Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer
By his own pronouncement, veteran scrap-metal dealer Aston George Bailey is well aware of the enormity of the task of getting his business back up and running when the Government re-opens the trade on Monday. He, however, remains optimistic that his steely resolve will prevail.
Bailey admits that he has lost "millions of dollars" since the trade was suspended nearly two years ago, but said he relishes the challenge of restoring operations at Rambo Scrapping Limited, the Riverton City-based company he started several years ago.
"It's gonna be difficult, and difficult bad eno, as you can see around you," he said, pointing to the heaps of scrap metal at his business place during a visit by The Gleaner yesterday.
"But as wha me say, we grow up rough and we know what is hardship so we suppose to can rock through this," he insisted.
Bailey said the main challenge right now is to restore several pieces of equipment critical to his operations - including trucks and tractors - that have been lying idle and resurrecting his islandwide trucking network.
But for now, Bailey said his first priority is to ensure that he is fully compliant with the licence requirements of the new scrap-metal regulations and to rehire the 50 employees he had.
The rampant theft of metallic items, among them street signs, manhole covers, railway lines, electricity wires and items considered national artefacts, resulted in millions of dollars in losses to the Government, private businesses and ordinary citizens.
This triggered an indefinite suspension of the industry in 2011 by then Industry Minister Dr Christopher Tufton, the second time it was being suspended under the previous administration.
But in announcing the reopening of the scrap-metal trade yesterday, Anthony Hylton, the minister of industry, investment and commerce, insisted that the tough new measures he has put in place would ensure order in the trade, which at its peak in 2006 provided foreign-exchange earnings of US$100 million.
"We have taken deliberate care to dot every i and cross every t, plugging every possible loophole, so that in the end we have in place a system which is watertight and will facilitate the legitimate export of scrap metal," Hylton said.
"I want to send a very clear signal to anyone, large or small, who has any malintent and is hoping to breach the regulations ... we are watching you and we are waiting for you to make the first wrong move because as the night follows day, you will be brought to book," he warned.
To facilitate the restart, Hylton said two of the three temporary central sites located in St Andrew, where dealers must take their scrap metal, are now ready while work is still being completed on a third facility in Clarendon.
A permanent central site is now also under construction in Riverton City, St Andrew.
As part of the new measures, all exporters, except those whose businesses generate metal waste, must post a $7-million bond with the Factories Corporation of Jamaica. The bond will be used to provide partial restitution to persons who can prove that they have lost items to the trade.
In addition, all exporters will be required to provide a police "recommendation" issued by a superintendent or an officer of a higher rank and secure a licence or a permit from the Trade Board.
The Government has also placed a restriction on the exportation of irrigation pipes used in agriculture, railway lines, copper, I-beams, bridges, manhole covers and signposts, except in cases where a permit is granted by the industry minister.