Crawford wants to adjust mindset of 'gem' Portland

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, March 17, 2019

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DAMION Crawford, the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) candidate for the Portland Eastern by-election, has tasked himself with changing the mindset of constituents in the relatively safe seat for his party.

Crawford, who recently resigned from his post as senator in Parliament's Upper House, described Portland Eastern as a “gem” when he sat down with the Jamaica Observer last Tuesday for an interview.

“A gem doesn't need a jeweller; it's actually the jeweller that needs the gem. A gem is still a gem regardless of whether or not a jeweller takes it and shapes it. So, therefore, what I am here to do is to, first of all, change the mindset,” the PNP vice-president said.

Crawford is proposing to reverse the challenges regarding unemployment in the rural constituency through entrepreneurship, which he said, is a direct response to joblessness.

“I've outlined many areas in East Portland which are ripe for entrepreneurship, one of which is ornamental fish or pet fishing. The world is importing about US$500 million in pet fish. Currently, Jamaica is at US$15,000 exportation. We are targeting US$10 million coming out of Jamaica. Pet fishing is simple. [They] can be raised in any house or yard in East Portland. One of the benefits is that they have big yard spaces,” he told the Sunday Observer.

He also wants constituents to focus on lilapia fishing which, he said, the country is mostly importing. He explained that the country imported US$27 million in Tilapia fish for the tourism sector, something the residents of Portland could easily do.

Crawford said it will not be difficult for residents to achieve, since this type of fish thrives fresh water — rivers or ponds.

“It used to be done here, but after Hurricane Ivan they gave up on it, and we're going to reintroduce it. We'll reintroduce it in a way by having small farmers matched with large hotels by having centralised purchasing. We'll be forming the East Portland Development Company, and they will be responsible for the centralised purchasing. So each person can put in two or three or four ponds. However, when we are selling we'll be selling 25 ponds, 45 ponds of fish, because of that reality,” he said, adding that farmers will be staggered so that the constituency never runs short.

Crawford also explained that he wants the constituency to be self-sufficient in chicken — an area in which he said he has come to gain experience. He said that young men will be organised in groups of eight with each having their own chicken coop, but the groups will be staggered so that there is always supply.

“What we're doing is changing the mindset of just a job to creating businessmen and businesswomen among these young people, and organise it in such a way that they can compete in the open market,” he said.

Tourism is another area he said he will be targeting to improve on job availability.

“Every room occupied by a tourist is 1.2 jobs, so 100 rooms will give you 120 jobs. We have a 100-room property here — Dragon Bay — that we're hoping will be open soon, and whoever is the victor will have to engage the entrepreneurs who own that property. One of the reasons for the delay, of course, has been that the Government of Jamaica has removed money for the Harbour View to Portland Highway, which then gives accessibility to Portland and allows for Portland to see development...” he said.

“The PNP is committed to doing that, but whatever they will give us in the interim will assist in the increase in the likelihood of tourism coming back. We are looking at attracting European tourists, however, through the reggae shows that we want to promote in East Portland. We see what entertainment tourism has done for Negril — ATI in my days, now Dream Weekend and others,” the former St Andrew East Rural Member of Parliament said.

He added that a PNP leadership in the constituency will buy into reggae festivals that have become popular in Europe and are averaging some 33,000 people.

“If 10 per cent of those should come to Jamaica for the real authentic experience under that brand that we're known for and have experience and confidence in, then we are going to those people to say keep a real Reggae Sun Ska in Jamaica so that that 10 per cent of your following can come into East Portland. We have Folly [Oval] where we can stage that. We also have Navy Island that we can look at as kind of a central park. These people use small houses and villas, but they also use a lot of tents,” said Crawford.

He will run against the Jamaica Labour Party's Ann-Marie Vaz.

The seat became vacant in February when Dr Lynvale Bloomfield was murdered.


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