scrap metal

The Editorial of the Daily Gleaner of Thursday July 28th read: SCRAP METAL BAN A CONCESSION TO DISORDER: After reading the article I was left befuddled and disoriented.My only response was …huh ? Now let me just say I will not question the sincerity or spirit in which the editorial piece was written. After all the central theme seem to have been, not bowing to crime, at least I am prepared to give that to the Editor , But you know me I am always on the side of the rule of law, so I will embrace the theory of the enemy of my enemy is my friend , this once. Well I think the Editor was unpleasantly surprised.  All hell broke loose on the online version of their publication, readers unleashed an avalanche of disgust and condemnation at the Article,and on this I must commend the moderators for publishing 32 comments which almost  in totality ripped the Article to shreds. Knowing how the moderators of that forum operate , I  wonder how many angry comments were actually scrubbed.  But lets not get ahead of ourselves, lets hear what the Editor had to say.


We are in sympathy with Mr Karl Samuda’s position on the decision by his successor, Dr Christopher Tufton, to shut down the scrap metal industry and ban the export of the stuff.

It smacks, as Mr Samuda says, of “surrendering to the rogue elements”. Put another way, the move represents another retreat of law and order.We, of course, do not presume that the conundrum presented to Dr Tufton, the recently appointed investment and commerce minister, was to be easily traversed or solved. Nor did it develop under his watch.[daily gleaner] Ok mister editor, we are at a loss here,…… really? so the minister decides to clamp down on the pillaging and plunder of the country’s infrastructure, he institutes a temporary  ban with a view to figure out a way forward and you object ? On what grounds do you object sir? For Mr Samuda had struggled with the problem of damage to infrastructure and theft by scavengers, who rustle metal of all kinds to cash in on the high price for scrap on the world market. Indeed, Dr Tufton estimates that utility companies and other legitimate businesses, including government agencies, have lost up to J$1 billion in material over the past three years to metal thieves, who sometimes rip down power and telecommunications equipment, with negative consequences to economic productivity. The problem grew worse as the availability of scrap metal declined, as the price of the commodity hiked and more players entered the business.[gleaner editor] Great point , and I would imagine that since you are conversant with those realities then  you would see the need for at least a halt of this business. A halt that would allow for a level-headed assessment to be done. After all one cannot turn around and head in  the opposite direction from a dead sprint without first coming to a stop. But no, the editor went on thus>.

Damning Statement on Insecurity

The Government’s decision to shut down the sector ought to give the average Jamaican no joy, no matter the spin of the Administration, and even if it has the desired effect of curbing the pillaging and defacement. For the decision is a statement about insecurity in our country; a tacit admission by the State of its inability to protect either public or private property. This is precisely the point we sought to make when Mr Samuda, then the responsible minister, recovered, by private initiative, a stolen priceless bronze sculpture by Edna Manley that was reportedly on its way to being scrap metal export. No one, in so far as we are aware, was ever arrested, charged, prosecuted or convicted for that theft. Mr Samuda, it appears, has come around to an appreciation of the dangerous consequences of this kind of surrender “to the rogue elements”. That, notwithstanding, it is difficult for us to believe that it is beyond the capacity of our Government to ensure, within the context of a system of free enterprise, the orderly operation of a sector of a few dozen people.[gleaner editor]

Truck laden with scrap metal
Truck laden with scrap metal

The Government’s decision to shut down the sector ought to give the average Jamaican no joy, no matter the spin of the administration: Ok so I thought the Article was supposed to give an honest Editorial assessment of a very serious problem , one of many  plaguing our country. But this seem to be another critique of the Government. Don’t get me wrong ,that is the Editorial and indeed the Newspaper’s right, but I thought we were discussing the scrap metal ban. Anyway since the Editor raised the question of  not acquiescing to criminality , doesn’t the Editor then agree that the move by Minister Tufton is exactly what is needed to stem the dismantling of critical infrastructure? I thought that having said all of that he would realize the fallacy of his arguments and pull back from the brink, but no he had more to say.

[Bad signal]

[If the Jamaican State can’t manage this, what ought the mass of the Jamaican people to assume about its ability to preserve their safety and to protect the right of individual property and, more important, the maintenance of law and order, which is the primary responsibility of the State? But supposing that Dr Tufton’s finger-in-the-dyke solution suffices for now, his longer-term proposal for the export of scrap metal seems problematic. Companies that generate scrap metal will be allowed, according to the minister, to apply for permits to export that scrap. This suggests that these firms will be forced into a line of business outside their core portfolio. And what of other scrap metal generated by households or by firms that don’t have the capacity to organise their own export? We, perhaps, can look forward to there being plenty of scrap with which to block roads while people demand justice].[gleaner editor]

Mister editor , the country is drowning in the blood of the innocent , last week 20 people were reported slaughtered,in a country of 2.7 million people , how long do you think it will take to reach you and others who feel it is someone else’s  problem. The country’s security forces , under-staffed, under-funded,under-supported, over worked, under paid and demoralized, are finding it a huge struggle just to contain the killing spree which  obtains in Jamaica.Our security forces running from one hot spot to another,  it really is  as you said sticking their finger in the dyke, trying to stem the flow of blood. Arguing that the State should be in a position to stem the infrastructural dismantling is a ridiculous attempt at posturing and bears no relationship with an understanding of the country’s security capability. The country is fighting an existential battle between civilization and outright anarchy, the latter, supported and funded by powerful and well-connected people within the country. The forces of  good are having a difficult time in that fight, where are the resources to come from that would secure copper wire on telephone poles and bridge railings? I understand the comments in the context of what ought to be the proper course of action, but the country is simply not in a position to do this , so we are left with a situation of dealing with what is possible. It simply is not possible to police all of Jamaica’s infrastructure, that makes it doubly important, what the Minister did.

Handcart laden with scrap metal
Handcart laden with scrap metal

As some readers have argued online, Jamaica’s scrap metal industry was never a sustainable industry to begin with, it is a opportunistic industry,[industry ]used loosely . The country does not manufacture scrap metal,  it follows that sooner or later it would get to this, meaning those who sell scrap metal would inevitably resort to stealing the product particularly when viewed  alongside  the high demand for the product. The dilemma posed to legitimate scrap metal dealers is not confined to that sector, but is rather a greater indictment on the Jamaican psyche. If it’s not scrap metal it would be something else, if somehow  investors set up businesses to buy old building bricks, in no time Spanish town as we know it would be no more . People would literally dismantle the old capital. The issue here is the level of civic-mindedness that is inherent in our people, or  the lack thereof. I await the howls of disagreement coming from the [“eat a food crowd”] . As far as most of these people are concerned it matters not if they destroy the country, brick by brick and have to tread water in the Caribbean sea to [eat the food], country be damned, eating a food is paramount.

Many years ago as a young Police Officer I was part of a team of officers  involved in an early morning raid in a certain community just on the environs of Spanish Town. At the time we were operating under emergency powers , which allowed us to enter homes without a warrant.  A couple of us entered a shack that had a single broken down cot , and a, metal cabinet in one corner . That was the totality of the furnishings in the humble one room abode. Sitting on the cot was a middle-aged gentleman, who was very accommodating to our intrusion and queries, I asked him if I could look at was inside the cabinet, he agreed. Inside the cabinet was a large amount  of what appeared to be machine parts, I inquired of him how he came to be in possession of the machine parts?  He told me he took them from the lead factory in Spanish Town where he worked . I asked him “do you still work there” ? to which he replied ” no officer due to the stealing the factory closed down”

This problem is not new , it did not start yesterday, and it will not be fixed immediately. The minister did exactly what  needed  to be done , in stepping back , taking a deep breath , with a view to coming up with a workable solution. Jamaica’s development is being hampered by Jamaicans , we take one step forward , then take two steps backwards. Our economy, despite sneezes in the world economy , could be doing markedly better, we are a small country of under three million people.  We produce food sometimes more that we can consume , yet we choose to import the same foods , rather that teach farmers how to plant crops on a schedule to eliminate glut in the market ,as well as to ensure continuity of supplies.

We Kill business people because we were told those who work hard and achieved, are evil Capitalists, whose hard-earned rewards should be taken away and given to the poor. We spend enormous amounts  of foreign exchange we do not have, rather than encourage investment in solar and wind energy, two commodities that are never in short supply in the country, I could go on and on about the crime and exorbitant cost of energy that has all but removed Jamaica from the list of places to do business. Our people have literally been reduced to a Nation of beggars, some choosing to live way above their means. How can we ever change that dichotomy  when our number two foreign exchange earner is remittance? the (largess of people living abroad).

The number one earner tourism , is an accident waiting to happen, any upheaval  could potentially  put and end to that sector.  What we need at this time I humbly suggest is a change in attitude, we must become patriotic Jamaicans again, unless we return to being Nationalist the destruction of our country will continue. At this rate  soon there  will be  nothing,…… nothing except the most demonic of the merciless murderers , and a  barren  wasteland of blood drenched terrain.

Mogadishu anyone?


have your say:



One thought on “SCRAP METAL SAGA

Comments are closed.