Jamaica boycotts T&T Goods
You can tell who your friends really are during the hard times. Most fickle and fair weather friends will quickly abandon you, once they perceive that the hand-outs and the freebies have dried up. But it takes a person of a certain kind of fascist ilk to kick you while you may be down, irrespective of how you may have helped them in the past.
At the beginning of this year, GDP Forecasts indicated that T&T would have the ninth fastest shrinking economy in the world. Venezuela was projected to have the second fastest, only behind Libya. This was due to the heavy dependence of these economies on the price of oil and gas. In February, the Caribbean Development Bank gave a positive 2016 Economic Outlook for most of the Caribbean islands whose economies are based on tourism with the exception of Barbados.
In 2014, the Ministry of National Security gave a breakdown of the people who have overstayed their time in Trinidad and Tobago and have not yet departed as follows:
• Bangladeshis: 167
• Barbadians: 7,169
• Chinese: 4,593
• Colombians: 6,388
• Dominican Republic: 2,256
• Cubans: 1,434
• Grenadians: 6,947
• Guyanese: 25,884
• Indians: 3,651
• Jamaicans: 19,500
• Nigerians: 1,071
• Filipinos: 4,437
• St Lucians: 4,391
• St Vincent: 9,606
• Suriname: 1,944
• Venezuelans: 10,574
It is estimated that these figures have increased significantly since that time. These illegal immigrants must “stay under the radar” and end up working in the construction, security, domestic and sex industries. But they also end up in gangs and get involved in escalating the crime situation in T&T. Therefore T&T is presently supporting well over 20,000 Jamaicans. In March, after screening by immigration 12 out of several hundred Jamaicans were found to most likely become charges on state resources. It is based on this assessment of these persons that the boycott has been initiated:
Based on the outcry that ensued, the cases of these 12 persons were reviewed, Based on information provided by the individuals, there was no proper vacation, study or other viable intentions of these individuals. It appeared that their intentions were to just go rogue in T&T. Trinidad and Tobago’s Foreign Affairs Minister Dennis Moses said the 12 Jamaicans were denied into the twin-island republic in March 2016 because they were deemed “likely to become charges on public funds”.
Moses said all 12 visitors were denied entry in accordance with Section 8 (1) (h) of the Immigration Act which speaks to persons who may be deemed likely to become charges on public funds. Over 20,000 Jamaicans have used the CSME (Caricom Single Market and Economy) angle to enter for six months, but then refuse to leave after that six-month period. T&T can no longer bear the burden of all these individuals.
However, in general Jamaicans are of the opinion that they have a right to go wherever they want for as long as they want, especially in Trinidad and Tobago. In a recent poll, that asked, “Should Jamaica boycott products made in Trinidad and Tobago?” – A total of 6,988 responded. The Observer published the results of the poll with 82% yes and only 18% saying no.
This move is an attempt to bully T&T into taking in more persons who will burden our state as they over-stay their 6 months and never return. Some of these persons will then contribute to the escalating crime situation. Jamaicans have forgotten how T&T in the recent past bailed them out when Air Jamaica was a financial drain on their economy.
Just in case our Jamaican friends have so quickly forgotten, here is a reminder. In December 2004, after financial losses, the government of Jamaica resumed full ownership of Air Jamaica. It employed 2,522 people as of March 2007. By March 2010, Air Jamaica had net losses in 40 out of its 42 years of existence, and had an accumulated deficit of approximately US$1.54 billion.
In 2007, the new Jamaican government began to consider the privatization of Air Jamaica, seeking to remove an unsustainable venture from its balance sheet. On 17 December 2009, it was reported that the Prime Minister of Jamaica had recently approached the government of Trinidad and Tobago regarding a possible merger or acquisition by Caribbean Airlines Limited.
It was decided that Air Jamaica would cease to operate under Jamaican ownership and be primarily run by Caribbean Airlines Limited until the transitional process was complete. Caribbean Airlines acquired the airline’s fleet and route rights on 1 May 2010, and opened a new hub at Kingston’s Norman Manley International Airport. The acquisition made Caribbean Airlines the largest airline in the Caribbean. On 27 May 2011 Jamaican Finance Minister Audley Shaw and Trinidadian Finance Minister Winston Dookeran signed the shareholding agreement, making Caribbean Airlines the national airline of Jamaica with access to all routes operated by the former Air Jamaica. On 1 July 2011, all Air Jamaica and Caribbean Airlines’s flights began operating under Caribbean Airlines’s “BW” IATA code.
The airline officially reopened operations upon the acquisition of Air Jamaica by Caribbean Airlines Limited. The new airline is now owned by Caribbean Airlines Limited of which the government of Jamaica holds 16% of shares. The acquisition by Caribbean Airlines also gave the company exclusive rights to the Air Jamaica name for one year, with options for annual renewal. On January 14, 2011, the Air Jamaica brand was relaunched at the Norman Manley International Airport with the unveiling of a new livery. The Boeing 737-800 aircraft, registered in Trinidad and Tobago, bore elements of Air Jamaica’s original livery along with alterations to align the corporate identity with Caribbean Airlines. Each aircraft will bear a sticker of Caribbean Airlines logo along with both Jamaican and Trinbagonian national flags.
Air Jamaica ceased all operations during 2015.
Trinidad and Tobago will rise again, better and stronger than ever. But if Jamaica continues along this foolhardy path of severing trading relations with T&T, you may have to look elsewhere the next time you may require a helping hand.