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Why is Jamaica Only Boycotting Trini Goods?

Jamaica boycotting Trini goods

Why is Jamaica only boycotting Trini goods?

When I first heard Jamaica was boycotting Trinidadian goods, the inner vigilante in me was shouting !Viva la revolucion! But then… I had mixed feelings. I was glad because it was a moment when Jamaica was standing for something so boldly and passionately and I was elated because it was less imports coming into Jamaica. However, I was sad because of the silly series of events that lead to it, and a part of me wishes we would just decrease importation altogether instead of boycotting, which is a form of protest.

Now that we got started, we should keep the ball rolling. With Trinidad imports decreased (or boycotted) we’ve already cut down on 1/10th of our total imports. Trade accounts for around 50 percent of Jamaica’s GDP. Yet, Jamaica imports most of the goods it consumes, leading to consistent trade deficits of around 20 percent of the GDP. Jamaica has a list of many import partners, the United States is at the top of the list, accounting for around 42 percent of total imports, second is Venezuela at around 11%, third is Trinidad at around 10% and fourth is China at around 7%. We obviously will have to be strategic to maintain a reduction in imports while maintaining a satisfactory supply of goods to the Jamaican public. Let us discuss a few of these strategies.

If you don’t buy it, they won’t produce it.

First we need to understand the power the consumer holds. We the consumers create the demand so if we “boycott” more non-locally made products, distributors will stop or decrease importation and distribution of foreign goods and start distributing locally made goods. We must practice responsible consumerism and support the right businesses as much as possible. Many studies have shown that buying local is better for the economy and society’s overall well-being. Some studies have even proven twice as much money stays in the community when citizens shop local.

boycott

There is power in numbers and perseverance. History has proven that if you boycott anything long enough, things will change and producers will adapt to the market demands.  The most historic example of a consumer goods boycott was the 7 year boycott of General Electric products in the 1980s to force General Electric to stop producing nuclear weapons for the Cold War. So, we don’t need to worry about what will happen if we decrease our purchases of goods from other countries.

Why Jamaicans frighten fi farrin tings suh?

We need to obliterate the belief that everyting from farrin (foreign) is better. If we read the labels of most of the products that Jamaica imports, often times we will notice they are unhealthy to consumers and/or the environment. Honestly, some of them should just be labelled “Diabetes in a bottle”, “Cancer in a Box” and “Heart Disease in a Bag”.  Some of the countries included in the top 10 countries Jamaica imports from are capitalist countries and the corporations who produce these imported goods are conglomerates who are able to cheaply mass produce because they don’t carry out fair trade.

Fair trade. Decrease importation of goods from companies who don't practice fair trade.

The greater the market demand, the cheaper will be the production costs and selling price.  It may seem like a good amount of local products are expensive, but that’s because you may not be supporting them enough and you may be shopping at the wrong places. Supermarkets aren’t the only source of goods, there are markets and arcades. You can even support a neighbourhood “hustler” AKA someone who essentially makes and sells products from home.  OK, to be honest I often find non-food items to be more expensive than similar imported product (that’s my personal opinion). But if we do some investigation, we will find some local goods’ prices are higher because these small local producers are trying to make the most out of each sale as they have to compete with a plethora of similar imported goods. The truth is, most of these producers of imported goods are able to off-put production costs because they source cheap (almost slave) labour.

Believe in the Jamaican

Sometimes Jamaica doesn’t seem to believe in Jamaicans, we don’t seem to realize our own worth. This opinion is reiterated by the many reports of very qualified local workers or places of business being turned down for opportunities which are instead given to foreign bodies. Citizens who can bring innovation to Jamaica will find setting up shop in Jamaica less appealing when there are so many reports (by the media or via word of mouth) of this practice. Just recently The Gleaner published an article, “Jamaican Engineers Repeatedly Overlooked For Local Jobs, Says Hotel Manager”. The article relates the complaint of a local hotel manager that the Jamaican tourism sector doesn’t fill enough job positions with locals, who are often discriminated against. Also, there was a 2013 article by The Gleaner trending on social media recently, entitled “Rejected By Jamaica – Pathologist Snubbed Locally, Embraced By Yale”.

The Island Cruiser.
First and only Jamaican manufactured vehicle, The Island Cruiser.

In the past it seemed that local manufacturers or those with inventive ideas had a hard time getting support from their own countrymen. It seemed like it was much easier to get a car loan than to get a small business loan from a bank. It seemed like it was much easier to attract private investors and sponsors for a party or similar event than for manufacturing, science or technology.  Remember the first Jamaican made vehicle “Island Cruiser” from 2003? The cars were of competitive quality yet still the venture didn’t take off. The government promised the car manufacturer support yet still none of the cars were bought by the government and no policy was made to help decrease car importation or sway the market in favour of the locally manufactured cars. The government should lead a country by example and this was a poor show of support for innovation.

Why are some given support and others aren’t?  Many multinational companies often come to Jamaica, set up business and “invest” in Jamaica. It’s no secret that certain policies or lack thereof often allow these companies to source labour and materials outside of the island, have low operational costs and high profits. Why are so many imported products on the shelves and hangers of stores? Why aren’t systems put in place to encourage a general decrease in importation and NOT JUST a decrease in importation from Trinidad?

Decrease Importation

Jamaica will be able to compensate for a general decrease in imported goods. Although there are many issues Jamaican entrepreneurs face, the future is still bright for these inventors, pioneers and risk takers. With a recent increase in entrepreneurship, the banks, investors and the government will have no choice but to keep up. We can thank Yaneek Page for helping to influence this change. Page wasn’t the first to promote entrepreneurship but she was certainly the one to make it popular with her business boot camps and her TV program (also hosted by Gary Matalon), “The Innovators”. Now, there are more local TV shows that promote entrepreneurship such as NCB’s Capital Quest and The Bold Ones. Now, we are also seeing an increase in alternative forms of support systems for entrepreneurs.

We’ve got good quality things in Jamaica so let’s “boycott” every other country’s products and buy the local alternative as much as possible. You may have to do a bit of searching or condition your mind to avoid noticing popular foreign brands but in the long run it’s worth it. There are many locally made items that have similar prices to cheap imported goods, also the greater the demand or the more Jamaicans willing to buy locally made goods the less likely the manufacturers will have to price high to ensure a profit is made.

…Oh and don’t forget to show off on our friends on social media when you support the local market:

#buyJamaican #Jamaicanmade #shoplocal #buylocal #eatwhatwegrow #growwhatweeat

 

Blogged by Gabrielle Beckford.

If you would like to contribute a blog post or post suggestions e-mail lightyourfirecaribbean@gmail.com.

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