Most local businesses not keeping pace with international standards – Hippolyte

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Most local businesses not keeping pace with international standards – Hippolyte
Castries, the capital of St. Lucia, one of the centres of commerce on the island. * Photo credit: Castries City Council
Castries, the capital of St. Lucia, one of the centres of commerce on the island. * Photo credit: Castries City Council

On Monday, Oct. 15, while St. Lucia joined the world in observing World Standards Day, it was reported that only a “handful” of local companies are certified to or have implemented standards in their operations.

This scenario has been described as “far from desirous” if St. Lucian businesses are to succeed in a competitive export market, Minister for Commerce, Business Development, Investment and Consumer Affairs, Emma Hippolyte, stated in her World Standards Day message.

Hippolyte  said: “In Saint Lucia, the application of standards provides economies like ours some solutions.  The decisive way in which standards contribute to the performance of an organization makes it imperative that the application of standards be part of any framework for business success.

“It is against this background that, at this time, the international community chooses to focus on the use of standards in achieving efficiency by its ability to reduce waste. This is why the theme for World Standards Day 2012 is “Less waste, better results – standards increase efficiency.”

Minister Hippolyte said while the use of standards locally has not kept pace with international trends, the Saint Lucia Bureau of Standards (SLBS) has remained committed to a standards development agenda to stimulate economic growth and social advancement.

She explained: “There are a number of standards which are suited to our particular industry needs as we seek to create efficiencies. SLNS/ ISO 9001 is one example which an organization may implement because of the need to control or improve on the quality of products and services, reduce costs associated with poor quality or simply become more competitive.

“Various national codes of practice exists which address storage and handling of fresh fruits, collection, processing and marketing of packaged water and storage of tires to name a few. These set prescribed formats lead to maximization of efficiency, increased productivity, effective execution and establishes minimum levels of acceptability.”

The minister disclosed that standards have a huge impact on GDP growth in developed countries, accounting for 25 percent of GDP growth in the French economy. She noted that in Canada, during the period 1981 to 2004, real GDP would have been lower by CND 62 billion if there had been no growth in the use of standards in this period.

“The evidence provided by these figures and our own potential to impact our economy by implementing standards, has led the SLBS to partner with the ISO for a ground-breaking case study of one company in Saint Lucia which has implemented standards.”

Hippolyte said the study focuses on the economic benefits of standards and will, among other things, “Enable stakeholders in both private and public sectors to better appreciate the economic and social impact of voluntary consensus standards and to raise the awareness of policy makers and business leaders to the importance of standardization”.

She revealed that the SLBS is at present exploring changes to its programmes to do more for the development of industry.  In the coming year, she said the SLBS will be expected to receive recommendations on the way forward regarding the development of a technical support programme for the implementation of standards or the provision of certification to a number of standards.

She said a feasibility study to determine the utilisation of the two options will be conducted shortly as part of efforts to expand standardization services to industry.

She said this is proof that government is committed to the growth of the private sector “as undoubtedly this is the engine of growth of the economy”.

“We recognize that small and medium sized enterprises are at the centre of the private sector and as such, attaining international competitiveness is a prerequisite for continued existence and growth. The wide-spread adoption of standards in all our enterprises is one of the tools that must be utilized if Saint Lucia is to reposition itself in today’s very competitive world,” the minister added.

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