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Story Highlights

  • The highly profitable Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry is poised to reap significant benefits for the local economy, with the generation of some 15,000 additional jobs over the next five years.
  • BPO, which involves subcontracting various business-related operations to a third party provider, is considered one of the most promising areas for spurring job creation and development in the Jamaican economy.
  • The Government is taking advantage of the opportunities being provided by the BPO industry, to provide space for such operations across the island.

The highly profitable Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry is poised to reap significant benefits for the local economy, with the generation of some 15,000 additional jobs over the next five years.

BPO, which involves subcontracting various business-related operations to a third party provider, is considered one of the most promising areas for spurring job creation and development in the Jamaican economy.

As such, a National Five-Year Strategy for the expansion of the sector has been developed, which will be presented to Cabinet shortly.

Additionally, Cabinet will, in short order, grant oversight to the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO), for the provision of financing support for infrastructure development and training, as well as an aggressive marketing strategy.

The move is aimed at enhancing employment and profitability of investments in the sector.

Finance and Planning Minister, Dr. the Hon. Peter Phillips, says the “sky is the limit” as it regards growth in the sector.

Dr. Phillips, who was opening the 2015/16 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives on March 12, says a strategic objective is to move Jamaica up in the value chain in the BPO industry, from simple call centres, up to knowledge processing centres.

This, he says, will involve outsourcing more professional services, such as legal and accounting support, software development and technical support services.

The BPO sector in Jamaica has seen significant growth in recent months with the construction and lease of some 50,000 square feet of space in the Barnett Tech Park, while plans are being finalised for construction and leases are being negotiated for another 100,000 square feet.

A 70,000 square-foot facility in Kingston (formerly the Claro building) is now being used for BPO operations, with a local investor purchasing the building, and a 70,000-square foot BPO facility has been completed in Mandeville, Manchester.

Additionally, the multibillion-dollar BPO company, Sutherland Global Services, recently announced plans to expand to Mandeville, within six months.

Sutherland, which already employs 2,000 Jamaicans, will be the first customer-care operator to open shop in Manchester. With Mandeville, the company’s headcount will grow to some 3,000 workers.

The Government is taking advantage of the opportunities being provided by the BPO industry, to provide space for such operations across the island.

This involves plans for the use of some 63,000 square feet of space in the Montego Bay Free Zone to facilitate the expansion of the sector. This project is being undertaken by the Port Authority of Jamaica.

In light of the Government’s plans for the sector, Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Transport, Works and Housing, Dr. Morais Guy, is encouraging the Montego Bay Free Zone Company to put the necessary procedures in place to attract more investors to Jamaica.

“The investment opportunities provided through this facility engenders high levels of productivity, which is integral to the economic development of the country,” he says, noting the BPO sector is on course to double its size over the next five years.

Dr. Guy notes further that, “with Jamaica being ranked as the leading outsourcing location in the English-speaking Caribbean, the free zone is a perfect place for investment to establish contact shelters and shipping facilities to meet the local and international markets.”

State Minister for Industry, Investment and Commerce, Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams, says the sector has been making a positive impact in western Jamaica, providing employment for over 14,000 persons.

“I am pleased to say that in Montego Bay, we have a robust BPO industry worth US$260 million, most of it concentrating in the Montego Bay Free Zone area, where we currently have 35 entities operating and providing work for over 14,500 employees,” she points out.

Mrs. Ffolkes-Abrahams, who is also the Member of Parliament for West Central St. James, notes that the number of BPO employees in the free zone reached over 7,000 for the first time, in April 2014.

A total of 223 new employees joined the sector during the January to November 2014 period, reflecting a marginal increase of 3.23 per cent over the corresponding period in 2013.

“One new investor, Fleming Conference, commenced operations in August 2014 and has been doing very well since then, recording impressive growth in that area,” Mrs. Ffolkes-Abrahams said.

In addition, the Inter-American Development Bank and Compete Caribbean Programme have signed a joint agreement to fund a BPO Cluster Initiative Project, which is set to get underway at the Montego Bay Free Zone, later this month.

The funding for the project will be US$500,000 and will result in the establishment of a 200-seat BPO industry.

Mrs. Ffolkes-Abrahams says the free zone has already identified the first client and is in discussions with two other interested companies.

Business process outsourcing is a thriving industry in countries such as the Philippines and India.

The BPO industry in the Philippines is estimated to gross revenue of upwards to $25 billion by 2016.