Opposition Senator Damion Crawford is hitting back at what he calls unreasonable demands by the Government of Jamaica to order the entertainment industry closed while still dragging its foot to offer relief to respective shareholders.
Crawford, a guest on popular television programme On Stage, which aired on Saturday (May 1), said it is a travesty that the ailing sector, ordered closed due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, is yet to see any “legitimate and material” aid more than a year later.
“Nothing has been put forward, just a statement. There has been no logical methodology; we’ve not seen that happening,” he told host Winford Williams.
Crawford, citing some $40 million reportedly earmarked by the government for the entertainment ecosystem, further argued he was not sure whether more inclusive courtesy was given to all players with assets in the industry.
“I’m saying, there must be great consideration firstly for those who own assets, whether [it’s] a sound system, a venue, lighting, or a studio—those assets need to be subsidised for depreciation over time. A man with a sound system that cost $5 million, in five years, must be able to renew his system. And so, if he is incapable to earn for a full year, then that $1 million depreciation will be a sunken cost for him, and by extension, put him out of business,” he argued.
In his proposal, Crawford suggested giving stakeholders in the entertainment industry a guaranteed, two-year moratorium on mortgages, at least on the interest accrued, where applicable, as well as the depreciative consideration on entertainment-related assets.
Additionally, persons formally employed by the sector should also not have to worry about paying respective water and electric utility bills, as Crawford proposed a $4,000 voucher in each instance.
According to Crawford, it would have been better if the government had set up a registration system and have some persons fall off than being caught flat-footed as it seems now.
“We had a year to do the background work, the entertainment [sector] was closed in March. It was the first industry to be closed, therefore, the fact that has not been done suggest that entertainment was not perceived to be a priority,” he said.
“In fact, the Minister of Finance [Nigel Clarke] spoke to taxis and other groups but he did not speak to entertainment in his [budget] presentation and one of the realities is that entertainment has never been embraced by government in this country,” Crawford continued.
The Opposition Senator further argued that while other sectors are affected by closures due to demand, like tourism, entertainment has been shuttered by enacting law.
Addressing the House of Representatives back in late January, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said several proposals had been sent in about how the industry can return to some kind of functionality.
“What I have directed to be done is that the Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport; the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, and the Minister of Health, they will be meeting next week to review the proposals … and at the end of that review, we will come back to Parliament and report as to what might be possible,” Holness said.
To date, after a brief, four-week stint between July and August 2020, entertainemnt-related remains banned in Jamaica.