Sun | Oct 25, 2020

Level the customs duties playing field

Published:Thursday | October 1, 2020 | 12:11 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

I am writing this letter as a concerned member of the Jamaican retail industry.

I would like to draw your attention to the duty concessions being given to individuals when they shop online and import items up to US$50, facilitated by a plethora of shipping companies that now exist in Jamaica.

The commercial importers, on the other hand, have to pay full customs duty and other charges, along with GCT (General Consumption Tax) before they land the very same items for resale. These duties get factored in the final price to the consumer, and hence for items up to US$50 foreign online shopping has a serious price advantage over local shopping.

With no annual limits to the number of times an individual can use this concession, this is a huge loophole that has the potential to destroy commercial retail for the said price segment.

While I welcome online shopping and fair competition, it is also imperative that Government recognises the threat to local retail due to this rule.

Any duty concessions that are applicable to products from foreign companies that sell online to a Jamaican consumer should also be available to local retailers. Otherwise, we are essentially incentivising the Jamaican consumer to shop online with foreign companies and closing doors on our own local retail stores.

Government needs to revisit this rule and come up with a strategy that gives the Jamaican retailer a level and fair playing field.

Otherwise, there will be a domino effect and not just the local retail but all related industries will suffer as a consequence.

LEE ISSA