Police Killings, Crime and Doing Business in Jamaica (and the Caribbean)

The Reality of Crime and its Impact on Businesses

It was just this weekend I was having a very sober conversation with my brother after hearing about the killing of Dr. Barrington Dixon, a stalwart in the medical profession – killed at his home in Montego Bay St. James. It rested on me. Why? Not because I knew him (I don’t), or because I am a doctor (I’m not); but because this was a productive citizen, a relative of someone somewhere, a man who was minding his own business but somebody made it their business to seek him out. This was a highly professional person, a man that was contributing significantly to his community and the economy of his country.

This rested with me, because as a young Jamaican interested in investing and building this country, one who has chosen not to migrate, but to stay and live and work and do business in this the land of my birth, honestly not a day goes by when the reality of being attacked by criminals does not go by.

Police hard at work


The Minority and The Constant Focus on Crime

It’s sad though. Very Sad. Why? Because while crime is a big deal, we have many productive citizens, families and businesses that have decided to work and stay here. We have people that are doing well – scientists, athletes, companies that are producing world leading products and employees, and we are located in one of the best places ever. The truth is, the majority of us are decent law abiding citizens – it is really the minority that is painting a bad name for the country.

One significant point that was made in my little discussion on saturday was that yes crime was a significant problem but the reality of it was that crime gets a lot of focus and significant media coverage – too much. That point certainly did help a lot to put things perspective. We report a lot on crime! I am doing it now. In a 2010 Gleaner article it was reported that above everything else, what Jamaica reports on the most is crime. The article ‘Crime, Violence Gets More Media Coverage – Survey’ by Laura Redpath stated

A study carried out by Women’s Media Watch shows that Jamaica, in comparison to other newspapers worldwide, reported less on the economy and more coverage was given to crime and violence.

Of course, we know reporting on it less will not make it more insignificant.

The Repercussions – 3 Reasons Crime is Bad for the Economy

The question is though what are the repercussions for businesses in Jamaica and the Caribbean? Quite a few.

The World Bank has done well to highlight the impact of crime on businesses in Jamaica, and I will list a few.

  • Negative impact on the investment climate– Crime can deter or delay both domestic and foreign investment, and hence growth.Erodes the development of human capital as well as social capital and thus constrains the potential for growth
    • It leads to higher cost of doing business, because of the need to employ different forms of security, and diverts investment away from business expansion and productivity improvement, and may lead to a less than optimal operating strategy.
    • It leads to business losses, arising from looting, arson, theft, extortion and fraud.
    • It leads to loss of output because of reduced hours of operation (including avoiding  night shifts) or loss of workdays arising from outbreaks of violence, and avoidance of some types of economic activity.
    • It also reduces output because of the temporary (from injury) or permanent (from murder) exit of individuals from the labor force.
    • It can also cause a permanent shut-down of firms or relocation to less crime-prone countries.
  • Erodes the development of human capital as well as social capital and thus constrains the potential for growth
  • Diverts public resources excessively away from productive uses that have a potentially much higher impact on social development and growth, to areas such as police, justice, the medical system (for treatment of violence-related injuries and trauma)

When an investor from Italy buys one of Jamaica’s largest companies, something that immediately makes all international headlines (Bloomberg, Reuters, Wall Street Journal etc) and puts the country in an international light, how do these and other investors feel to know that they are investing in country with one of the highest rates of violent crimes?

When a young man goes to school and decides to become an entrepreneur and is later greeted by requests for ‘protection money’ and then decides to close down his dream company, how does that help the economy?

We have to be wise a a nation and begin to do more to develop this wonderful island. High rates of crime coupled with police brutality does little to help the image and future of this country. Jamaica coulda be a gold mine suh till, wi ah limit wi potential wid all this crime, and all this focus on crime.

How does crime affect your business and investing decisions?

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