The Editor, Sir:
The article in The Sunday Gleaner of December 13, 2009, which spoke to the benefits our informal commercial importers (ICIs) are enjoying in the newly-discovered markets of China, is both timely and prophetic.
Ever since the entrepreneurial spirit of our (ICIs) was unleashed in the 1970s, this band of persevering souls has been at the vanguard of private enterprise to the benefit of many consumers and sometimes to the distress of some of their formal competitors. What cannot be denied is that they have seized opportunity when it knocked to build wealth for themselves, provide benefit for others and create a permanent place in the commercial fabric of the nation.
Higglers first discovered that they could fly to Miami, Curaçao and Panama to purchase what they used to buy from local commissioned agents and wholesalers. When foreign exchange became scarce, higglers decided that they could carry scallion and thyme to the Cayman Islands and fund their purchases from these sales.
Tek sleep mark death
Now these same enterprising individuals have discovered China, albeit at substantially increased costs and travel time. 'Tek sleep mark death'. If it is profitable for higglers to fly so far at such costs, we need as a nation to establish the infrastructural and political bonds which will facilitate greater trade between Jamaica and China.
One such bond to be forged is an Open Skies Agreement with China and other Pacific Rim countries, which would allow direct flights from the Far East to Jamaica without the restriction of US and European transit visa requirements. This would provide significant opportunities for development of two-way trade and tourism to the immense benefit of Jamaica by opening up speedy access to these markets.
Even more significant, such an agreement will capitalise on the competitive advantage of Jamaica's advantageous position which lies squarely in the middle of the trade routes from the Far East to South America and Africa. This is the real pearl which lies within our grasp, requiring only that we have enough sense to seize the opportunity with both hands.
I am, etc.,