Tue | Sep 25, 2018

Shaw backs down! - JMEA says minister withdraws threat to tax imported granulated sugar

Published:Thursday | September 6, 2018 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju/ Gleaner Writer
Audley Shaw

Less than a day after stridently vowing to reinstate a cess on imported processed sugar, Audley Shaw, the minister of industry, commerce, agriculture and fisheries, has reportedly backed down from that position, following a meeting with the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA).

"The minister will be issuing a press release tomorrow (today) that will clearly state that there will be no duty placed on sugar for manufacturers' use coming into Jamaica and that we have found more appropriate and better ways to deal with the issue - if it exists," Metry Seaga, president of the JMEA, told The Gleaner.

Describing his two-hour meeting with Shaw as "very fruitful", Seaga said: "I think we are in a better place today than we were yesterday. In addition, the minister outlined that if manufacturers were offended in any way, that was not his intention and he didn't mean to paint us with a broad brush."

The improved relationship between the manufacturers and the minister is reportedly due in large measure to the influence of Phillip Henriques, chairman of the Sugar Industry Authority (SIA), with whom Seaga also had dialogue for two hours immediately before meeting with Shaw.

"We have come to a unified position that the JMEA and the SIA will be working closely together moving forward to address any issues that exist in the industry - whether real or perceived. Henriques is open-minded, and we have the SIA at the table with a chairman that seems to want to make a difference and do the right thing," Seaga said.

'Throw book at offenders'

Trevor Fearon, chief executive officer of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC), wants Shaw to do the right thing by sharing with the security forces the evidence he claims to have of persons directly involved or who are facilitating the illicit trade in imported processed sugar.

"Our position is, throw the book at the offenders if you have the evidence," he told The Gleaner, adding that such persons would not find cover in any of the business interest groups. "So go ahead. Throw the book at them if evidence is available so they can be subjected to the full weight of the law. The JCC is fully in support of having the law take its course without fear or favour."

 

COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE

 

Fearon went on to knock as "counter-productive" Shaw's declaration on the proposed reimposition of duty on imported sugar and ridiculed the suggestion of a rebate system as part of the solution.

"That has never worked. There are firms who are owed lots of money that they should have reclaimed under existing systems that ended up being in arrears for years, at a cost to these companies. So we are not in support of that at all."

Efforts to get a comment from Shaw were futile as he was said to be in meetings and would not be available to speak on the matter before today.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com