Diaspora confident UK-Jamaica trade will improve
Jamaican entrepreneurs in the UK are confident trading opportunities between the two countries will experience a boost following the recent UK election results.
The upbeat analysis follows a landslide victory by the Conservative Party during last month’s general election, which resulted in the worst election defeat for the opposition Labour Party in 80 years.
The Tory Party’s victory means British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will have a big majority in the House of Commons and the mandate to push through Brexit by the end of January.
Dr Carlton Brown, the founder and chief executive officer of Marshall & Brown, suppliers of high-end Jamaican sauces, cakes, and chocolates, is a businessperson who is upbeat following the election result.
Although the Labour Party’s crushing defeat was not a surprise to the Jamaican doctor, he believes the political landscape is now conducive to trade.
“Countries and people look for certainty, when deciding when and how to invest finances. While Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, is a principled politician, there were concerns about his financial acumen. With the general election finished, Britain will now experience a bounce or boost in confidence and small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) can make financial and strategic commitments. Also, I expect an increase in the strength of the pound, which will allow me to produce goods at a cheaper rate and increase my profits,” Brown said.
Dr Kevin Brown, chair of the Jamaican Diaspora in the UK, disagrees with Marshall & Brown’s founder. He believes that there will be economic uncertainty in the short term because trading negotiations with the EU will need to be discussed, before being finalised by the end of 2020.
He said: “I believe there will be a high level of uncertainty this year, but I think the economic decline will be moderate because many may have been preparing for the scenario we are in.”
Vasco Stevenson, 77, is a medical practitioner, who lives in southeast London. He believes Caribbean businesspeople can only thrive during the next few years, if they adopt a more far-sighted approach to trade.
The entrepreneur stressed: “Caribbean people need to capture business from other minorities and mainstream markets, rather than limiting their trade to Jamaicans or other Caribbean islanders. Of course, doing business online provides access to a global market.”
In the medium to the long term following the general election, numerous businesspeople highlighted the expectation that Great Britain will seek trading partners with Commonwealth countries, including those in the Caribbean.
Dr Carlton Brown said: “There are a lot of good companies in Jamaica and I expect a growing number of British businesspeople will capitalise on this during the post-Brexit era.”
Dr Kevin Brown is less confident that the British Government will seek trading partners from the Caribbean, based on its recent track record.
The chair of the Jamaican Diaspora in the UK believes that given the relatively small size of the Caribbean economies, there is strong likelihood that they will be overlooked during trade discussions. He believes the British government’s focus will be towards the faster-growing African countries.
To meet the challenge, Brown is encouraging a more cohesive approach from the Caribbean region.
“The Caribbean needs to start negotiating with Britain through CARICOM (the Caribbean Community) for fair trade and with African and Pacific countries blocs,” he said.
Evadney Campbell, the co-founder of Shiloh PR, who provide media training and representation, said SMEs will be adversely affected by the re-election of the Conservative party.
Campbell said: “The Tory party’s austerity policies will mean that small and medium-sized enterprises owned by Caribbean persons will struggle to get loans to start and expand businesses. Companies will fold or will remain at a micro level.
“Surely, a lack of financial support for small businesses who cannot expand and employ staff is not good for this country in the long term.”