For those of you who don’t follow Jamaican news, one of the biggest scandals of the last few months was the revelation that the main supplier of cement to the country had released some 500 tons of inferior quality cement onto the market. Panicked by visions of collapsing buildings, the government ordered that the company cease distribution of cement until an investigation had been completed. The resulting shortage was catastrophic for the construction sector, with up to 30,000 workers threatened with temporary rendundancy. Because the cement company had benefitted from a quasi-monopoly on cement production, with preferential tax breaks, the government had a hard time getting supplies from other producers. It was a rare headline story that announced with jubilation the arrival of x amount of cement from Cuba.
It was also amusing to hear people sidling up to each other and whispering, “Got any stuff? I just need two bags.”
The crisis is pretty much over now, except for the opposition party calling for the minister in charge to be censured for his handling of the affair, largely because there’s little else they can do.
For others, however, more concrete (ahem) actions were needed, such as for these young entrepreneurs from the informal sector.