Craft Vendors are up in arms against the Government over what they charged yesterday was a series of broken promises made to them and also a general lack of accountability in the country.
About 100 vendors representing 16 craft markets across the island gathered in Ocho Rios yesterday to express their concerns.
They also endorsed the “Joe Issa initiative” which calls on political representatives to be more accountable to their constituents.
The initiative, which was ratified at a meeting of business leaders from across the island in Ocho Rios several weeks ago in the brainchild of Joe Issa, the executive vice president of SuperClubs Resorts.
It calls for candidates contesting the upcoming general election to enter into a covenant with their constituents where, if elected, they would address two of the most critical issues facing their constituency and within a “reasonable period of time”.
The craft traders note that it was “full time their vices be heard clearly” and without them having to resort to disruptive protests. At a press conference at the Pineapple Place Craft Market, the presidents and representatives of each craft market claimed that the Issa-initiative could be one of the best thing to get the craft sector back in business.
The press conference was something of a relief to the authorities in Ocho Rios who were bracing themselves for a major protest, amid rumours that the vendors were being mobilized to disrupt business in the resort town.
However, the vendors made it clear that they were only making their voices heard at this time but warned that if things continue as they are, they will have no choice but to tae their grouses to the streets.
“We have been doing absolutely no business at any of the craft markets,” said Gloria Wright, an executive member of the All Island Craft Markets Association.
“The Indians (duty free merchants) are getting the priority while all we get is promises. For too long we have been buried down and instead of going to our shops to do business, we have been confined to playing ludo and dominoes,” Wright added.
National president Mildred McCalla said despite repeated complaints to the authorities over the years, only promises of assistance is made and that things would have been better if a system of accountability was in place to ensure that thee promises were fulfilled.
Among the promises made to the vendors, McCalla said, was that all markets would be upgraded and the craft sector promoted on board the various cruise ships that make calls to Jamaica. But McCalla said these promises are yet to be fulfilled.
Lloyd Chambers, of the Negril Craft Traders Association said it was time the craft sector be allowed its rightful place as a major entity within the tourist trade.
Among the demands the craft vendors made at yesterday’s press conference, were tax incentives from Government, the creation of a brochure to promote all craft markets across the island, for the Jamaica Tourist Board to allocate a portion of its advertising budget toward the promotion of the craft industry and the need for greater support from hotels, most of which they claimed do not encourage their guests to visit the craft market.
Several of the craft markets are owned by the UDC and vendor at these markets owed the UDC thousands of dollars in outstanding rent and the vendor are asking Government to give them the bail out light of their difficulties.
The meeting was also addressed by president of the St. Ann Chamber of Commerce, Andrew Grant who encouraged the vendors to be specific in their demands and to have dialogue before resorting to any form of protest.
Source: The Gleaner