Jamaica Praised for Economic Openness


Representatives of the international financial community have praised Jamaica for its economic openness, and have recognized the country’s efforts to reduce regulatory impediments to foreign investment.
This came out of a successful investment briefing in Washington D.C., on April 29, which also provided participants with a comprehensive overview of the Jamaican economy and highlighted current activity in key productive sectors in the island.
The briefing was organized by the Embassy of Jamaica and Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO), with strong sponsorship and support from Mirant Corporation, which operates the Jamaica Public Service Company.
Prominent Washington law firm, Covington and Burling hosted the event, which was attended by representatives of several American corporations and the international financial community, U.S. government officials, as well as members of the Washington diplomatic community. The Jamaican delegation was led by the Minister of Development, Dr. Paul Robertson, who also addressed the forum. Accompanying him were JAMPRO President, Patricia Francis and Executive Director, Michael McMorris. The meeting was also attended by the Jamaican Consul General in Miami, Ricardo Allicock, and chaired by the Embassy’s Charge d’Affaires, Courtenay Rattray.
Peter Melhado, President of the ICD Group of Companies in Jamaica, represented the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ).
A key theme at Thursday’s briefing was Jamaica’s ranking in the recently published report, ‘Doing Business in 2004’, which is a new annual publication of the World Bank. It provides information on the existing business climate in over 130 countries around the world.
In the current ranking, Jamaica placed fifth in countries that regulated business the least and was the only developing country in the top 10, which included the United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, and Australia. Addressing the forum, the JAMPRO President noted that the Jamaican government continued to place significant priority on opening the economy and continuing the process of liberalization that it has undertaken since the beginning of the 1990s. She observed that the emerging perception of the country as a location which actively sought and welcomed investment, was due in part to government’s clear objective to decrease barriers to external participation in the Jamaican economy.
“Our liberalization of utilities and telecommunications, our commitment to protect intellectual property rights as well as our campaign to modernize the Jamaican economy, have all sent clear signals that Jamaica is ready to do business and is fully focused on providing the appropriate environment which is conducive to new foreign direct investment,” Mrs. Francis said.
The President also pointed to clear benefits which had accrued from government’s national industrial policy, which she described as an important framework which would aid the continued transformation of Jamaica into a knowledge-based economy and thus foster sustainable development. In his address, Mr. Melhado acquainted those attending the briefing with current activity in key economic sectors, such as tourism, telecommunications, mining, banking and utilities.
He highlighted the robust growth that had taken place in the Jamaican telecoms industry and cited the US$692 million investment over the past three years, mainly by four cellular providers, in that sector.
He also pointed to new projected investment of US$690 million in the mining sector, as well as significant growth prospects for the country’s hospitality industry.
Citing crime and drug-related violence as important challenges that had to be dealt with, Mr. Melhado nonetheless predicted that current trends in the economy were cause for optimism and encouraged U.S. companies to expand their current engagement with the Jamaican economy.
Prior to Minister Robertson’s submission, representatives of American companies currently investing in Jamaica took the opportunity to provide testimonials aimed at encouraging other U.S. firms to consider similar commitments. Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Jamaica, Becky Stockhausen, called on U.S. companies to deepen their involvement in Jamaica and to take advantage of increasing opportunities to do business in sectors such as tourism and telecommunications.
She also informed the briefing about collaborative efforts underway between AmCham-Jamaica and the Jamaican government in seeking to combat inner-city crime.
Mrs. Stockhausen encouraged prospective investors to look beyond sensational news reports concerning criminal activity in the island, noting that while there were risks to personal safety, just like in major cities in North America, this should not constitute a deterrent to exploring Jamaica for profitable investment options.
Head of Rose Hall Developments Ltd. in Jamaica, Michele Rollins, spoke of her decades-long association with Jamaica, particularly in the hospitality sector. Describing Jamaican workers as committed and talented, Mrs. Rollins made a strong case for increased foreign direct investment in a range of industries in the island. She described her relationship with the Jamaican government and its investment promotions agency JAMPRO, as extremely productive and beneficial.
“This has been a wonderfully rewarding experience for me, which has served to strengthen my optimism about Jamaica and the future of its wonderful and talented people. I encourage you to come to Jamaica, to see it for yourselves, and see the opportunities that definitely do exist,” she said.
For his part, Dr. Robertson highlighted the successes of the Jamaican government in removing obstacles to foreign investment and creating a macro-economic environment that was inviting to business development and the expansion of commercial enterprises.
Characterizing the process of liberalization as a difficult but necessary process, Dr. Robertson said that economic gains were now being made as a result of these policies. “Today, we can truly assert that the Jamaican economy is well on its way to reaping the rewards of a commitment to achieving (this) transformation and we are pursuing our objectives, cognizant that the process must continue,” he said. “The country’s prospects for sustainable economic development have never been better. There is growth, in several sectors – tourism, telecommunications and infrastructure, agriculture and bauxite. This has helped to return confidence and stability to the economy, but increased investment is critical to maintaining this trend,” the Minister emphasised.
Turning to the critical role that foreign investment continues to play in the growth of the Jamaican economy, Dr. Robertson described it as “important and central”.
“In all this, foreign direct investment remains an integral part of the development strategy of the country. Jamaica’s main objective is to transform itself into a knowledge-based economy generating value-added exports and sustaining wealth creation with high-paying jobs, using foreign private investment as a strategic tool to meet its development goals of human capital improvement, increased productivity, job creation, transfer of technology, and export diversification,” he said.
The Minister said he was confident of Jamaica’s economic prospects and pledged that the government would redouble its efforts to engage foreign enterprises and increase their awareness of opportunities for expanded and new investments in the island.

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