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State of emergency would damage Brand Jamaica, says MBCCI and JHTA

Published:Thursday | July 7, 2016 | 12:00 AMAdrian Frater

Western Bureau:

The Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI) and the Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association (JHTA) have stated that due to its capacity to damage Brand Jamaica, they are against the imposition of a state of emergency in Montego Bay, St James, at this time.

The organisations' concerns mirror those of Montego Bay Mayor Glendon Harris and several key stakeholders in the tourism sector.

In a joint release yesterday, both groups acknowledged that while they realised that the current crime situation, which has spawned a spate of recent murders, requires significant attention, a state of emergency is not the answer.

"After much discussion between the members of our two organisations, we have come to a unified position that declaring a state of emergency will not only prove ineffective in addressing the real problems, but could result in considerable damage to Brand Jamaica and may consequently lead to travel advisories from our main tourism partners, further blighting our chief foreign exchange earner," the joint release stated.




The release noted that a state of emergency could have "far-reaching negative repercussions and may result in unintended consequences" in sectors such as the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, which relies heavily on overseas investment.

"The effects will linger long after the current situation has been brought under control. We strongly recommend that a more holistic strategic approach of a combination of immediate short-term measures be combined with more long-term actions," the release stated.

In a recent interview with The Gleaner, the city's mayor rejected the notion of a state of emergency, saying, "It only breeds extrajudicial killings, which will yield little to no solution to fixing the real long-term problems in Montego Bay and the wider St James".

Three years ago, in bemoaning the state of crime in Montego Bay, the mayor told The Gleaner that the city had lost potential investment to the tune of $2 billion because of the problem.

With the city's BPO sector on an upward trajectory and millions of dollars in investment in the pipeline - to include the US$100-million plan to transform the city's port into a world-class multipurpose point of entry and the massive US$425 million (J$48 billion) joint venture between the St James Parish Council (STJPC) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) - looming on the horizon, a state of emergency and the crime situation are both seen as big time potential spoilers.

In offering an alternative approach to a state of emergency, the MBCCI and the JHTA made the following recommendations:

- The deployment of additional security personnel, including the military, in a joint approach to act immediately.

- Additional CCTV cameras must be installed in key areas to augment intelligence.

- The policy to use drones to supplement vehicular patrols must be quickly accelerated.

- A policy to establish a National Identification System should be considered.

- Stronger legislation and stiffer penalties to deter criminals.