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Growth & Jobs | Tracking the informal sector - SBAJ and STATIN developing tool to measure contribution of vending, other trade to economy

Published:Friday | June 9, 2017 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Hugh Johnson
Tanya Mingle

The Small Business Association of Jamaica (SBAJ) and the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) are in the process of formulating a tool that will be able to measure and track the contribution that informal occupations such as vending make to Jamaica's economy.

This was revealed by Hugh Johnson, president of the SBAJ, after The Gleaner spent four days with vendors of the Constant Spring and Papine markets in St Andrew, in addition to the Old Harbour and Spanish Town markets in St Catherine.

Commenting on market operations in Jamaica, Johnson admitted that there is a need for proper tools to be established, to better monitor all areas that contribute to the country's economy.

"There is no accurate tool to measure it and that is the dialogue we have been having with STATIN, to develop some tool that can capture any section of the informal sector so that it can be accurately measured," he said.

"That's a challenge for the sector as it relates to accurate data. Most of it is anecdotal. We know that it is very vital and necessary because without them, we would not be able to access the basic things in life. By those methods you can gauge the importance of it, but there are no instruments or tools to accurately capture this," Johnson said.

Plans fail because of inaccurate data usage 

'Ms Angie', who has been a vendor at the Papine Market for more than 10 years, can attest to the value that her services provide for customers, who trot through the food-peddling business place on a daily basis.

She noted that events such as the flood rains, which ravaged a few parishes recently, are some of the challenges they have had to manoeuvre around over the years.

"Over the years I just try to keep my customers happy. You have the ups and downs like everything else, but we press through," she said.

"The worm (beet armyworm) affect the skellion (scallion) bad bad, so you know the price increase. The flooding the other day cause lettuce and callaloo to get a big lick, so a pound of lettuce is for $400. The customers complain, but it is costing us more to buy the goods," she told The Gleaner.

Tanya Mingle, another vendor, had a similar story, noting that despite the challenges, she has been able to provide for her family.

"Di flood deal wid wi bad, but we have to try we best to cater to the customers and at the same time ensure seh we can keep afloat," she said.

Hugh Johnson noted that one meeting to develop tools to teach the informal sector has been held so far, and said that the dialogue will continue so as to arrive at a suitable solution.

"It's a great challenge in Jamaica for the entire spectrum of sectors, in terms of accurate data and information. It's (new tool) not an end in itself, but it's a good beginning, at least, to let us know where we are. We have seen time and time over in Jamaica, governments implement strategies to address a particular need and it comes to nought because it has no effect on the problem. We are of the impression that it's because those decisions were arrived at based upon inaccurate data," he said.


Small Business Association of Jamaica's boss, Hugh Johnson, is offering vendors some advice on how to improve and grow their enterprise: "Operate your [trade] on sound business principles. Not to just do business or to hustle and eat a food, but develop methods to accurately determine your input and your returns on those investments to see whether you're moving forward or reversing."