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Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce warns Chinese, shape up or face a boycott

Published:Thursday | September 3, 2015 | 9:00 AMMark Titus

Western Bureau:

Unhappy with the lack of participation by the Chinese business community in the building of the social fabric of Montego Bay, businesswoman Gloria Henry, president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI), says unless the Asians change their attitude, they should be censored through the boycotting of their businesses.

"To be honest, they have not been playing a part, they have not been doing anything in their community ... except for the older ones who have been here over the years," said Henry, while speaking at a Gleaner Editors' Forum, which focused on the Montego Bay Expo 2015, in the St James capital yesterday.

"This was the subject of discussion at the parish chamber's meeting because, apparently, it's not unique to Montego Bay. It is something that is widespread throughout Jamaica."

However, one member of the Chinese business community in Montego Bay, with whom The Gleaner spoke yesterday, indicated that the allegations levelled against them were less than factual. He said while their involvement was not widespread, they did offer special deals to persons who shop with them on a regular basis.

"We give our regular customers shopping cards, which allow them to get discounts based on the points they accumulate. That is why we are so popular," the businessman, who asked not to be identified said. "We don't want to join chamber because our approach to business is different from yours. We are more concerned about making our customers happy."

But according to Henry, the time has come for drastic action to be taken against the Chinese, noting that it is unfair for them to be benefitting from the community but not giving back.

"... One of my philosophies is that we have to engage them and if they are not willing to be engaged, we have to censor them ... . We are going to be saying to our members that they cannot do business with people who are not giving back to the community," said Henry. "We will be meeting with them later this month, and we are going to be saying to them ..., you cannot reap where you are not sewing into the goodwill of the community; this is the community from which you are making a living and you must give back."

She also accused them of being socially irresponsible in matters such as the upkeep of their business places and the improper disposal of garbage.

"We are simply saying: you are operating in the retail trade; you don't maintain your business places, so some are run down ... . You don't maintain the streets, you put your garbage where you please, and you don't contribute to any social development in our communities," stated Henry.

"Their (the Chinese) excuse is that they don't speak English, but my take is, if you speak English enough to sell to me, then you must speak English enough to know what the social needs are and play your part. We will encourage our community members not to do business with them if they are not willing to be part of the development of the community."

The concerns raised by Henry are not unique to Montego Bay as stakeholders in Trelawny, Westmoreland, and Hanover have questioned the attitude of the Chinese towards community development since they began surfacing in several western townships, operating supermarkets among other businesses.

Renowned Montego Bay-based businessman Davon Crump, a past president of the MBCCI, was in full support of Henry's stance, arguing that all stakeholders should invest in the development of the western city.

"It is an uphill battle for the chamber, but I totally endorse this stance. We have to take a stand and boycott these players if they don't conform to do the things that are necessary to give back to the community that supports development."