MONTEGO BAY, St James — PRESIDENT of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI) Davon Crump has warned that the growing perception that this resort city is dependent on an “informal economy” poses a serious challenge to the multi-billion-dollar tourism sector and business in general.
“This view, which is held by many of our officials, flies in the face of all the legitimate business owners sitting in this room this evening, and even those who are not represented here,” Crump told MBCCI’s 80th annual awards banquet at the Hilton’s Rose Hall Hotel last weekend.
“My feeling is that it also poses a challenge to our proud designation as Jamaica’s tourism mecca,” he added.
Crump said there was cause for concern when the situation was viewed against the backdrop of Montego Bay “being designated, whether officially or unofficially, as being supported primarily by an ‘informal economy’. It is felt that it’s always some underground scheme that is holding up this place at any given time, and which is ultimately responsible for the livelihood of a majority of our people”.
In recent years the lottery scam which is widespread in Montego Bay has reportedly raked in over US$300 million to the local economy.
It’s also alleged that in years past, Montego Bay played a major role in the smuggling of cocaine from Colombia to the USA.
Police have attributed some of the more gruesome murders in the ‘second city’ to such illegal activities as lottery scamming and drug smuggling.
Crump conceded that “there might be some merit to the perceived strength of Montego Bay’s informal economy” and threw down the gauntlet for legitimate business operators “to take steps to mitigate this”.
He called on the private and public sector to seriously explore ways to shore up corporate Montego Bay, through greater investment in assisting and developing small and medium-sized enterprises.
“Any meaningful action taken to strengthen Corporate Montego Bay will no doubt assist in changing the city’s unfavourable designation as the country’s scamming and murder capital,” the MBCCI president said.
He emphasised that over the years, the MBCCI has successfully advocated for, among other things, the establishment of an office of the Companies Office of Jamaica in Montego Bay, the Firearms Licensing Authority, the Montego Bay Convention Centre and the Old Hospital Park.