OCHO RIOS, St Ann — More sustainable jobs that will benefit employees with pensions, and bureaucratic-free financing for small businesses are two of the goals which newly elected president of the St Ann Chamber of Commerce, Leopold Williams, has set for his tenure.
Williams, who replaced two-term Chamber head Kumar Sujanani — who did not seek re-election at the recent Annual General Meeting at the Chamber's conference centre at Pineapple in this resort town - said tourism alone could not satisfy the parish's employment needs, and for that reason, focus needs to be placed on new industries.
"We have to diversify what we do in this part of the world, so my main thrust will be to promote and lobby Government to do something for small business people... by providing financing through cheap money without the whole heap of strings attached...," he said.
He added: "We want to get more businesses operating from the parish [and] we have to encourage our young people. Right now the young people are scared based on what happened in the past [with] a lot of people losing their investment. They are scared of putting the little money they have into business."
Referencing the Administration's Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP), which aims to fill 5,000 short-term employment opportunities in phase one, the new chamber head said the programme was unsustainable.
"The Government is trying to bring on JEEP, but JEEP will not solve the problem. JEEP is a temporary working thing and it won't solve all the problems," Williams told the Jamaica Observer.
"What we will have to do is get sustainable jobs; jobs where people can work for years and get a pension. That's the reason why many people want to migrate and go abroad, not because the job situation might be better, but many people, when they work for 10, 15, or 20 years, they can get something to live off," he explained.
Meanwhile, Williams said he was seeking to build on the work of his predecessor, who, he explained, took over the presidency of the chamber at a time when it was experiencing financial difficulties, yet was able to leave it on sound financial ground.
"Like all business, we had to deal with the harsh global recession, and we got our fair share. He (Sujanani) is responsible for putting the chamber back on a sound financial footing," Williams said.
Williams said, too, that the chamber would continue its drive to build its membership and to get more people in the different towns across the parish more involved in chamber activities.
In addtion, the chamber also intends to set up a scholarship fund for needy students across the parish.
Williams is managing director of Seacrest Beach Resort in Priory, St Ann, and has been a member of the chamber for over 12 years, during which he has served in various capacities, including first vice-president to Sujanani.
Other members of the new executive include Desmond Palmer of DP Homes, who will serve as first vice-president, and Eva Myers of Evita's Italian Restaurant, second vice-president. Attorney-at-law Linton Gordon and Oral Heavens, branch manager at PanCaribbean Ocho Rios were elected to serve as directors.