BUILD OUR COUNTRY by supporting our local manufacturers and farmers

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2 Responses to “BUILD OUR COUNTRY by supporting our local manufacturers and farmers”

  1. Ja vs Trinidad
    What’s the beef?
    BY JULIAN RICHARDSON Assistant Business Co-ordinator
    Sunday, November 28, 2010

    DURING a regional football tournament held recently in the twin-island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, two members of the Jamaican contingent were in a bar in the town of St James on the eve of a quarter-final match between Jamaica and the host country.
    Soon friendly banter developed between the Jamaicans and Trinidadians about which country had better products. The Jamaicans boasted of their Reggae music, Bob Marley, Red Stripe beer, Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell, Shelly-Ann Fraser and a host of other attributes that have made Jamaica a household name across the world. Things soon took a turn for the worse when the Jamaicans contended that the two most famous Trinis were “Dwight Yorke and Brian Lara”, who one Jamaican said “don’t turn heads anymore”.
    An Observer Editorial cartoon earlier this year depicting Trinidad’s deep interest in corporate Jamaica.
    The Trinidadians were even more upset when the other Jamaican said, “People still ask where in Jamaica do you find Trinidad?”
    That was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
    One irate Trinidadian replied, “We own all yuh; Jamaica belongs to Trinidad!”
    The irate man can be forgiven for exaggerating Trinidad’s deep investment in corporate Jamaica, once again a topic of discussion following controversial remarks made by Trinidad Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar last month.
    Many across the Caribbean agree that Persad-Bissessar’s comments about conditional humanitarian aid was undiplomatic, but the subsequent backlash in Jamaica — including calls made by some to boycott Trinidadian goods — reveal the extent to which relations are strained between the two countries.
    Earlier this year, Dr Rollin Bertrand, Group CEO of Trinidad Cement Limited, parent company of the Caribbean Cement Company (Carib Cement) in Jamaica, said in a letter: “Carib Cement has argued, like many other producers across the world, that it is entitled to operate in an atmosphere of free and fair trade as espoused by the World Trade Organisation. That means: no dumping, no predatory pricing, no breaches of the Treaty of Chaguaramas, no manipulation of tariff numbers to avoid taxes, no favouritism, and no illegal waivers of the Common External Tariff. Every time we raise these issues, the importers pull out the “M word” (Monopoly) to stir up emotions… When the “M word” doesn’t work, they then pull out the “T word” (Trinidadian) to add fuel to the fire.”
    Bertrand’s remarks were made during the latest of a long string of clashes between Carib Cement, Jamaica’s sole cement producer, and local importers of the commodity.
    Jamaicans are not anti-foreign investment. Irish-owned Digicel for instance, has carved out an enviable niche here and is arguably one of the most embraced corporations locally. Our beloved Red Stripe is now owned by British firm Diageo, and for decades the British-born Courts furniture store (now in El Salvadorian hands) has been a darling in Jamaica. However, when it comes to Trinidadian firms, there’s a noticeable level of reservation. Carib Cement Company has experienced it, Caribbean Airlines recently earned the wrath of locals for simply daring to bid on the acqusition of Jamaica’s national airline. And who knows whether or not Lascelles deMercado will experience consumer resentment when it becomes common knowledge that Jamaica’s beloved Wray and Nephew white rum and Appleton brands are actually owned by a Trinidadian company, Angostura.
    Local industry experts say anti-Trinidad sentiment in corporate Jamaica has little to nothing to do with the Trinidadian-owned companies on the island, which have made substantial contributions to Jamaican society — employing thousands of locals and paying hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes annually. Rather, they say that it’s founded upon the perception of an uneven playing field when it comes to trade between the two countries, in favour of the Trinidadians.
    “There are a lot of underlying issues that have been going on for many years when the issue of Trinidad comes up: The issue of the unlevel playing field, the issue of the non-tariff barriers etc,” said Omar Azan, head of the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association.
    From contentious issues dealing with product labelling to testing, the complaints from Jamaican businesspersons on barriers to enter the Trinidadian market are widespread.
    “Just recently, for example, a manufacturer sent me a note of a non-tariff barrier to do with labelling where our bureau of standards has approved a particular label which is a regional standard label approved under CROSQ (Caricom Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality), but Trinidad’s bureau of standards is not accepting it…but we accept the Trinidadian bureau of standards because of us trusting them,” Azan told Sunday Finance.
    Just last year, there was a huge outcry in Jamaica after Trinidad blocked Tastee patties from being exported there because of concerns it raised about sanitary standards. The issue caused a trade dispute between Jamaica and Trinidad which resulted in public debate on the state of intraregional trade and the objectives of the Caribbean Community Single Market.
    On the flip side, experts argue that Trinidadians have met little resistance in accessing the Jamaican market, which they say is a major reason behind Jamaica’s huge trade deficit with Trinidad — US$526.2 million in 2009.
    Then there’s the issue of energy subsidies. According to Azan, oil-rich Trinidad provides unfair energy subsidies to its manufacturers, giving Trinidadian manufacturers a huge competitive advantage in trade.
    “It’s officially not in breach because what they’re saying is that they are not giving it specifically to manufacturers, they’re giving it to the entire country…but no matter how you look at it, the manufacturers are still gaining from that subsidy,” Azan argued.
    “So Trinidad pays five cents a kilowatt hour and our manufacturer pays 30 cents a killowat hour…so those goods being produced in Trinidad have a price competitive edge,” he said.
    Accusations that the Trinidadians backed out on a deal to supply Jamaica with Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) have also added fuel to the resentment fire.
    “They had an MOU saying that they were going to supply us and at the last minute they said they can’t supply us,” argued Azan. “We are a part of a family called Caricom…they say they can’t supply Jamaica with LNG but they supply LNG to the US market.”
    Even against this background, Azan is against the vehement calls for a boycott of Trinidadian products that came in the wake of Persad-Bissessar’s quid-pro-quo comments.
    “I would like to work things out with Trinidad but if it gets to a point where we may have to, if it becomes a trade war, Jamaica doesn’t have much to lose when it comes to Caricom because we are a major life line,” said Azan. “But I don’t want to go down that road; what I want to do is find a way where we can work together in harmony.”
    Instead, the JMA president used the opportunity to encourage Jamaicans to support local products.
    “The major part that each and every Jamaican can play is to support the ‘Buy Jamaica, Build Jamaica’ campaign because for every Jamaican product that is purchased, they’re supporting a local job, while when they buy a product from overseas, they’re supporting an overseas job,” noted Azan.
    Former JMA president Doreen Frankson, expressed similar sentiments in a letter last month:
    “Jamaican consumers have helped to build the manufacturing sector of Trinidad and we are borrowing money to sustain the importation of goods from Trinidad when similar products are made in Jamaica. Jamaicans need to Buy Jamaican to Build Jamaica,” she said.

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  2. I could hardly believe my eyes when I read this !!


    Go for Jamaican-made cars
    Tuesday, January 11, 2011

    Dear Editor,
    In recent weeks two local stories caught my attention: (1) the high cost and taxes on motor cars and (2) the continued existence of a tiny motor car company in Westmoreland. I was motivated to find out more about locally made cars. I am puzzled that I don’t see many of them around the island, given the high cost of pre-owned Japanese imports. The cost of the cheapest imported three-year old pre-owned motor car runs about $1.5 million while the cost of a brand-new, soft-top Jamaican-made car is about $1.2 million.
    I did some checks and found that Excel Motors, the local car makers, can provide brand-new hard-top and air-conditioned vehicles for well under $2 million. They also have designs for other cars besides the Island Cruisers, which they now build for tourist rentals. Like the rest of the local industry, they are unable to afford to borrow the cash they need to put their designs on the market. I wondered why the enforcement teams patrolling our cities and towns are not using the Island Cruisers? Tourists seem to have found them suitable means of transport and now they have been introduced to the Turks and Caicos Islands as rental vehicles.
    Could our cash-strapped government invest in a local company by mandating that public entities own at least one of these locally manufactured vehicles? How can our politicians tell us to buy Jamaican and build Jamaica when there is no political will to do the same? Since the Jamaican government has no money for development or research funding, it should therefore find innovative ways of supporting local industry. By making sure that at least five per cent of all vehicles bought this year are Jamaican-made, the government will provide much-needed jobs for Jamaican engineers, build capacity, create new industries and build a better Jamaica.
    Z Neufville

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