Spanish Town C of C president concerned about economic downturn in St Catherine
President of the Spanish Town Chamber of Commerce, Dennis Robotham, is calling for a review of the closing hours allotted to small business owners in St Catherine in order to energise economic growth that has slowed down considerably as a result of restricted opening hours imposed during the limited state of emergency.
"Now that the operation has been in effect and has appeared seamless so far, at least in the area of maintaining the peace, there should be a revision of the closing time allotted to small business owners in St Catherine North so as to encourage economic growth," Robotham told The Gleaner, while acknowledging that there has been a considerable decline in economic activity on the part of these businesses.
"Small businesses are the engine of economic growth in St Catherine and they have taken a hit since the introduction of the limited state of emergency. This has resulted in a decline in the economy of the parish and something has to be done about this state of affair," Robotham said.
According to him, the checkpoints that have been established by the security forces have been able to maintain the peace, "so vendors, restaurants, small grocery stores, bars and clubs should be allowed longer opening hours to do business."
The chamber of commerce president was also critical of what he said is the inability of the security forces to recover more semi-automatic pistols, assault rifles and ammunition, given the fact that these are the weapon of choice for the gangs in St Catherine North and elsewhere.
"The fact that there are no reports of any large-scale recovery of guns and ammunition is an indication that this area of the operation needs careful strategising. What we are seeing is the presence of the security forces at the same checkpoints each day, and this has allowed the criminals to migrate to other areas," Robotham said, while asserting that he has not seen the dismantling of the gangs as yet.
He said he supports the extension of the limited state of emergency against the background that it has brought about some level of peace, but the area of recovery of guns and ammunition must be the central focus of the security forces going forward.