Manchester business community has high expectations of new Gov't

Regional

Manchester business community has high expectations of new Gov't

BY KASEY WILLIAMS
Staff reporter
editorial@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, September 11, 2020

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Members of the business community in this south-central parish have high expectations of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Government following last Thursday's massive 33-seat majority win over the Opposition People's National Party (PNP).

Although experiencing huge losses due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, some business people have commended the Andrew Holness-led Government for their previous term.

“I think for the most part they are doing a fairly good job and they need to improve their accountability. It should be one of their objectives from all ministers of Government and all elected politicians, the accountability factor needs to be stressed. They need to build on the initiatives that they have started. I know COVID is hindering a lot of progress, but it is just something that they have to keep balancing lives and livelihood,” chief executive officer of coffee manufacturer Jamaica Standard Product, John Minott Jr, told the Jamaica Observer on Tuesday by telephone.

Proprietor of the Golf View Hotel, Peter Campbell, is hopeful that the Administration will implement stronger enforcement of COVID-19 safety protocols.

“My first expectation is for us to firstly focus on keeping the citizens of Mandeville and Jamaica, by extension safe, so in regards to all the safety protocols surrounding COVID-19, stronger enforcement and just sensitisation to let people know what is happening in real time, so as this [virus] evolves, the information should be disseminated quickly so that we can all do the necessary adjustments on the ground.

“It is a trying time for all businesses, in particular, though, the hotel industry. A lot of our plans had to be put on pause as a result of COVID-19 and we had to shift gears to implement safety protocols that the Government had put in place. The most painful thing to date is having to lay off over 80 per cent of my staff complement,” he said.

Campbell is urging the Government to look at infrastructure development in Mandeville, including a permanent fix to the town's long-standing water supply challenge.

“I would love to see the infrastructure of Mandeville being strengthened, and once we have a solid infrastructure then everything [can] be a lot easier to implement going forward… We have a chronic water problem in Mandeville…. We should invest in better water catchments,” Campbell said.

President of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, Kenisha Dwyer Powell, is appealing for an urgent upgrading of the country's telecommunications infrastructure.

“One of the biggest issues we have right now is telecommunications, that includes the Internet connectivity, how you reach your clients and how you are able to serve them, especially in this time. Now the lack of that has made it very challenging, so we would like to see some real infrastructure changes and competition… We would like to see more emphasis placed on different channels or organisations that can really help businesses,” she said.

Dwyer Powell is encouraging the Government to implement measures to encourage the ease of doing business.

“…What has been my personal experience and feedback from the membership is that sometimes when they need particular resources or they go to them [government agencies] for help, too much bureaucracy, so it is almost like there is something there on paper that you can access, but they can never qualify. I am not saying that you should set the floor so low that there are no standards, but make it more practicable,” she said.

Owner of the world-famous Little Ochie Restaurant and Bar, Evrol “Blackie” Christian, is encouraging the Government to continue its track record and get COVID-19 under control.

“Get the COVID under control, Jamaica will be a new place for business, for tourists to come, and it would be like sunshine for every Jamaican,” Christian said.

Christian is also appealing for the continuation of road rehabilitation leading to Alligator Pond.

“The only movement that would make business better in my hemisphere is the completion of the road to Alligator Pond, because that is one of my major complaints from my customers,” he said.

Social activist, business operator and former president of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce Wendy Freckleton is of the view that there needs to be a focus on small business assistance.

“It definitely cannot be business as usual. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused quite a bit of difficulty. It is comforting to listen to the prime minister's presentation when he spoke about the assistance in terms of grant funding that would be given to businesses. I am particularly concerned about small businesses, especially in Manchester. Whenever there is a recession, there are some people who feel it the hardest. I would encourage the Government to not only look at ways they can help people financially, but offer training… COVID is really a new normal. It is going to be those who are innovative that will actually survive this period,” Freckleton said.

“I would like to see the Government training business owners in business management skills, customer service, and how to manage their online operations. Cybercrime will very soon become an issue as more businesses move towards an online platform,” she added.

Proprietor of Christiana Pharmacy Ivan Green is adamant that agriculture needs more support as well as infrastructure.

“With agriculture, if the crops are not going well, I see it in my cash register. Look at what we can do to ensure that the infrastructure around the town is built and dormitory areas provided with water and proper roads, so that the people who support the business community are safe at home and are comfortable. It is not just about the money or the business, it is the sources from which the business comes,” Green said.


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