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A Bill seeking to establish the National Commission on Science and Technology (NCST) as a statutory body was passed in the House of Representatives yesterday (December 6).
Minister of Industry, Technology, Energy and Commerce, Phillip Paulwell, who piloted the Bill, said the NCST would be an “umbrella organization responsible for, among other things, providing advice to the government on matters concerning science and technology and fostering, advancing and executing the national policy and strategy for science and technology in Jamaica”.
He said that the Science and Technology Policy of 1990 sought to ensure national science and technology co-ordination and management, by creating the NCST as a broad based cross sectoral national umbrella organization, undertaking strategic planning to achieve scientific and technological objectives.
The NCST became operational in 1993 and since its inception has served as a significant facilitator of dialogue and action among various actors in the national economy, including the public and private sectors, academia, the scientific community and civil society.
“The Commission also points the way for local companies to use technology for increased productivity. Through its various programmes and activities, the NCST has galvanized action in areas pertinent to national development, including research and development co-ordination, agricultural transformation, utilization of information and communication technologies, bio technology, food safety and security, the environment and the science and technology community,” the Minister informed. Mr. Paulwell added that even though the Commission has made significant progress, which has impacted national development, the commission still lacked “the formal legal status that will allow it to stake claim to resources and build the necessary influence to help in the removal of the critical factors that have contributed to the weaknesses of science and technology as a developmental tool”.
“It is therefore critical that measures be established to place the NCST in a more secure and better operational position with an appropriate organizational structure to perform its management functions in accordance with its mandate,” the Minister emphasized.
He pointed out that the Bill would allow for the rationalization and optimal utilization of resources, increase the ability to monitor, co-ordinate, evaluate and manage science and technology programmes, and as such would have a greater impact on the productive and competitive capacity of the country.
“The Bill will allow for improvement in decision making, accountability and transparency, and it will provide greater access to resources. The Bill was circulated to a number of private and public sector entities, including the Ministry of Justice, Office of the Prime Minister, the Scientific Research Council and the Bureau of Standards,” Mr. Paulwell informed.
He added that the comments received from the private and public entities were agreed to and incorporated into the Bill. Member of Parliament for West Central St. James, Clive Mullings, said he was extremely pleased at the passage of the Bill.
“This Commission will assist in creating and monitoring the linkages that are required in terms of the discoveries, what kind of impact that would have on the economy, and what kind of impact that would have on your academic efforts,” he said.