Time to summon the true Jamaican spirit

Time to summon the true Jamaican spirit

Thursday, April 30, 2020

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In the late seventies to the mid-nineties, when foreign exchange was extremely scarce, a group of hardy Jamaican women higglers, later re-branded informal commercial importers or ICIs, found a spectacular way to beat the US dollar drought.

They took local goods, including agricultural produce, to Haiti, Panama, St Martin, and Miami in the American state of Florida, exchanging them for foreign cash which they then used to purchase goods for a roaring trade in Jamaica.

Not often told was the story of how they slept 10 to a room in hotels, scarcely ate regular meals, and sometimes suffered abuse at the hands of the authorities, but never lost focus of their goal. Theirs was a compelling tale of survival, beating the odds through self-sacrifice, and declaring we will not surrender or disappear timidly into the night.

Those ICIs epitomised the true Jamaican spirit that faces adversity without flinching. It is that spirit now that we must summon as we look to rebuild our lives from the ashes of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We salute the example set by local manufacturer, Pioneer Manufacturing Distribution (PMD) Company, which is showing the way by expanding and finding new markets overseas for its Chloro-Do bleach brand.

Our report in yesterday's edition of the Business Observer highlights the determination of Pioneer Manufacturing to break through the Cayman and Dominican Republic markets — a six-year battle in the case of Cayman.

We are told that because of the novel coronavirus Chloro-Do bleach, a popular cleaning agent, has seen a rapid rise in demand. Neither Caribbean country can meet their own local needs.

Pioneering Manufacturing's Managing Director Alfred Thomas was understandably ecstatic to announce that the first shipment to Cayman last week sold off within days. “In fact, supermarkets had to be rationing Chloro-Do to two bottles per person as the demand for the product was so great,” says Mr Thomas.

Several more shipments have been ordered, thus making it possible for Pioneer Manufacturing to avoid the painful cutting of staff or salaries that a large numbers of companies have been forced into, with the possibility they could lose some of their best employees when they reopen.

We endorse the advice given by Mr Richard Pandohie, the president of the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association: “I say to the Government, let's partner together to help the manufacturers to find other markets… I say to other manufacturers to keep the faith, keep producing, find the markets, let's keep our people employed.”

The Government must itself find the courage to lead the thrust to get the economy up and running, remaining true to the Jamaican spirit of never backing down.

We are aware that the Administration is receiving conflicting counsel from influential voices, some advising not to open the economy while COVID-19 cases are rising. The decision on who to listen to will obviously not be an easy one.

But the times call for courage and good sense. Our people, especially the most vulnerable, are nearing breaking point. The leadership necessary now is about carefully balancing health care with opening the economy, not to retreat into the darkness.

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