JPC Head Proposes Greater Investment in S&T to Increase Productivity Levels

Executive Director of the Jamaica Productivity Centre (JPC), Dr. Charles Douglas, is pointing to the need for greater investment in science and technology (S&T) as one way to boost Jamaica’s declining productivity levels.
Speaking against the background of National Science and Technology month in November and the observance of National Productivity Awareness Week from November 18 to 23 under the theme: ‘Enhancing Standards through Productivity Growth,’ Dr. Douglas says that inadequate investment in S&T is among the factors that account for Jamaica’s low labour productivity rate, which declines on average by approximately 0.12 per cent per year.
Other factors include insufficient investment in human and physical capital, the high levels of crime, the absence of a productivity culture and bad labour management relationships.
Stating that Jamaica spends too little on scientific and technological pursuits, the productivity advocate points out that “large segments of Jamaican enterprises lack adequate product design capabilities, process reconfiguration and production organization, which will give them a competitive edge even in niche markets.”
He articulates that, “the provision of such services and technological assistance should be thought of as providing a ‘public good’, much in the sense that the Small Business Administration in the United States or the British Ministry of Industry have done for many years now, disseminating free of charge, technical advice to small and medium size enterprises.”
From Dr. Douglas’ perspective, “at the very minimum, policies and programmes are needed to strengthen and accelerate the country’s capacity in technology generation, adoption and transfer.” This is an area, he says, which is ripe for public/private sector partnership.
He notes that although progress has been made in the area of information communication technology (ICT), “more rapid diffusion and cost reduction should permit faster productivity growth and competitiveness in world markets for goods and services. Furthermore, ICT should become a major tool for delivering health (e-health), education (e-education) and government services (e-government) in the near term.”
Turning to other requirements to achieve improved and sustained worker productivity, the head of the country’s national Productivity Centre – an initiative of the Labour Advisory Committee representing trade unions, the private sector and the government – says it is now universally accepted that investments in education, skills and health are necessary inputs.
Stating that “Jamaica systematically loses skilled manpower to more developed industrial countries”, he says that there are policy choices to be made regarding having an education and training system that supplies the skills demanded by employers.
Dr. Douglas is not surprised that Jamaica was ranked 63 out of 117 countries in the 2005 Global Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum. He blames the low ranking squarely on the country’s relatively low labour, capital and total factor productivity, which is defined as the efficiency and effectiveness by which labour is combined to produce output.
He notes that although some sectors have recorded positive rates of growth in labour productivity over the past decade, these have been below what is required to compete with the main trading partners.
“In an environment that is increasingly becoming more globalized and liberalized, the competition is extremely fierce and the only way we can compete effectively is if we have a high level of productivity,” he points out.
Stating that productivity is a necessary condition for competitiveness as well as a prime determinant of people’s standard of living, the JPC Executive Director says: “The productivity of our human resources determines employee wages, while the productivity of capital determines the return it earns for its owner.”
He says that the improvement in living standards in Trinidad and Tobago should come as no surprise, as labour productivity in that country is “more than three times that of Jamaica and has been growing on average by approximately 3.4 per cent per annum over the past 10 years.”
Dr. Douglas reasons further that if Jamaican firms are to become internationally competitive, productivity must become a mass movement and must be given high priority on the national agenda.
Noting that “distrust between workers and management in Jamaican companies has also been identified as a factor influencing worker motivation and productivity”, he said that “providing supportive work environments as well as challenging work are critical elements in improving labour motivation and productivity.”
Turning to the public sector, Dr. Douglas pointed out that it is harder to implement productivity indicators within this sector as there is the notion among some persons that improved productivity can result in loss of employment.
This is a myth, he says, which must be dispelled as improved productivity increases profit and if profits are improved, the capacity of a particular company to expand will increase, and as the company expands, it will require more labour.
Productivity, Dr. Douglas assures, will benefit every aspect of life as it will result in improved income, working conditions and job quality. He adds that “labour unions and the management of organisations must pay increasing attention to continuous training and retraining; improve the physical work environment; promote productivity-linked compensation systems; operations management systems, and interpersonal relations in the workplace if labour productivity is to be enhanced and sustained.” It is this enhancement and sustainability that the JPC will seek to promote through its activities planned for National Productivity Awareness Week, which will involve a church service, a mass media productivity sensitization campaign, seminars and workshops.

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