Briefing | ZOSO good for crime, bad for business and social livelihood
The zones of special operation (ZOSO) and the state of emergency in Montego Bay have had a positive impact on violent crime, not just in Montego Bay and other areas, but across the island. This year, murders in Jamaica are on the decline, and we would like to see this trend continue into 2019 and the foreseeable future. Crime is bad for business.
What are the objectives of the ZOSO?
The main aim of the ZOSO is to clear the communities of persons who are more likely to engage in criminal activity, for example, murders. The next step is to hold and secure these communities with armed forces, and third, build and expand the social capital and infrastructure of these communities to improve the livelihoods of its residents. An excellent plan that if implemented successfully will help to transform troubled communities. But the reality appears to be somewhat different to some extent.
What about businesses in these areas?
Many businesses are forced to close their doors by 8 p.m. each night, as required by the ZOSO and the state of emergency in Montego Bay. Most people are very happy with the police presence in all the necessary areas but believe the closing time could be extended. They are unhappy with the support that their businesses have been receiving. Many complain that since the start of the ZOSO and the state of emergency, business support has been trending downhill and hence a fall in their overall revenues. A fall in revenues means a decline in their spending power and suppressed demand.
Cannot adequately cover expenses
Many cannot afford to adequately cover their expenses and send their children to school. Many can no longer enjoy some basic luxuries that they were once accustomed to, hence the ZOSO and state of emergency have been having a negative impact on their peace of mind and standard of living in the short run. "We think the closing time of 8 p.m. for businesses has been very restricting," said shop owners in the area. "We would like if the police and soldiers could be here to secure the place and extend the closing time to at least 10 p.m."
Time is money
The disregard for time appears to be associated with a lack of understanding of the relationship between business and time. Many small enterprisers in these communities subconsciously use time carefully to increase their earnings, and hence profits. Every hour of time provides a new window to establish a new market presence.
There are many businesses that do not open until people come home from work at 5 p.m. These businesses supply goods and services that cannot be supplied prior to the time because there would be no market. Likewise, there are businesses that survive on the nightlife because Montego Bay is a tourism destination and tourism must intertwine with night-time entertainment in a city.
If nightlife is suppressed, it means a large subsection of the night-time business is impacted. Now, if this is the case, do you expect these business owners who once flourished from revenues earned from night-time entertainment to now open in the daytime when there are no consumers? This appears to be irrational.
What about their business models?
They could restructure their business models to open earlier, but would be entering a new market to compete against other businesses that close at 5 p.m. Many businesses started opening late in the first place to fill a void in the market for these goods and services.
Where do we go from here?
The plan is for law-enforcement officers to enter selected troubled communities and improve the lives of people, but it can be done in a more civilised and intelligent manner.
- Dr Andre Haughton is a senior lecturer at the University of the West Indies.