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RJRGLEANER Honour Awards | For Public Service: Professor Gordon Shirley - Dedicated to service

Published:Thursday | January 25, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Professor Gordon Shirley
Professor Gordon Shirley

Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) President Professor Gordon Shirley has emphasised the importance of public-sector efficiency in small countries like Jamaica in order to take advantage of the opportunities available.

In that regard, he suggested that there has to be a close synergy between the public and private sectors, noting that it is a real advantage, based on his experience operating in both domains.

Shirley, who has been awarded The Gleaner Honour Award for outstanding contribution to education and the public service, noted his commitment to the development of Jamaica, suggesting that “though small, I think we have the potential to be outstanding in several areas.”

He added: “I am honoured to be receiving this important award. It is entirely unanticipated. The achievements attributed to me in the education and public sectors are the work of an outstanding group of colleagues in both domains with whom I have had the pleasure of working closely. I believe this is as much for them as it is for me and for this, I am very grateful.”

A distinguished educator who undertook major initiatives to expand or establish infrastructural facilities and programmes offerings as principal at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies, Shirley highlights education as an area critical to development.

“The countries that have done well all have 30-60 per cent of their populations educated at the tertiary level,” he said. “Jamaica falls well short of this target. Expansion of access to tertiary education, and in particular, the disciplines that will be important in the future, must be an important objective for the island.”

Shirley, who has served as executive chairman of the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), said that “while I am well schooled in the principles of private enterprise and the efficiencies which arise from competition, I think it is important for the public sector in small countries like Jamaica to be efficient if we are to be able to take advantage of our opportunities.”


It was under his watch that improvement in maintenance of the generating plants and transmission and distribution facilities resulted in a substantial reduction in unplanned outages which plagued the country.

At the time, the JPS also suffered from high ‘line losses’ resulting from pilferage of power, but analysis of the problem and implementation of a number of innovative approaches reduced that to the lowest level achieved by the company.

Now at the PAJ, he said “we are well on the way to restoring Kingston to the leading position in the trans-shipment sector,” with a number of major projects already undertaken and a number of others set to start or be completed this year.

Among the specific objectives being undertaken by the PAJ are to reestablish Jamaica as the leading regional cruise destination; as a leading logistics centre; provide world-class maritime services to the international shipping lines operating in the region; expand investments in a risk-sensitive way; and to establish Jamaica as a leading business process outsourcing centre in the region.

Asked to what he would attribute his success, the PAJ president said there is not a single explanation, but among them is his ability to analyse problems carefully and to structure them in a manner which leads to a clear understanding of how they may most effectively be addressed, emphasising that “I am generally not daunted by complex problems”.

He also attributes his success to his ability to listen carefully and to understand the viewpoint of members of the teams with which he works, and to understand the problem from each of their perspectives. “This typically leads to a more effective crafting of a solution to the problem which we are collectively seeking to solve,” he said.

Evidently a strong believer in teamwork, Shirley said, “I think I have an ability to identify the strengths in my colleagues and to build on these rather than to focus on weaknesses. Most accomplishments in life are the result of teamwork, and so it has been in my career.”

He also attributes his accomplishments to his focus on implementation.

“I think, a s a nation, we have an implementation deficit. I place great attention on completing objectives in a timely and efficient manner” as well as a focus on accountability in the organisations of which he has been a part.