By Avia Ustanny, Gleaner Writer
The Minister of State is technologically savvy. At left, all set and ready for an out-of-office appointment.
ON THE desk there is not one sheet of paper. Instead, there are enough electronic gadgets to let you know that Senator Floyd Morris, the junior minister in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, is a man of the 21st century.
In his office at the Ministry on National Heroes Circle, the sight-impaired Minister of State is 90 per cent reliant on electronic mail, the computer and a telephone line to conduct day-to-day business. But one does not need eyes to see that Senator Morris has another source of help, one which cannot be bought in an electronics store.
You will quickly sense that Floyd Morris likes people, a fact evidenced in what he has managed to accomplish up to this time, a few weeks short of a year since his appointment. We also see it in his predeliction for 'on the ground' consultations. This 'aptitude' has helped him to exceed the expectations of critics, even more than being technologically enabled.
The Minister of State has been busy. Since November last year, he has been active in helping to implement the Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) programme, flood relief projects, legislation and scholarship programmes for disabled persons and projects for the elderly.
He also travels a lot, giving motivational talks.
Interacting with Jamaicans on the ground and consulting with people, he says, "send up my energy levels." Luckily, his portfolio responsibilities give him enough opportunities to enjoy getting away.
"I believe that a disabled person can be just as efficient as others and even more efficient," Senator Morris first tells Outlook.
In office, his primary tools are the desk top PC and the telephone. When the electricity goes, his back up is a battery-operated laptop. He uses software called Jaws to 'read' his email and other documents. The laptop and the telephone are used to access information both inside and outside the Ministry. "There is no excuse for me not to perform. I am surrounded by technology," he adds.
On weekdays, the Senator gets up sometimes as early as 4:00 in the morning to "give" himself "a head start'. He says, this is "the time of day when my brain functions best." It is also the time when he prepares his itinerary and also does his devotional exercises.
If possible, he also does some of the reading he needs to get done for his Ph.D. programme which he is currently pursuing.
Senator Morris is at his desk by 9:00 a.m. when meetings take place relating to PATH, NIS or any other matter falling under his portfolio.
He also travels a lot, both locally and abroad. The day before this interview, he was not in office much of the time, as he was on the road meeting the members of several senior citizens groupings. He also met with the Cabinet committee on Policy Formulation and Youth Inclusion. After hours, he was back in office, catching up on desk duties.
About his travelling he says, "I am not one to confine myself to the office. In the Ministry, they will tell you that I am a field man."
Later we find out that this is true in more senses than one.
Morris, who was born in St. Mary, has a love of the countryside which has not died with years spent in the capital city Kingston and where he attended the University of the West Indies.
Projects which take him into the field include PATH which he says represents the new approach in his Ministry to welfare and development. "We are focusing on human capital development rather the traditional notion of giving a man a fish.
"That is why we have a programme such as PATH which is intended to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.
"Instead of giving individuals money, we are saying to them look we will give you a stipend to assist with some of the expenses to ensure that your child goes to school. At the same time, there are things that the parent must do, such as ensuring that the child attends school regularly and that they get regular health checks. The only way we are going to break the cycle is for children to get a quality education which will serve to transform their lives in the future."
Every month, the Senator travels around the country speaking to stake holders in PATH, in a bid to ensure that they all buy into the concept in a way which ensures that it will work.
The Senator has also had the opportunity to make significant inroads on behalf of the disabled. He grins when he tells Outlook that he was cautioned by Prime Minister P. J. Patterson that he was not a 'Minister of the Disabled." Still, their interests are constantly on his agenda and it shows.
The sight-impaired Senator says a submission is going through the proper channels for a National Disability Law. This will assist in giving teeth to the National Disability Policy. The policy was developed in keeping with the United Nations' Standard Rules for the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities.
The policy deals with 10 areas of public life in which disabled persons are disadvantaged education, vocational training, employment, accommodation, communications, housing and accessibility, political and civil rights, family life, culture and recreation and sports.
Senator Morris says his passion for education has been influenced by his own experience. "My mother struggled with her dressmaking to send me to school. She insisted and I adopted that policy as my own, even when I graduated from high school and became blind. Now, here I am serving my country. It is a message to all young people who want to accomplish anything in life."
If the beneficiaries of PATH, specifically parents, would adhere to the principles laid out, we should see a significant change in the poverty index, the Senator believes.
Senator Morris is also deeply involved in the establishment of the education and adaptive aid fund for the disabled. The fund will be set up with money left by Margaret Moodie, late matron of the University Hospital of the West Indies. The money she left has been growing for 10 years and now stands at roughly $11 million, half of which will go towards the establishment of the education and adaptive aid fund.
Senator Morris has also spearheaded an information technology project for the disabled. Currently, he has also joined the battle on the side of deaf drivers in the matter of getting driver's licences. While now they avoid the problems here by going abroad to get inter-national driving licences, this should not be so, Senator Morris says. Alongside all of this, he continues to work on issues affecting the aged in Jamaica.
The chauffeur-driven junior minister whose delight is to visit the countryside says that his greatest ambition in life is to get back to St. Mary where he will become "the best farmer the country has seen".
He has been involved in farming projects for a while, starting with a chicken project which helped him to pay his way through school. He is currently the owner of a 27-acre farm in the parish which he is preparing for pepper, pumpkin and plantain.
Regular games of dominoes
Outside of work, the Senator enjoys regular games of dominoes and is also a football enthusiast who attends as many national games as possible and is involved in football support in his home parish of St. Mary. Asked how he managed to follow the play when he cannot see, he says that his phone makes it all possible, as it is also a radio which he uses to follow the commentary.
Senator Morris who is a Christian of the Seventh-Day Adventist faith, also loves gospel concerts. Wedding bells are likely to toll in the not too distant future as he is close to a "beautiful administrator".
"People ask me how a blind man was able to get such a beautiful woman, but attraction is not only physical, but internal as well," he insists.
The Senator holds no grudges when he goes to bed at around 10 at nights. About those who doubted his ability to do the job of junior minister, he says, "I have a high level of self-confidence. It does not matter what people have to say."
What matters is what he gets done. By all indications the Minister is keeping productively active, inside and outside the House.