Developing a retirement industry even amidst the crime environment

Sunday, December 09, 2018

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The crime problem in Jamaica has cost the economy dearly, possibly four to five per cent of gross domestic product, based particularly on security expenditure encompassing the hiring of security guards; alarm systems; dogs; burglar bars; security fencing; purchase of firearms and other devices.

We must also factor in underutilisation of resources due to robberies and praedial larceny, shorter working/opening hours, investments not undertaken, and nocturnal activities avoided. Crime adds to the cost of production of every good and service produced by the private sector and the Government.

For example, it costs the health services an estimated $400,000 per day to keep one gunshot victim in intensive care and there are more than 1,000 gunshot victims every year, costing the Government over $70 billion per year. This sum could repair and build all our roads and infrastructure.

One of the significant losses is the inability to realise the potential for a retirement industry. The number of murders and robberies perpetrated against returning residents — 11 since the start of the year, says the National Security Ministry; 12 says Mr Percival LaTouche, the president of the relevant association — is discouraging Jamaicans abroad from retiring in Jamaica.

The losses in houses not built; businesses closed or not started; foreign exchange losses in the form of pensions; the goods and services not purchased; the employment not created and the absence of the skills, experience and values they bring to the country.

Apart from Jamaicans not returning home, there is the loss of foreigners from countries with temperate climate who would retire in the warm weather of Jamaica with its lower cost of services.

This is a huge and growing industr y in the United States as the population ages. It is a large part of the tourist industry which is the mainstay of the state of Florida. The retirement industry has the potential to be as big as the tourism industry.

It earns foreign exchange, it employs the full gamut of human resource skills, it has no seasonality of demand, pays taxes, and it does not require prime real estate.

Recognising that crime is inhibiting the development of the retirement industry does not preclude us from building the sector. After all, tourism exists alongside serious crime in Jamaica.

The answer to the problem is to learn from the tourist industry by taking the necessary security precautions and from the pattern of residential suburbs. Retirement communities have to be developed as complexes of townhouses and apartments with the necessary accompanying security infrastructure and arrangements.

This avoids the risk of the individual, isolated single- dwelling house in deep rural parts of the country. The retirement complexes, if developed on a sufficient scale, can include a 24-hour nursing service, gym, recreation facilities, bus service, chapel, and geriatric services. The buildings can be fitted with ramps and bathrooms with support bars.

No need for Jamaica to miss out on the opportunities of a retirement industry.

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