I am rather mystified to see Anthony Hylton’s comments on local manufacturing, which as this writer indicates had been one of the largest contributors to GDP in the past. I have had the pleasure of being part of the JMA group in the 70’s and 80’s, and I thought then as I do now, that past Governments have been the greatest disincentive and hindrance to local manufacturing. At the time I recall Excise Tax was the most cruel, putting many industries out of business. I recall this spelled the end of our fine jewellery industry, with Government’s final tax increase to 137% of value.

Our competitor the Dominican Republic, had a much smaller business group in 1972, then as we departed from the market their Jewellery Industry soared.

Mr. Hylton is the Minister of Industry, who now says local manufacturing has no future. This is the Minister’s portfolio, his function in the political framework of the country, in which he says “has no future.”

Anthony Hylton is a victim of negative thinking, apparently ignorant of his responsibilities, and unaware of his potential. He takes his opinions to an editor’s forum, after economists at the University profess a similar opinion in the public media, in the presence of the Chairman of the task force promoting the logistics hub. This is the reason he should leave his position, and take his methodology elsewhere; Jamaica has no use for that kind of pessimism.

I like to be informed about concepts; like “’Global Supply Chain”.  What is that exactly? Where would we go to access one?

Can we create one to satisfy our needs? I recall being a purchasing agent for a well-known International Company which sourced goods all over the world, and it suggests to me that knowing your suppliers, your clients, organizing shipping and delivery, packaging, expediting payments, specifications, and other considerations, would be a requirement; but then most JMA manufacturers know their own market, and are able to put together their systems of supply and market.

Finally why would you think any import substitution of local products, local agro product, has no future? I believe if one has to start small, nothing is wrong with this. You need to build a sustaining volume, as you grow, and learn. Then increasing volume reduces unit cost, and employs more skills, and finally increases GDP.

I am always surprised to see the vast number of water products imported in bottles; though some are produced locally. Then there is cereal which can be produced locally, in which Trinidad is most active. Liquid detergents, at one time were mostly manufactured locally. But Colgate, Unilever, Johnson and Johnson, found local conditions difficult to manage.

At this time many products may be produced with local investment,  indeed many are being produced; especially packaged foods. Many Companies are succeeding in packaged snacks and biscuits.

All that is needed is support and encouragement from the supervisors of Industry and Commerce, and new product development by our scientific community, in research, standards, and productivity.

(523 words)

©Ramesh Sujanani

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