EDITORIAL - Jamaica open for business. Really?

Published: Saturday | December 7, 2013 Comments 0

The demise of the shrimp-producing company Trans-Global Aquaculture Limited, largely because of pilfering and praedial larceny, should finally capture the attention of our lawmakers and force them to lay out, in depth, what they plan to do to improve Jamaica's security for residents and businesses alike.

As reported in this newspaper, the company located in Clarendon suffered considerable loss because of the theft of equipment and stock from its inception. The other issue had to do with poor water quality. Together, these problems proved too much for Trans-Global.

Here was an American company, facilitated by the former National Investment Bank of Jamaica to set up business in Jamaica on the strength of lucrative contracts to sell shrimp to the United States, Japan and Europe. The company leased a 1,600-acre property from Government as it aimed to satisfy demand for 10 million to 12 million pounds of shrimp per annum. But after a dozen years of trying to keep afloat, the company went into liquidation and has finally closed its doors. And with the closure have gone the livelihoods of more than 250 workers.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and her ministers are often heard using the phrase 'Jamaica is open for business' in a bid to attract direct foreign investment into the country.

Security crisis

However, there is a world of difference between these glib expressions and the actions that must be taken to support economic development and send the message that Jamaica is a business-friendly location. The Government must add teeth to its good intentions if it is to be taken seriously. There are still bureaucratic hurdles to surmount in doing business in Jamaica. But the enormous security costs faced by business operators fly in the face of the 'open-for-business' concept which the Government has been touting since taking office.

The Jamaican population has every right to expect protection from the security forces, but daily acts of murder, robbery, and violence against workers and business people have persons cowering in fear all over the country.

Other businesses are teetering on the brink of existence because of the huge security costs that they have had to incur to secure their goods from both internal and external thieves. How was it possible for Trans-Global to survive if it was experiencing theft of thousands of pounds of shrimp on a regular basis?

Many local small businesses have similar tales of woe, having to close operations because of security concerns. These businesses, already operating close to the bone, could not contemplate the added costs to hire guards or to install high-definition video surveillance to keep their businesses safe.

Consider, for example, areas like Slipe Pen Road, Red Hills Road, and Mountain View Avenue. These were once thriving areas of commercial activity. Today, many of these businesses have been shuttered, rotting and run-down.

Jamaica desperately needs a new formula for security if the country is to attract job creators and to keep those who are already here contented.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.

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