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Kudos to postal upgrade


Kudos to postal upgrade

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AT A TIME when divestment of public assets, or privatisation as some call it, is on the front-burner of policy initiatives being talked about by some politicians and by social commentators, it is useful to look at the Barbados Postal Service (BPS), an entity trading in the kind of services that place it at the crossroads between a social service and a commercial business.

During a recent courtesy visit by the French Ambassador and his delegation to the Caribbean Postal Training Centre located here since 2014, Postmaster General Margaret Ashby was able to point out that by using technology the postal service has been able to modernise its operations.

Traditionally, the post office sold stamps and delivered letters and parcels. The rates charged for these services put them within the reach of everyone, including those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

Not so long ago, its overseas letter service was an important aspect of keeping the people of this country in touch with relatives overseas; and they in turn relied on the post to deliver much needed money orders and postal orders to families left behind. It was a cultural thing.

The delivery of letters and parcels is still an important aspect of the state-owned postal service, but strong competition from the private couriers has meant that the postal service has had to shape up or be left behind. It has been shaping up with success, and it is to this issue that the Postmaster General was able to speak with sense of achievement.

Fortunately, the BPS has been headed by forward-looking leaders and dedicated staff, and the timely and modern purpose-built headquarters provided the opportunity for Ms Ashby and her predecessors to move the postal service into the modern era.

It would be a worthwhile study to examine how a statutory body or an entity with public service functions has so reorganised its business to compete with the stiff competition which has emerged against it within recent times.

The developments have not been haphazard. In 2014 the Universal Postal Union, working in tandem with the Government, opened the Caribbean Postal Centre here, thereby emphasising the value of training for postal employees and exposing them to improved ways of satisfying greater customer expectations.

That the local postal operations have been building on the strategic plan is clearly evidenced by the adoption of modern business methods in counter management. The post office can now effect payments with direct electronic transmission to the customers’ suppliers, and in relation to parcels and packages, the use of barcodes allows the customer to track the journey of their parcels on the Internet.

Interestingly, too, the United States Postal Service has recently agreed that the local postal service will handle all of their commerce items; and with a keen and modern eye to business an internet café, as well as branch operation selling stamps, has been opened downstairs of the main post office building on Cheapside.

We applaud these and other initiatives and note that Miss Ashby points out that in keeping with the Government’s strategic plan, the BPS hopes to be operating as a commercial entity by 2021.

It is probably true to say that in no other area of public service delivery have managers been as severely challenged as in the postal service. But they have shown the kind of attitude to managing change that could be applied elsewhere in public service operations.