Cedric Stephens | Risk response and consumer engagement
A video recording is worth many orders of magnitude more than a photograph that, in times past, was said to be worth more than a thousand words. The person who videoed the unhealthy hygiene practised by a vendor at one of Kingston’s popular food...
A video recording is worth many orders of magnitude more than a photograph that, in times past, was said to be worth more than a thousand words.
The person who videoed the unhealthy hygiene practised by a vendor at one of Kingston’s popular food spots, Crab Circle, performed an essential public service act. They should be nominated for a national award. Posting that video on social media resulted in swift, effective, and decisive actions from the authorities.
Last month, the Kingston and St Andrew Public Health Department ordered the closure of the food spot. Last week, a report in this newspaper said that steps were being taken to prevent a recurrence. Bathrooms are being constructed. Other upgrades include the installation of large-capacity water tanks, customer seating, plus a washing area for utensils.
Permanent behaviour change is being encouraged through a five-day food-handling and preparation training course and vendor certification. The graphic images in the video spurred the authorities to take action to solve a problem that probably existed for decades. They say the no-vending ban will be lifted in two weeks.
The Kingston & St Andrew Municipal Corporation and other institutions and agencies should be applauded for their role in developing and executing a comprehensive solution to the problems highlighted in the viral video. More importantly, improvements to the physical infrastructure are being complemented by the education of the vendors.
High court judge David Batts, in a recent speech titled ‘Constitutional Reform: Why Should We Care?’ that was delivered recently to The St Ann Justices of The Peace Association quoted extensively from Professor H. Orlando Patterson’s 2019 book The Confounding Island: Jamaica and the Post-Colonial Predicament.
The speech was notable for how frequently Justice Batts and Prof Patterson used the following terms in their diagnoses of ills in the society: ‘ignorant, uneducated, illiterate, poor education, low levels of education, traditional backwardness, the absence of institutional learning, know-how, and organisational competence, and inequality of educational opportunities”. These descriptions were by-products of our enslavement and colonial experiences.
Breakdown in society
Gleaner columnist Basil Jarrett agrees with the preceding analyses. Last Thursday, he wrote that “poor education levels go hand in hand with crime, poverty, a lack of respect for law and order, and a general breakdown in society. But I have also witnessed the transformative power of education … We need to realise that investing in education isn’t just a budgetary line item – it is the cornerstone of progress across all national development indicators”.
Vendor training will play a big part in solving the Crab Circle problem. The folks at KSAMC clearly got the message, read it, understood it, and quickly did what they had to do.
The Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association recognises that the training of its members can make the industry more resilient and protect its investments. The JHTA represents Jamaican hotels, other visitor accommodations, and most suppliers of goods and services to the tourism industry. It aims to promote the hospitality industry’s development and represent members’ interests.
The association prepared a 50-page Emergency Response Training Guide for members earlier this year. The guide will engage and train managers to develop appropriate plans to respond to risk situations like fires, hurricanes, medical and other emergencies, earthquakes, and tsunamis.
Even though hoteliers use local and overseas insurers to help them manage property, liability, and other risks, and the island is listed among the most hazardous places globally, the guide did not name insurance companies among the service providers.
The insurance lobby, the Insurance Association of Jamaica (the JHTA equivalent), and its members do not subscribe to the education and engagement strategies. Industry-wide information campaigns, like those run by the Association of British Insurers (the IAJ counterpart) to awareness-raising through the media, social media, and information hosted on insurer/broker websites designed to give existing and prospective customers a detailed understanding of how insurance can help them manage some of the many risks they face, according to some experts.
Could the non-adoption of the education and engagement strategy be one of the reasons why the JHTA omitted insurers from the list of service providers in their guide?
Equip and provide training
Section 142(C)(1) of the Insurance (Amendment) Regulations 2022 says that “insurers and insurance intermediaries SHALL equip and provide training for their respective employees . carrying on activities in furtherance of their respective business”.
Two subsections insurers and intermediaries are required to provide timely, relevant, accurate, and sound explanations of the terms and conditions of insurance contracts, insurance policies and the procedures for addressing customer transactions, claims, or complaints.
Ten months after the new rules came into effect, and nearly five years after the precursor regulations were launched, I have not seen any evidence that insurers’ front-line staff are aware of these rules or have received compliance training. Why hasn’t the regulator acted like KSAMC? Could there be other forces at play?
Poor quality education creates obstacles to the Government’s financial inclusion strategy. Financial inclusion, says one expert, refers to efforts to make financial products and services accessible and affordable to all individuals and businesses regardless of their net worth or company size.
Financial inclusion strives to remove the barriers that exclude people from participating in the financial sector and using these services to improve their lives. The World Bank’s definition is less conceptual: “‘As accountholders, people are more likely to use other financial services, such as savings, credit, and insurance, start and expand businesses, invest in education or health, manage risk, and weather financial shocks, all of which can improve the overall quality of their lives,” it says.
The Financial Services Commission, insurers, and intermediaries must place staff training, consumer education and engagement as essential to their development strategy.