On the Corner with EPOC |'No need to panic' - Duncan tells Gregory Park residents worried over sliding dollar
Co-chairman of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) Keith Duncan is urging calm in the wake of recent jitters over the slippage in the value of the Jamaican dollar.
Addressing the latest Gleaner On the Corner with EPOC forum at the Crazy D Sports Bar in Gregory Park, St Catherine, last Tuesday, Duncan responded to concerns expressed by some residents about the sliding dollar.
"The dollar is going to weaken and strengthen from time to time, that is the new reality of Jamaica. It is true that everybody is going to reprice their goods at higher prices, that is the impact, but it is a reality and all countries deal with this on a day-to-day basis," said Duncan.
The Jamaican dollar fell to a record low to the US dollar last week when it sold for an average $132.98, having lost more than six per cent of its value against its main trading partner since January.
But what many residents of Gregory Park deemed a bleak situation Duncan called an opportunity waiting to be exploited.
"What we need to focus on is ensuring that we can capitalise on business opportunities like Airbnb. We can do it right here in Gregory Park, they have it in Trench Town. You can rent out your room for US dollars - community tourism - these are opportunities which are expanding," argued Duncan, as he noted that the decline in the value of the dollar is favourable for remittance recipients as well as the Business Process Outsourcing sector.
CLOTHING BUSINESS HURTING
While Desmond Walker, proprietor of the Crazy D Sports Bar and Kids Closet Clothing Store, accepted Duncan's reasoning, he pointed out that the sliding dollar is hurting his clothing business as a result of higher import costs.
"I resale my stuff low because this is a ghetto. So I try to bring in the goods as cheap as possible so that people in the community can afford to buy good-quality stuff for their kids to wear. But for me to send money overseas now to purchase goods, it's very strenuous," said Walker.
"When you send a US$1,000 abroad to purchase the stuff, when you calculate how much you paid for a US$1,000 and the goods that you get back, then what you have to pay to clear it when you goods reach at the wharf, for me as a small business person that also have workers to pay, my profit margin is very, very small.
"Because I can't afford to ship my goods by containers, I have to live suitcase to suitcase, and at the end of the day, most times it's not feasible," added Walker.
He called on the Government to reduce custom duties for small business operators, so as to strike a balance with the declining value of the dollar.
"At least, then we can say we lose there, but we gain here," argued Walker.