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Speaking Notes for GM – Civil Service Long Service Awards Ceremony

Presentation to the Civil Service Long Service Awards Ceremony For General Manager, Dr Damian Graham Urban Development Corporation Friday, November 17, 2017

State Minister in the Ministry Of Finance and the Public Service – Hon Flaval Williams
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Cabinet Secretary – Mr Wayne Jones
Agency And Company Heads
Members of the Public Service
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen All

It is indeed my pleasure to be sharing this morning with this distinguished gathering and more so with you, ladies and gentlemen who have been selected for recognition, in celebration of your long years of service.

 All of you, who have been nominated, were so chosen by your respective HR practitioners or departments based on the performances you would have consistently displayed over the many years of your service.

We are here ladies and gentlemen, family members and friends, business associates, to celebrate you, who have provided service over the years, you who have made it possible for others to achieve, you who have laid the foundation that someone like myself, can have the opportunity to lead an organisation such as the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), an organisation which has the critical mandate of making development happen for the people of Jamaica.

As I look across this room, I see experience, I see accomplishment and yes, I see those of us who are trying to emulate the path that you all have trod. To aspire one day to be standing in your shoes, being recognised for long and distinguished service to our nation.

It is this aspirational spirit in our people which propels us to excel on the world stage, in areas of academia, sports, culture and entertainment and many more. It is, ladies and gentlemen, this indomitable Jamaican spirit that we are here honouring today, as we mark the official launch of civil service week.

 i note that the week of activities will take place under the theme “diligently and holistically advancing quality public services for a better Jamaica.”  The theme resonates with me at several levels, as firstly at the UDC, we are all public servants who have been entrusted with a significant responsibility, but I will share more on that shortly.

On a personal level it reminds me of my own purpose, my own mission to cause people and things around me to reach their full potential. I am the last of ten children for my parents and trace my heritage to a fusion of Ghanaian and Taino on my father’s side and on my mother’s a mixture of Accompong Maroons, Indian indentured labourer and Jewish merchant or trader.  Out of that melting pot of rich heritage I grew up with a deep sense of pride, purpose and responsibility to make the best use of my opportunities.

This sense of pride, purpose and responsibility has guided my every move through primary school, at Kingston College and at university. It has guided me through my various professional undertakings to where I am today at the UDC.

I firmly believe that this was not by chance but by an understanding and an owning and honing of my purpose and my mission.  Therefore when I look at you ladies and gentlemen, who have given your many years of service, it assures me that I am on the right path that I am required to do my part to lead my team and to build on the foundation that you have all laid. It is the collective responsibility and accountability for our actions which will make the difference.

As I pondered on the theme, I thought the elements combined into a powerful challenge and so I want to spend a few minute to speak to each –

The first word- diligently – speaks volumes to the attitude that we are expected to display in regard to our work, our careers and our personal lives.  It calls to mind the words of our national pledge “to work diligently and creatively, so that Jamaica may under god increase in beauty, fellowship and prosperity”. Diligence in undertaking is critical to nation building.

Holistically – builds on diligently and tells us that nation building is a collective effort; it is not about you or me in our respective areas working diligently on our individual tasks, but being unaware or unconcerned how each impacts the other.  It speaks to how we balance professional and personal for optimum health. Holistically reminds us …that out of many, we are one and it is the united approach which will make the difference, for our country and our world.

Advancing – means going forward, taking to the next level, making better than what was there before. If we think about it, each generation has a responsibility to ensure that the next generation advances rather than regresses. If I think back to my own parents and the sacrifices they made to ensure that their children would gain a university education, an opportunity that they would not have had …I am sure here that I am singing to the choir, because each person here being awarded would have benefitted from the sacrifice of a parent or guardian and in turn has sacrificed and continue to sacrifice for your children or wards. This I believe is at the heart of the word advancing as used in the theme… it is the attitude of diligence and being holistic, which together will yield gains, will serve in “advancing the whole human race”.

Quality – another critical word in the theme, speaks to value, to excellence, to superiority, which says you must add to the process, you must bring value, you must improve your environment.  In this global village where information is available at the swipe of a finger, we are availed of the opportunity to assess quality in its broadest sense, not just in the Jamaican perspective, but in the global environment, whether it is goods, services, nutritional values and benefits, there are benchmarks against which we are being judged and where quality comes into play.

I will share an example with you, the green grotto caves and attractions in St Ann operated by the UDC has recently been recognised for achieving 15 years of earth check certification now progressing to the master level …, the only cave worldwide to be so awarded, based on environmental integrity and observing the highest principles of sustainability. Another example is Dunn’s River Falls and Park which has received for the third year running the Trip Advisor Award for Excellence in Hospitality and for Continuously Exciting Customers.   Quality experiences, products or services, ladies and gentlemen, critical planks for nation building.

Public services –I have kept the two words together, because this is the context, diligently and holistically advancing quality public services, which is essential to our customers.  It is the demonstration of quality service to others that will make the difference in the impact of the public service and to break the negative perception that some continue to hold about civil servants.

And yes, you have heard some of these – “public servants are lazy, uncommitted, unprofessional, take forever to get the job done”.  It is a mould which we must break, a perception which must be transformed, and this will only happen if each one teaches one.

‘For a better Jamaica’, are the last words of the theme and these words are important because they provide further context, they provide the motivation for what we all do.  At the end of the day, it is about making our country better, it is about nation building.  It is about making Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise a family and do business.

Back to the UDC as promised.  We at the UDC have embraced a mission which is contained in our compelling story 2031 and let me share this with you –

It is 2031; the UDC celebrates 62 years of transformational urban development in Jamaica by having a grand gala celebration at the Kingston waterfront that hosts 500,000 patrons from festival market place in the west all the way to the iconic music museum and along the Palisadoes Promenade and the newly built Henry Morgan Park in Port Royal.

The celebration is being televised pay- per –view to the Jamaican diaspora and is also connected to the celebration in the other two cities.  Freedom Park in Montego Bay is hosting 300,000 patrons consisting of locals and tourists who stretch from the Montego Pier along the new promenade past the iconic monument trail and going all the way to Dead End Park.  In the newly built third city, the mayor, the governor general and prime minister are cutting the ribbon in the brand new civic centre called Technology Park.  The third city celebrations are hosting 200,000patrons, locals and visitors who arrive in the city via a multimodal transport to experience the social and cultural spaces built using lead principles in a city which is the leading centre for high technology in the hemisphere.

Jamaica has become the 4th logistic hub with numerous urban development programme interventions led by the UDC which has transformed the economy to one of the strongest in the region towards developed nation status.  The UDC has created 12 new green spaces in addition to Emancipation Park, Freedom Park and Technology Park, in each town that provides social and cultural interaction in the ratio of 1 park per capita. There are also 33 more public beaches and six eco-lodges with surrounding ecology habitat attractions.  Our attractions are well sought after by domestic and international tourists providing rich Jamaican cultural heritage and ecology, providing best in class destination experience in leisure, entertainment, customer service and gastronomy. 

Over the 14 years of the UDC‘s transformational programme delivery, we have consistently delivered record profits year on year, providing above market rate return for PPPS and REIT type developments that we have done across town centres.  Our team of highly competent technicians and administrative support are well sought after and UDC is asked to provide urban development consultancy to other countries in Latin America to help them develop their cities and quality of life.  We have truly delivered on our mandate to lead economical, ecological, social and cultural development in the region.

 What that story sets out is the end product, what we expect to do, where we expect to be and what we expect downtown Kingston, Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, the third city as mandated by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, to look like after development.  As indicated this is the charge of the UDC and we are pulling out all the stops to make that happen.  Our story you would have noticed, starts one year after Jamaica would have achieved national development as outlined in the vision 2030 development plan.

Can we write this compelling story 2031 by our actions? I venture to say yes, but, to state that it is clear to us at the UDC, that this is not a task to be undertaken by ourselves. It is a task which requires a holistic and collaborative approach; it requires unswerving diligence to the task at hand, it requires quality public services if we are to achieve this better Jamaica that we all dream and talk about.

We each have a role to play.  You who are being honoured today have played your part and will continue to play your part, maybe in different spheres. This is why you are being celebrated today.

On behalf of all public servants I wish to salute you, I wish to thank you for the consistently excellent public service that you have provided. My own organisation, the UDC, will next year, celebrate 50 years of making development happen, having been established by an act of parliament in 1968, for just that purpose. This celebration of service today, reminds me of our pioneers in the development process, those first responders to the challenge that a development entity like the UDC was in fact necessary, that it was ok to work diligently towards the holistic and comprehensive development of our country. A mandate that remains strong and true today.

Here we are as said, almost 50 years later and like your theme we recognise the importance of quality service to our public, not just those visiting one of our attractions, joint venturing with us on a development project, managing one of our facilities, but for every interaction or transaction, internal and external.  So serious are we that the matter of quality service has been included in our corporate objectives.

We know that quality service is the differentiator among brands and therefore we are looking critically at our organisation, our processes and procedures, our people skills and resources, all our requirements to ensure that we hit that compelling story timeline of 2031, not to pause and rest upon our laurels, but to galvanize our collective efforts and spirits towards future developments.

My challenge therefore to all of us, as public servants is to take seriously our own role in building the Jamaica we want to see, that we want to leave for future generations.

You, our long serving colleagues here today, have already blazed the trail, so let us each light our torches from your flame and keep the zeal of national development burning. Again congratulations on being awarded for long service to our country’s public service.

I wish for you, a truly rewarding week of activities.

Thank you.