$88 billion to crush gangs
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
IT COULD cost nearly one-fifth of the current national Budget to smash the reign of terror by gangs responsible for bloodletting across Jamaica, says Finance Minister Audley Shaw.
The island's economic growth has been retarded by a parasitic crime bug which has manifested itself in record murder rates and the scarring of its touristy image of sand, sea and sun.
Shaw, in an interview with The Gleaner yesterday, said the path to development would be made easier if the country was able to secure up to US$1 billion (J$88 billion) over the medium term to effectively crush crime, which is driven by scores of gangs islandwide.
"If we could secure US$500 million to a billion over the medium term, it would go a far way in the fight against crime," Shaw said.
The minister, however, said this spending would have to target a wide spectrum of disciplines, including policing, training and social intervention.
"That figure of US$1 billion would includeadditional resources for the security forces, equipment, personnel, plus resources for community development and economic transformation in vulnerable communities," Shaw said.
The Government is spending $11.5 billion out of the $503-billion Budget on national security this year.
More time needed
The finance minister told The Gleaner that it would take some time before Jamaica started raising funds to stem violence.
"We don't see a donor conference before July but we are doing a lot of preparatory work even before we go into that donor conference.
"We have started to put down some hard numbers for the short, medium and long term and those numbers would include grant funding as well as soft loans," Shaw said.
He told The Gleaner that Jamaica would be seeking grants from both bilateral and multilateral partners.
Meanwhile, Omar Azan, president of the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association, said that while he was unaware of the move to raise money to help flush crime from the country's system, "any initiative that would help Jamaica to fight crime not only from the policing angle, but initiatives to building communities, we will support".
Added Azan: "Crime has had a major impact not only in the actual day to day, but also in terms of the growth in the economy. It is a major deterrent to any investor coming into Jamaica and for persons going into business."
A January 2004 study on the 'Impact of Crime on Business and the Investment Climate in Jamaica' indicated that crime costs the economy J$12.4 billion, or 3.7 per cent of GDP.
The survey found that 37 per cent of firms surveyed opted to close before dark - because of security concerns - thereby reducing productive capacity. Twenty per cent said they would increase hours of operation if crime decreased.
"On average, these firms would remain open an additional 3.6 hours per day if located in safer areas," the survey conducted by The Caribbean Country Management Team concluded.
In a 2003 study conducted by Dillon Alleyne and Ian Boxill on the impact of crime on tourism, the researchers said: "The level of crime, especially violent crime, has to be reduced because although the number of crimes against tourists has declined, high violent crime rates tend to raise concerns among tourists seeking a destination."