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Iron dealers: Fix us up in 2012 budget

Beetham scrap iron dealers are calling on Government to include provisions to regularise their industry in the 2012 budget since this billion-dollar sector can help to diversify the economy. East Port-of-Spain dealers yesterday launched a formal group – the East Port-of-Spain Metal Recycling and Environmental Association (EPOSMREA) – to represent their concerns to Government. They said almost 1,000 people – from scrap iron salvagers to trucking and shipping personnel – have been affected by the confiscation of their materials by army personnel last month during the state of emergency.

When the situation occurred, scrap iron businessmen, like Joel Lee, Junior Williams and others, had appealed for compensation, a new location for the businesses and regularisation, since they said the scrap metal business employed a significant number in Beetham Gardens. They also had called on Government to apologise to Beetham Gardens residents after Government falsely inferred that an underground bunker of diesel fuel had been found in their scrapyards. The Customs Division subsequently revealed fuel bunkering was found to have been taking place at Sea Lots instead.

Yesterday, at a media briefing, officials of the association reiterated dealers’ concerns and how necessary Government intervention had become following loss of their materials. They said they have not been represented by the central scrap iron dealers who also have a formal organisation. Devon Welch, secretary of the new group, said: “We hope something can be done in the upcoming budget to regularise our industry to protect the survival of many families in an area where unemployment is 20 per cent and we also have to battle the stigma attached to Beetham Estate.

“The metal recycling sector is now a (US)$9 billion annual industry. This is Government’s chance to use this sector for the economic diversification which so many economists and businessmen are urging them to do in the budget. “They just cannot let the sector on our end die by taking away the materials and ending it like that.” Saying the group had written Trade Minister Stephen Cadiz on the issue, Welch said: “We are willing to pay taxes Government may require in a regularised industry and to have transparency. We will keep records to ensure no stolen metal is involved. The business will also ensure collection of scrap metal to prevent it becoming a garbage nuisance. “Look at Clico costing us $18 billion, we don’t want that much. All we are asking for is a little help to make our own way.”

President of the group, Wayne Jordan, said the East Port-of-Spain Development Company, during the PNM’s tenure, had found a temporary location at the nearby VEMCOTT compound for metal dealers. Jordan said the group would be happy with that area before a permanent base was found. Dealers also are hoping for some form of compensation for materials lost. The group has legal advisers, including PNM Senator and attorney Pennelope Beckles, assisting them. Members said they felt discriminated against and “unfairly targeted” since Beetham Estate was the only area where material was seized from scrap metal businesses.

Still calling for an apology from Government, they said the fact that materials were packed into containers and removed, suggested authorities did not take the dealers’ business seriously and implied pre-judgement that they were not entitled to compensation. The Trade Ministry recently signalled legislation to assist dealers would be in the works in the next few weeks.

Source Guardian

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