Bureau of Standards on achieving the milestone of forty years of service to the nation’s industries. May the organisation continue to make a mark on the development of the nation by ensuring that established standards are maintained in industries.
Thank you ladies and gentlemen and a good evening to you.