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Government of Saint Lucia

 Speech Delivered by Hon. Guy Mayers At The Launch Of The Metrication Board 3rd April 2008

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3rd April 2008


The change of St. Lucia’s official system of measurement from the Imperial System to the International System of Units, otherwise known as the Metric System, is a requirement enshrined in the Metrology Act No. 17 of 2000. However, the process of change started long before this piece of legislation was enacted. In fact, metrication has its genesis during the French Revolution, but it was globalised at the Metre Convention of 1875. The SI system has been in use in our secondary schools for many years now.


In 1960, at an international conference held in France, it was agreed that all countries of the world would adopt a common system of weights and measures called the International System of Units or the SI system.


Some time later, in the early 1970’s, it was agreed at a CARIFTA Heads of Government Conference, that all member territories would go metric. Trinidad and Tobago had already begun their process in 1969. Jamaica and Barbados followed in 1971 and 1973 respectively. These countries have made significant strides thus far.  However, with respect to the Less Developed Countries, very little formal activity has taken place in the direction of metrication.


St. Lucia initiated efforts aimed at achieving the conversion to the metric system as early as 1978. However, like many things in St. Lucia, the many efforts taken for realizing this goal have not yielded the desired results.


Today the stakes have been raised. Most countries in the world have gone metric and many of those who have not yet converted to that system are in the process of doing so. The majority of the countries of the world export and import goods in metric units. Measurement in metric units is quickly becoming a requirement for international trade as more and more countries adopt the metric system. The European Union has signaled its intention to conduct trade solely in metric units and the emergence of the system as the international standard of measurement gives it greater relevance in the context of regional and international trading agreements such as the CSME and WTO. To not metricate therefore, is tantamount to erecting a barrier to trade against our own selves. In fact, an entire chapter in the Economic Partnership Agreement between CARIFORUM and the EU is dedicated to Technical Barriers to Trade, and Metrology is one of those elements  covered. Metrication for us, therefore, has become a virtual trade and economic imperative.


In that respect, Metrication is therefore intimately linked with Government’s strategic objective of developing the export trade capacity of the country, increasing the competitiveness of the export sector and enhancing our ability to sell our products in international markets. Industries that choose to remain with the Imperial system will lose out on the opportunity to export and expand their market, as they shut out the rest of the world from becoming their customers. In addition, the CARICOM Single Market and Economy will not be complete if the less developed member states do not join the more developed members to create one uniform system of measurement. I therefore take this opportunity to exhort the other OECS countries to follow St. Lucia’s lead and start to put in place the measures required to achieve Metrication by the mandated time of December 2009.


Metrication is also part of the modernization of our country. The Metric System is a single, simple, coherent, modern, efficient and standardized system of measurement that will facilitate trade. It is a universal phenomenon, and in the interest of trade, St. Lucia has little choice but to change. It is a more user-friendly system than other systems of measurement due to the uniformity of its conversions in units of 10 and the standardization of its terminology. So that once consumers understand and get used to the system they will find it quite easy to use.


Having recognized all of the above a Metrication Board was launched in 2005. However, for a number of reasons the Board was terminated and a new structure approved.  This new structure called for the appointment of private sector representatives who would be nominated via a process of sector consultations. Many of you here will have, no doubt, participated in that process. This then is the major difference between the previous Board and the Board which is being launched here today.


The role of the Board is to plan, guide and facilitate the island’s smooth and efficient conversion to the Metric System within a defined timeframe. The Board will also aim to ensure a cost effective and manageable conversion process and to establish a realistic National Plan for conversion, which would be used to guide the conversion activities of the nation.


Through the work of the Metrication Board we will ensure that the conversion process takes place at the lowest possible cost and to the best advantage and benefit of the society. The aim is to have a process that is as painless as possible. There will be much public education and every effort will be made to ensure that this aim is achieved. A considerable amount of time will be spent sharing, teaching, talking and showing.  


Today’s launch represents the resolve and commitment of the Government of St. Lucia to continue the process that began so many years ago and take it to its completion. We must position our economic sectors to participate to the fullest extent possible in regional and international trade. All sectors of the economy will be involved but we anticipate a phased conversion process in which the more “metric-ready” (or partially metricated) sectors, such as the petroleum and transportation sectors, will take the lead, followed by the less “metric-ready” sectors such as certain sub-sectors of manufacturing and the distributive trades sector. Priority of course will also be given initially to those sectors actively engaged in exports or with the potential to do so. In this way we expect to achieve the full metrication of all sectors within the next two to three years.


We therefore look forward to the cooperation of all of you present here, and indeed the general public, as we forge ahead with this important national undertaking.


I thank you.


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