THE EDITOR, Sir:
The Government is hawkish on giving the dubious scrap metal trade a free hand. Its rationale is that the scrap metal trade is a foreign exchange earner, but at what cost?
The Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), LIME, the National Water Commission and Digicel are major companies who regularly report the loss of valuable and equipment to scrap metal thieves. However, these companies are just the tip of the iceberg. The theft of public manhole covers, bridge sections, rail lines, water pipes, valuing millions of dollars, must be factored in.
There are hundreds of companies and individuals who have suffered multimillion-dollar losses. There is the case of one particular factory which lost approximately 5,000 steel pallets to scrap metal thieves. The replacement cost is approximately $11,750 for each pallet, or $57 million. This act has reduced its potential production by 85 per cent. The possibility of replacing these pallets in the very near future is remote.
The above is just one unreported case. Replacing such equipment will require foreign exchange. It is simply a matter of penny wise and pound foolish.
JPS reported on the weekend that that armed men are now stealing its equipment. Obviously, it is not just the 'eat a food' brigate at work, but, rather, well-resourced and organised thieves. This can only be possible with the complicity of the major players in the scrap metal trade. Their alligator tears have fooled the Government, which is hungry for the so-called foreign-exchange earnings.
There is not enough scrap metal in the island to support this dubious industry. As mentioned in an earlier letter to the editor, Jamaicans need a hiatus of four years to garner enough scrap metal to support meaningful export. And shipment should be done in two months, preferably November and December.
Reopening the scrap metal trade will only result in hardship, layoffs, loss of income, endangered public safety, greater demand for foreign exchange, and demoralisation of Jamaicans at large. Is it worth it?
Port Maria PO, St Mary