EDITORIAL - What about Jamaican-owned businesses?
For a long time, Jamaican businesses have struggled to survive, and some have virtually been under siege by the criminal network that earns a steady income through robbery, intimidation and extortion.
Any conversation with business people today will inevitably include the lament of how difficult it is to do business in this country. Theft, internally by staff and externally by criminals, is one of the strongest deterrents to business success. Extortion has become a huge cost of conducting business in Jamaica.
Investment in security systems is one of the additional burdens that business people must bear in order to create the look and feel of a safe and vibrant organisation. This has come about because many feel they cannot count on the police to 'serve, protect and reassure', and they have had to rely on private security firms and expensive electronic gadgets to provide them with peace of mind.
So when Police Commissioner Carl Williams announced this week that special safety and security measures were being implemented to protect Chinese business people, particularly those who operate in downtown Kingston, the reaction it provoked was predictable. What about us locals? This is not a problem unique to the Chinese business community. And it has been going on for years. So why has there been no initiative to tackle the problem before now? And why is there no move to assure the local business sector that solutions are to be implemented?
It has been suggested that the police have greater regard for the safety and security of Chinese nationals doing business in Jamaica, particularly downtown Kingston, than they have for Jamaicans.
A letter writer to the editor of this newspaper had this to say: "The assertions made by Police Commissioner Carl Williams in the news that usage of electronic security systems and patrols by the police would form part of a strategy to control ... break-ins and robberies which the Chinese have complained about have, without a doubt, left a bitter taste in the mouths of struggling Jamaican business persons who have to contend with the same plague."
The writer went on to suggest that the message to be taken away from the planned police action is that "Jamaican business persons are on the back burner, are inferior to other nationals, and do not matter as much".
It would be a mistake to brush aside these concerns as being irrelevant or unnecessary. While we don't anticipate any showdown between Chinese and local business folk, there is a great deal of significance in the views being expressed here. There is a hint of unevenness in this approach to policing the business district by the Jamaica Constabulary Force.
Dr Williams has a job to convince a sceptical business public that these measures now being taken on behalf of the Chinese will benefit other businesses and patrons alike, because everyone has been affected by crime.
The commissioner has to engage the entire business district and work with stakeholders to find practical solutions that will help to flush out the criminals. It is of the highest importance to the national interest that all business operators and the patrons they serve are able to do business in a safe and enabling environment.
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