Thu | Oct 19, 2017

Ja faces economic colonialism - Bunting - Former nat'l security minister decries Chinese dominance of construction industry

Published:Thursday | August 10, 2017 | 12:00 AMRomario Scott
Peter Bunting

Former Minister of National Security Peter Bunting has added his voice to the growing concerns surrounding Chinese investment in Jamaica, accusing the foreigners of using unfair competition to control the construction industry.

Bunting, the host of the online current affairs programme 'Probe', posted a video on social media platform Facebook in which he stated that Jamaicans continued to fear that the country is falling into a new colonial cycle at the hands of the Chinese.

"Fifty-five years of our independence from Britain, many Jamaicans are concerned that we are once again undergoing a new form of colonialism - a form of economic colonialism by Chinese operating in Jamaica," Bunting said, further claiming that there is strong evidence in the construction sector.

 

Unfair competition

 

Even as he singled out China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), the opposition member of parliament (MP) said that the 14, or so, Chinese firms currently in Jamaica controlled 50 per cent of the construction sector.

"They do this through unfair competition!" the Central Manchester MP charged.

It is the first time that a former government minister has publicly hit out against the Chinese since the strong emergence of their presence in the country.

But in supporting his pronouncement, Bunting said that most of the companies operating in Jamaica are either 100 per cent or majority-owned by the Government of China with virtually unlimited resources, suggesting that Jamaican companies could not fairly compete with them.

"They come into Jamaica, typically, on the basis of concessionary financing for government projects ... and they get all sorts of duty concessions on imported machinery and equipment. And they get to buy local inputs free of GCT (general consumption tax)," Bun-ting stated.

... They have an advantage over local contractors, opposition MP charges

According to People's National Party Member of Parliament Peter Bunting, Chinese firms get duty concessions on imported machinery and equipment. Though not presenting any tangible evidence to support his claim, Bunting said that they use the equipment to compete for private-sector projects, allowing them to have a dominance in the construction industry in Jamaica.

"So they have an advantage over local contractors," he said, calling the practice unfair.

In a video posted on Facebook, Bunting mentioned what he said was an "allegation" that the Chinese companies in Jamaica used convicts as labourers to work on projects.

He also made the explosive claim that "the Chinese Government, as a policy, is not very transparent about all these operations".

"There is no effective regulation of these Chinese companies. Their records are kept in Mandarin, Tax Administration [of Jamaica], and the audit department has no effective way of telling what is used on one project versus another [and] if workers are moving between companies, etc," Bunting said.

He disclosed that the Opposition had asked the Chinese Embassy in Jamaica to respond to the concerns and is awaiting a response.

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com