The Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association (JMA) yesterday blasted Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett for disregarding concerns raised by local manufacturers about Spanish hoteliers’ support for the local industry.
In a press release, JMA described recent statements by the Minister as “a blatant disregard” for the industrial sector and the resilience of manufacturers, and other entrepreneurs, who continue to robustly innovate, invest and produce at world-class standards, despite existing challenges.
The JMA, in noting that the manufacturing sector contributes 8.6 per cent to GDP or $55 billion in taxes — second only to the banking sector — and 80,000 in employment, said it will not support the Minister’s dismissal of an industry that continues to be the backbone of the country.
On May 9 Bartlett, in response to complaints that Spanish hoteliers are not engaging local manufacturers in business, reportedly argued that it is an issue manufacturers will have to try and fix on their own.
According to the release from the JMA, the minister added that he cannot tell investors who to do business with and that manufacturers should focus on improving the quality of their products and their ability to supply the tourism market with what is needed.
“The economic benefits of tourism are unquestionable, but its extremely low impact on our national growth is undeniable. Economic sustainability entails building linkages and keeping the majority of the proceeds local. Not only should Jamaicans be involved in tourism, but we should also share in the financial benefits derived from it,” president of the JMA Metry Seaga said.
“Minister Bartlett’s utterances reflect the very ignorance the JMA is committed to dispelling. We need to emancipate ourselves and recognise that Jamaica produces a wide range of products that are unique, superior and better priced than many imports,” the president continued.
He added that it is up to everyone as consumers, businesses and government to take the stance to support local manufacturers and not be held captive by the erroneous perceptions that Jamaican-made means inferior and that local producers are unable to adequately supply the tourism market.
“In fact, several hoteliers have successfully partnered with local companies and farmers to exclusively supply items such as furniture, bedding, uniforms, gifts and souvenirs, food and savoury items, and so much more.
‘The actions of our Government and our ministerial representatives, or lack thereof, in regard to buying Jamaican will determine Jamaica’s future socio-economic health, how many jobs are retained or created, the foreign exchange that is earned, the amount of debt to be serviced, and the country’s poverty levels. Partnerships are pivotal to socio-economic transformation and, as such, the fix-it on your own approach is most disappointing,” Seaga said.
The JMA strongly urged the Minister to reconsider his position and encouraged Bartlett to increase the awareness of investors and buyers about products made in Jamaica. The association also reasoned that the minister should seek ways in which to encourage investors to forge business partnerships with Jamaican producers, and explore creative policies that can see manufacturers retaining more tourism dollars in Jamaica.
“He is undermining his own linkages thrust. If our Government and our ministers do not have faith in our own entrepreneurs, who will? Growth begins with leadership,” the JMA said.