Recently we have had another call for a boycott on goods from Trinidad and Tobago. The industrialists state this is because Jamaicans have been treated with outright disrespect by Trinidadian authorities while the common man says it is because the Trinis are looking to dominate the Caribbean through economics and bullying (see the cases taken up by the industrialists). All of this is good to hear, we need more nationalism and patriotism in this country but where will it lead and what will it achieve?
As it relates to manufacturing the industrialists and the government’s of the past forty years must take the blame for the current state of affairs. Our major manufacturers (Lasco, Grace Kennedy etc) have done well and can be regarded as giants financially in the region but they have little impact in supermarkets across the region people complain. Why then do they not setup a manufacturing and distribution center in that part of the region like the countless trini companies and WIBISCO do in Jamaica to gain access to the western Caribbean?
Why do they not buy and acquire eastern Caribbean manufacturers to get a foothold in the region like what Sagicor or the company that bought Carib Cement did?
We will be told naturally that it is not easy, well nothing worth doing is. The companies like Lasco and Grace have flourished in Jamaica in spite of forty years of economic bedlam, they have matured in spite of the local anarchy and Byzantine business laws, so why not chance it in the east where the business climate is more friendly?
When it comes to how the Trinidad immigration authorities treat our nationals the answer is simple and two parted. We must insist that they cease this unjust practice or take it to court while at the same time looking deeply within ourselves.
We as a nation have a reputation, great rum, great music, great beaches, great sports many literary giants and crime. Crime, my friends is what people, especially this side of the world associate with Jamaica, especially a Jamaican who looks and acts a certain way. Crime in the eastern Caribbean wasn’t unheard of in the past, it went on, but one would be lying if you denied that a lot of gang related activity in the Caribbean, Trinidad included, has some Jamaican connection, even if it’s just that the individual criminal happened to come from Jamaica.
We need to look within ourselves and deal with our crime problem and our broader societal issues. Until we do that, Jamaicans, especially poorer ones will continue to be harassed and unjustly treated at many ports of entry.
In short yes I agree with the boycott, but not unless our manufacturers take that leap of faith and jump fully into the eastern Caribbean and not until we as a society start to seriously address our problems. Because to not do so would be a waste of time, without the leap of faith the trade imbalance will remain and without introspection and change our citizens will continue to be harassed and we will be back at square one.