Nedburn Thaffe, Gleaner Writer
When the scrap metal trade resumes today, a number of dealers may be left out in the cold because of a prohibitive $7-million bond, which exporters are required to pay.
Jonathan Aarons, president of the Scrap Metal Federation, told The Gleaner yesterday that it was likely that a number of exporters were going to pull out of the trade because of the difficulty of coming up with the money.
"It is going to be difficult for most exporters because the levy is extremely high. (There are) approximately 40 exporters now, but we can't tell, with this bond, how many of those 40 will remain as exporters," Aarons said.
Under the new regulations announced last week, all exporters, except those who generate metal waste in their manufacturing operations, will be required to post the bond with the Factories Corporation of Jamaica, which is the agency overseeing the designated sites.
The intent is to apply a portion of the bond towards compensation of victims of theft, according to Industry, Investment, and Commerce Minister Anthony Hylton.
Aarons told The Gleaner that his association had engaged Hylton in discussions with a view to lowering the bonds and was surprised by the announcement of the $7-million bond.
He said while some exporters were in negotiations with the bank to use their properties as collateral, they were still facing difficulties because of the tardiness of the ministry.
"Most of the banks, when they would write such a bond, they need to know the criteria for which the bond is going to be written. We requested from the ministry a template document to take to the bank, and we didn't get such documentation until Friday.
"If the ministry had acted expeditiously in providing us with the template, then I think most of us would have the bond in our hands today."
Not all systems go
Nadine Hamilton, who specialises in demolition and industrial scrap, is one of the exporters who said it would not be all systems go for her today because of the multimillion-dollar levy.
"After not working for one year and six months, I don't know how on earth I am going to find that money!" said a clearly frustrated Hamilton.
The 37-year-old, who has been in the industry since 2007, said that while she commended the Government for reopening the trade, it was clear the Government had missed the mark in some areas.
"I believe that if you are going to put a bond for the exporters, you have to put a bond for the dealers, too, so everybody has a skin in the game. It is the dealer who goes out there and decides to steal, and now legitimate exporters like me are suffering," Hamilton said.
Gregory Mair, opposition spokesperson for industry, commerce, and energy, said the decision to reopen the trade would, "very likely, amount to the institutionalisation of the theft of property across the island, including manhole covers, railings on roadways and bridges ... ".