Wholesales creating illusion of prosperity in Linstead
Crowded streets characterised by a combination of snail-pace traffic and erratic driving, as pedestrians and motorists compete with vendors for space, have created an illusion that Linstead is enjoying an economic boom. Not so, say business operators who claim instead that the bee-hive of activity in the St Catherine town actually masks a number of social ills, and gives rise to the misconception that business is growing.
"In Linstead, development is really static. There is no development really taking place," said Michelle Lee-Gaynor, branch manager at Scotiabank, during Wednesday's Gleaner forum in the town. "The point is, there is absolutely no development, no growth, no infrastructure - everything is just at a standstill here and this has been for 50 years."
Gaynor pointed out that a recent influx of wholesales, most of them owned/operated by Chinese nationals, has led many persons to believe that the town is experiencing an economic boom. The banking executive insisted that nothing could be farther from the truth and that it was the long established business places which were, in fact, keeping Linstead alive.
NO SUSTAINABLE BUSINESSES
She explained: "You don't have any new sustainable businesses coming on stream right now. What we have is just wholesales - Chinese wholesales. You can go to bed tonight and wake up tomorrow and there is another Chinese wholesale opened overnight."
"They suck the lifeblood of Linstead, and then they're gone," is how Derrick Thompson, managing director of Rick's Convenience, summed up what he said was the impact of the Chinese business operators.
"It's actually bad for the town because (the wholesale owners) just come in and they are prepared to rent a building and some of them buy and they get out tomorrow morning," the businessman charged.
Thompson pointed out that most of the wholesales don't even invest in rest rooms for their employees, who are then forced to use the facilities at other business places, a situation which seems to have gone unnoticed by the relevant agencies.
"I have a situation in Ewarton where every day the Jamaican workers who work there (Chinese-owned wholesales) come to use my bathroom and I say no! No! Let's stop it here, even if I have to call the ministry (of labour) because if I didn't provide bathroom, then the world would know," he said.
However, Rollin Alvaranga, a senior director in the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, declared that this type of attitude was unfair to the Chinese.
"We cannot just blame the Chinese because the same opportunity that exists to allow the Chinese to come in and invest, the same opportunity exists for the Jamaican private sector also," he pointed out.
Thompson, however, countered that this was not true since the Chinese do not access capital from local banks but do so from sources outside of Jamaica, and so do not share the same risks.
"Are we on the same footing?" he asked. "The question about development, sustainable development, is that we need more businessmen in productive enterprises."