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Merchants facing millions of dollars in losses


Ammar

THE IMPACT of the civil unrest which rocked the capital city this week will continue to reverberate throughout the downtown Kingston business community for at least another two weeks, according to businessman Michael Ammar Jnr.

While conceding that it would be hard to quantify the loss so far, Mr. Ammar, who is first vice-president of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC), said the 300 to 400 merchants in that section of the city, as well as hundreds of street side vendors, stood to lose hundreds of millions of dollars from sales missed over the three shopping days between Saturday and Tuesday.

"It is a lot, the figure is huge," emphasised Mr. Ammar, who owns and operates Ammars, a garment store at King Street in the heart of the city. He explained that Saturday, being the first weekend shopping day for the month, would have been a reasonably busy period for commerce, but customers were kept away by the prolonged gunbattle.

A Ministry of Finance and Planning spokesman said yesterday that they were trying to determine the extent of the revenue the Government has lost as a result of the closure of some of its tax collectorates and the impact of the disturbances on other revenue agencies such as the Customs Department, as well as the total cost to the economy.

It has been suggested that the turbulence of the past days could cost the country in the region of $14 billion overall, taking into consideration the fall-out which is bound to occur in tourism, for example.

In the meantime, Mr. Ammar said businesses, already experiencing a 50 per cent downturn in sales because of sporadic outbreaks of gunfire even before last weekend's incident, "are still going to suffer from this for another two weeks."

He said they have predicted a 30 to 50 per cent fall off in sales "until people have the confidence to come back downtown." He said most proprietors were comfortable to reopen for business yesterday as the city began to teem with activity again. "Businesses are now open. It's just for the people (shoppers) to feel comfortable to return here," he said.

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