PRESIDENT of the Scrap Iron Dealers Association (TTSIDA) Allan Ferguson said a policy being proposed will keep out scoundrels operating in the industry and stealing, instead of buying materials.
“People just want to jump into this business and then companies missing things. We have been getting complaints, so we know why we want this policy to come into effect,” Ferguson said on Friday.
He said the policy has been drafted in consultation with the TTSIDA and assured it will not harm, but regulate and protect the industry and the individuals involved in the scrap iron trade.
“If members do the right thing they will not have to pay a hefty $50,000 fine being proposed if they do not have a licence to operate.”
Theft is one of the compelling reasons the Ministry of Trade, since 2013, has been trying to regulate this industry, which has been growing globally, as reflected domestically.
Statistics provided by the Central Statistical Office (CSO) show scrap metal exports escalated from $69 million in 2009 to $96 million in 2010, an increase of 39 per cent in a year.
In giving a rationale for this policy, the ministry noted a correlation between the growth of scrap iron exports to an increase in theft of similar types of metal which supported the country’s infrastructure.
It identified theft of cable, water pumps, manhole covers, conveyor systems, bridge railings from TT Electricity Commission (T&TEC), the Telecommunication Service (TSTT), the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) and former Petrotrin, during the same period scrap iron dealers registered an increase in economic activities.
The policy is expected to be laid in the Parliament early in 2021.
According to the executive summary of the proposed policy, the industry has provided viable business opportunities for a number of small and micro-enterprises in TT, achieving some of the country’s socio-economic objectives, including employment creation and trade promotion.
However, issues have been raised by stakeholders relating to procurement, pricing, and the marketing and distribution of scrap metal that continue to stymie the industry’s development.
Specifically, the policy seeks to provide the framework that will ensure compliance with health and environmental requirements, an improved licensing and monitoring system for the industry, reduction in the incidence of scrap metal theft, an increased accountability and transparency for tax administration.
In her column in Newsday, industrial relations consultant Diana Mahabir-Wyatt felt the new regulations would make it difficult for the dealers, including ex-prisoners, to operate if they have to get police certificates of good character and give receipts to those they are buying from.
“We support the decision for collectors to get licensed because we have challenges with some of them (collectors) going all over the place and taking up people’s materials," Ferguson said.
“We need to have some regulations and if you have to get a licence, you must be able to get a police certificate of good character, have an address, because you will be going into people’s place.”
At present, he said, some members cannot even go to the banks to access a loan, but with this new regulation and with records of their transactions that would change.
He admitted ex-prisoners are hired but assured they are kept in the scrapyards and not put in collectors' trucks.
“We don’t put them on the field to work. If anybody doing that, they are on their own.
“We have to protect our association, and our members, who are conducting legitimate business.”
Ferguson said one item in the draft policy the dealers want amended seeks to have customs and police officers present when they are filling containers for export.
He said they have the latest technology which allows for containers to be filled in ten minutes, but there are insufficient custom officers to supervise and if this becomes law that would slow down their operation.
“We export the largest number out of TT every month. If that is put in place they will mash up the industry. We told them we want that amended before it goes to Parliament.”