Mahfood reiterates stance on T&T restrictions - Consumers supportive
William Mahfood, president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), is maintaining his view that the Government of Jamaica should impose restrictions on products imported from Trinidad and Tobago, following a series of incidents in which a number of Jamaicans were recently denied entry to the twin-island republic.
"CARICOM Single Market and Economy means that we're supposed to have freedom of access to the market through our goods, our people, and money is supposed to be able to move freely, and that's not happening," Mahfood told The Gleaner yesterday.
"We have allowed Trinidad's products to come into Jamaica without any hindrance, freely without duty. Our people are not given the same respect when they enter Trinidad. Until such time, where the Jamaican people have freedom of access to the market or entry into the market, then the Government of Jamaica should use the leverage that they have to insist that they are given that freedom of movement," he said.
Approximately 150 Jamaicans have been denied entry to Trinidad since the start of the year.
Despite the severity of the circumstances, president of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, Warren McDonald, believes that there are certain avenues that can be explored to properly resolve the issues and said that boycotting Trinidadian products or imposing strict restrictions on trade with Trinidad should be the last resort.
He believes, though, that the structure of CARICOM is on the brink of crumbling.
"We need to certainly hurry to investigate and find out the reasons (for Trinidad denying entry), if any. I am one who feels we should take it step by step and explore options before we shut down," McDonald said.
"We feel that boycotting is the last resort, and we should explore all avenues before we get to that stage. By that I mean, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should meet with their counterparts and express to them our dissatisfaction with what is happening. This thing is repeated. There are a lot of ramifications, reciprocity. I think the whole CARICOM structure is breaking down."
Customers in local supermarkets told The Gleaner on Monday that they were confident their consumer needs would still be satisfied by local alternatives if a boycott should take effect.
One shopper at a popular supermarket in Cross Roads, Kingston, who gave her name as Maxine Tucker, said: "When I go into the supermarket and I pick up a product and it's from Trinidad, I don't buy it. It's like dem have something against Jamaicans. They behave as if they're better than us. I guess if you don't do something now, it's going to continue, you're not better than us."
Another shopper said: "Any Caribbean country that is going to stand against us, I am not supporting them in any shape or form. If it means stop buying their products to show solidarity to my fellow Jamaicans, I am going to do that."
However, a shopper at a New Kingston supermarket said: "If you gonna boycott it, how is it going to affect the consumers in the end and the products that the consumers are going to miss? I understand the reasons for wanting to boycott, but who are we affecting? Are Jamaicans employed by it, too? Are they just packaged here or they're just brought in here and packed on a shelf? How many people are going to be affected? How many jobs are going to be affected?"