Vendors wary of loans

MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica – Victims of last week’s fire at the Harbour Street Craft Market in Montego Bay, Jamaica, which left an estimated $10 million in losses, are reluctant to take up an interest-free loan from Government to rehabilitate their businesses.

“We will have to sit down and work out how these loans will be repaid, as presently we are doing extremely low business,” said Melody Haughton, president of the Mont-ego Bay Craft Vendors Association.

“We don’t get as much business as we ought to get, and I am afraid that when these vendors get these loans and they are not paid back, we will be labelled as being delinquent.”

Ms Haughton was responding yesterday to an announcement by Dr. Wykeham McNeill, State Minister in the Ministry of Tourism, Entertainment and Culture, that the Government will be assisting victims of the fire to rehabilitate their businesses through the Tourism Product Development Company.

But 67-year-old Gladys Heaven, who lost everything in the fire, said she has n but to take up the offer and hope for the best.

“I have no other source of income. I lost everything, and I simply might have to accept the offer because I can’t sit around like this,” commented the craft vendor of 29 years.

According to the State Minister, three types of loans will be made available to victims of the fire.

Owners of shops that were destroyed will receive $50,000 while $30,000 will be offered to those with water damage. Craft vendors with smoke damage will get $20,000.

“What we have done is an internal assessment of what is needed imme-diately, so that we can get the markets back in place as quickly as possible so that we don’t have any disruptions,” he explained.

Dr. McNeill was speaking to the media following a tour of the facility.

The blaze last Wednesday night gutted three shops and resulted in minor damage to seven others.

Some two months earlier, a fire also damaged a section of the Old Fort Craft Market in Montego Bay.

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