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Gov't must help promote, bolster manufacturers

Published:Tuesday | May 29, 2012 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

As a Jamaican manufacturer, I feel constrained to join the debate regarding the unfair competitive advantage that our regional counterparts, like Trinidad, have over us in manufacturing.

At your recent Gleaner Editors' Forum, the chairman of JAMPRO, Milton Samuda, indicated that he was not sufficiently convinced, because of lack of evidence, that Jamaican manufacturers are at a disadvantage.

It is for this reason why I will be organising a group of manufacturers to have audience with Mr Samuda to apprise him of some of the serious challenges we face and provide him with the evidence. We, the Jamaican manufacturers, cannot have the chairman of JAMPRO unaware of the serious disadvantages under which we operate.

When I was associated with Henkel Chemicals, we were exporting to Caribbean countries, including Trinidad. We were gaining majority share of the adhesives market in Trinidad and then the Government imposed 15 per cent duty, without any reason or explanation, although we are members of CARICOM. This presented a serious challenge for us and we eventually lost the market.

Learn from trinis

What the Trinidadian government has done is to work closely with the various stakeholders in helping to promote exports. They help to protect their manufacturers by providing various incentives and subsidies such as lower electricity, lower interest-rates and non-tariff barriers. This not only helps their manufacturing sector, but also enhances production, exports and development.

Jamaican manufacturers and the Government of Jamaica must be working together to ensure that we have a level playing field. In 2010, Trinidad was able to export US$360 million in goods and services into Jamaica, while we were only able to export US$32m worth into Trinidad. This situation must no longer be allowed to continue.

Prior to the 1970s, the sector was doing well and we were way ahead of our Caribbean counterparts in terms of manufacturing. During the 1970s, we were faced with huge challenges with lack of foreign exchange, high interest-rate costs, high security costs, and limitless red tape. Those issues were the major contributors to the decline in the manufacturing sector, and since then we have been struggling.

LASCELLES A. CHIN (OJ, CD)

Chairman, LASCO Group