The new government, which was elected to office on December 29, 2011, had stated at the outset, that attracting investments, both local and overseas, would be a top priority as it looked to boost economic growth and development.
Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Anthony Hylton, said the government was seeking to secureUS billions in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), in industries such as manufacturing, information and communication technology (ICT), tourism, and logistics and shipping.
In late February, the Minister announced a package of investment projects for the development of the country’s shipping and logistics industry, which he said, have the potential to transform the economic landscape.
These comprise: dredging of the Kingston Harbour and expansion of the port facilities; establishing a dry dock facility at Jackson Bay, Clarendon and a bunkering facility at Cow Bay, Yallahs, St. Thomas; construction of a cargo and maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) facility at Vernamfield, Clarendon; and the development of the Caymanas Economic Zone.
“Altogether, these projects represent a potential investment effort that will drive growth and employment for many years, positioning Jamaica as the logistic hub for trade in the Americas,” Minister Hylton declared.
These projects, among others, were presented to the local and international community at the JAMPRO-organised ‘Jamaica Investment Forum 2012’, held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre from March 1 to 2.
Opportunities in key growth sectors were showcased to more than 120 high net-worth investors from 16 countries, including the United States of America (USA), Russia, China and Japan, who also benefitted from insightful information pertaining to the government’s investment policies and incentive regimes.
Minister Hylton, at the forum, announced loans of up to US$5 million for projects in ICT. The loans are being provided through the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) to facilitate expansion of the industry through the development of at least 350,000 square feet of appropriate ICT-ready space to accommodate tier one operators, specifically for Business Process Outsourcing (BPO).
The move, Minister Hylton said, is aimed at adding a minimum of 10,000 new ICT jobs to the Jamaican economy.
Coming out of the event, a number of the investors said they were impressed by the suite of projects presented and are ready to take advantage of the opportunities on offer.
Investors from Russia expressed interest in erecting a plant to convert sweet sorghum, which is similar to sugarcane, into ethanol, while a large business process outsourcing company, is examining the possibility of using Jamaica as a near shore destination for call centres and businesses for their United States (US) clients.
To ensure that Jamaica can attract and benefit from these and other opportunities, Minister Hylton, in March, announced an “integrated 10-point strategy” which, among other things, will include restructuring of the Ministry to become the gateway for investments.
He said focus is being placed on improving business facilitation, by making the Ministry a ‘one-stop shop’ for all business needs – from business registration to accessing business information and data.
This will be done through the seamless integration of various agencies under the Ministry, such as the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC), the Micro Investment Development Agency (MIDA), Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO), and the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ).
He also advised that the Ministry and its agencies have started to “create policies that enable the private sector to undertake the investment effort needed to expand the domestic economy,” and that focus will be concentrated on removing the barriers to the development of industry and a sustained process of capital accumulation.
Initiatives will also be put in place, he said, to improve Jamaica’s global competiveness, which has plunged in recent years. “To this end, I will be resuscitating and personally driving the work of the Competitiveness Council of the Ministry, housed in JAMPRO,” the Minister stated.
Turning to Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (MSME), State Minister, Hon. Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams stated the Ministry’s commitment to crafting and implementing policies that foster the growth and development of the sector.
She said the government will continue to provide the necessary support to assist entrepreneurs to get off the ground and to successfully commercialise their business ideas, using the widest range of models available. “We see the fostering of start-ups and early-stage ventures as an important pillar in the country’s business strategy,” she stated.
Final consultations with stakeholders on the long-awaited MSME draft policy are being undertaken and the aim is to have a Green Paper tabled in the Houses of Parliament before the end of the financial year.
The Ministry, during its first 100 days, also put measures in place to enhance the operational standards of local exporters and ensure the safety of products exported to the US.
These initiatives include a cost-sharing programme of up to 25 per cent of inspection fees; training and technical assistance; and gap analyses and audits by technical experts from various stakeholder agencies to assess Jamaica’s state of readiness to meet the provisions of the US Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA).
The Ministry has collaborated with a number of state agencies to train inspectors in the requisite food management systems and risk management skills to support local processors; a mentorship programme; and engaging Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP)-compliant Jamaican companies to work closely with other entities.