TORONTO – Prime Minister the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller has assured Canadian business persons that the Government of Jamaica is committed to creating an environment for businesses to flourish.
"Our position is resolute. We will cut bureaucracy. We will remove impediments to immure investments and we will construct new platforms for partnership, growth and profitability," she said.
The Prime Minister's message was delivered by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. A.J. Nicholson, at an Investment Forum, entitled 'Doing Business in Jamaica', and organised by JAMPRO, the Canadian Council of the Americas (CCA) and the Consulate General of Jamaica. It was held on October 23, at the National Club in Toronto, Canada.
Prime Minister Simpson Miller, who was on an official visit to Canada, on the invitation of the Prime Minister of Canada, the Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper, to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries, had to cut her trip short and return to Jamaica because of Hurricane Sandy, which affected the island on October 24.
Since assuming office in January 2012, the Prime Minister said several business reforms have been implemented, including the re-instatement of a National Competitiveness Council, chaired by the Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Anthony Hylton. Citing the importance of the Council, the Prime Minister said it is a critical structural mechanism designed to cut through the issues and produce solutions.
The Government is also fast-tracking amendments to the Companies Act, the Registration of Business Names Act, and a number of other business legislations, in order to reduce the number of documents needed, and to make it easier to start a business.
Mrs. Simpson Miller also mentioned new legislation expected to significantly increase access to credit. Called the Secured Transactions Act, it will enable companies to use other types of assets as security for loans and not having to rely solely on real estate.
Other reforms include making it easier to pay taxes by encouraging more electronic filing; amalgamating payroll taxes; and establishing a commercial court with judges assigned to work on commercial disputes.
The Government is also seeking to position Jamaica as the Logistics Hub of the Americas, Mrs. Simpson Miller noted, which would make Jamaica the fourth leg of the Global Logistics network. She said this strategic decision is based on two key priorities of the Government – the development of globally competitive industries and export-led growth.
"Economic survival rests on the country's integration into the global supply chain and this integration rests upon the ability of importers and exporters of goods, services and information to efficiently access the global supply chain," explained the Prime Minister.
Thanking all those who have invested in Jamaica, thereby creating thousands of jobs for Jamaicans, the Prime Minister said it is even more significant when Jamaicans invest in their own country.
Singling out Jamaican Canadian entrepreneurs Ray Chang and Michael Lee-Chin, who were also the event partners for the Investment Seminar, and who have made significant investments in Jamaica, the Prime Minister thanked them on behalf of "a grateful nation for your important contributions to Jamaica."
For his part, Mr. Lee-Chin, who is the chairman of Portland Holdings, told the gathering that doing business in Jamaica is not easy, but it is very rewarding. He said too often potential investors based their decisions on perception rather than reality, and he urged those present to "walk the ground," so that they can make the right decisions.
Mr. Lee-Chin, who is also Chairman of the National Commercial Bank (NCB), said that Jamaica is an ideal location if investors think long-term and integrate their businesses into the fabric of the society.
"The ideal situation as an investor is to go into a country, do well, make a reasonable profit and have high impact on the development of the country. Those of us who are willing to persevere, those of us who are willing to take the long-haul approach, will be handsomely rewarded," he said.
Other speakers included Mr. Chang; Group Managing Director of Jamaica Producers, Mr. Jeffrey Hall; President of the Canadian Council of the Americas, Mr. Michael Harvey; Chief Executive Officer of Scotiabank Jamaica, Mr. Bruce Bowen; Chief Executive Officer of Sagicor Life Jamaica, Mr. Richard Byles; and Vice-President of Investment Promotion for JAMPRO, Mr. Claude Duncan, who gave an overview of investment opportunities in Jamaica.