Above: From left: Industry, Investment and Commerce State Minister, Hon. Michael Stern and Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Dr Christopher Tufton (right), at his New Kingston offices, Tuesday. (JIS Photo)
By the Caribbean Journal staff
A controversy is growing in Jamaica over the decision by the government to totally ban the export of scrap metal from the country.
Jamaican Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment Dr Christopher Tufton announced the move on Tuesday, saying it came against a backdrop of widespread pillaging of metal over the past three years.
“Noting the correlation between increased demand, high metal prices and the rise in metal theft, Cabinet said it was forced to take the drastic action of imposing the [total] ban in the national interest, in order to curb the wanton theft and destruction of valuable property owned and used by legitimate operators,” Tufton said.
The opposition People’s National Party, however, said in its previous discussions with the government over a potential ban, and had only supported a temporary one.
“The simple fact is that the prohibition in the context of ever-increasing demand, driven by an external market in the metal trade, is not likely to work for other than a short period of time,” said MP Anthony Hylton, the PNP’s spokesman on industry, investment and commerce, in a statement. “It may only succeed in driving the trade underground, rather than eliminate the trade.”
Tufton said the theft of scrap metal had cost the government and the private sector more than $1 billion over the past several years.
“What we cannot afford to take place as a government and as a country, is the operation of any economic activity that encourages and facilitates a level of disorder or lawlessness that hinders legitimate, law-abiding operators from exercising their right to pursue business opportunities,” Tufton said.