Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Anthony Hylton, said that Jamaica is teeming with investment opportunities in such areas as business process outsourcing (BPO), export-oriented manufacturing, tourism andglobal shipping and logistics.
He was addressing a wide spectrum of potential local and foreign investors at a recent forum staged by Mayberry Investments Limited at the Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston.
Minister Hylton stated that Jamaica’s strength as an investment location is grounded in a number of factors, including its large English-speaking population, competitive wages, accessibility to a diverse labour pool, and its ideal location for trading with the rest of the Western Hemisphere including the United States (US), as well as the fact that the country “is endowed with an abundance of natural resources and a well-developed infrastructure."
He said that Jamaica remains an attractive destination for BPO and has emerged as the leading contact centre location in the English-speaking Caribbean with more than 10,000 full time agents in the offshore sector.
With an established track record in finance and accounting, human resource outsourcing (HRO), receivables management, technical helpdesk support, outbound sales and lead generation, “Jamaica has been recognised by Gartner (technology research company) as a destination to watch and by A.T. Kearney (global management consultants) as a favourable BPO destination,” the Minister stated.
He noted further that with near shore access to the US, low attrition rates and high labour force availability among secondary and university graduates, Jamaica provides great value to businesses looking for a BPO destination.
This value position, he argued, is bolstered by the fact that average call centre and BPO salaries are 40-60 per cent lower than the corresponding salaries in the US.
“These advantages, as well as the fact that the Government has demonstrated its support for this priority sector, have kept industry heavyweights such ACS (Xerox), Tele-performance and West Corporation operating in the island for almost a decade,” the Minister noted.
With respect to export-oriented manufacturing, Minister Hylton pointed to “niche investment opportunities” in areas such as agro-processing, furniture and manufacturing, boat building and bio-technology.
He stated that Jamaica’s location at the centre of the shipping routes between North and South America, Europe and the Far East, its skilled workforce and high level of social stability, combines to provide a strategic exporting platform.
Additionally, he noted, the island boasts a diverse manufacturing sector, which includes beverages, processed foods, chemicals, plastics, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and apparels.
In the area of tourism, the Minister declared that Jamaica is the perfect destination and entertains port visits from several of the world’s premier cruise ships. “The island offers a blend of culture, natural beauty and attractions. The tourist sector provides opportunities in specialised areas such as ecotourism, health, heritage, entertainment and culture tourism,” he said.
He said that ecotourism, which is a fairly recent phenomenon, is particularly attractive to persons, who are thinking green and are seeking an alternative travel package that minimises any negative influences on the environment.
The Minister also pointed to opportunities in “health and wellness tourism” in which there is a growing interest and has become a global trend for the health conscious traveller.
“Jamaica has upscale hotels, which have extended their services to accommodate visitors, who use spa therapy facilities as the deciding factor in their choice of resort vacations. Locals have also taken keen interests in this form of recreational/health activity, hence creating an increased demand and an opportunity for potential investors in tourism,” he stated.
While acknowledging the contribution of the island’s cultural industries to the Jamaican tourism sector, the Minister singled out the music industry as one of the country’s most successful exports with primary markets being the US and the United Kingdom (UK).
Turning to the area of global shipping and logistics, the Minister said that despite the challenges facing our country, “Jamaica is poised to take advantage of the window of opportunity to position itself as a global shipping and logistics hub, and the government intends to do whatever is necessary to facilitate investments in the infrastructure required to take advantage of this opportunity.”
The country’s investment opportunities will be showcased at the JAMPRO-organised ‘Jamaica Investment Forum 2012’ set for March 1 to 2, where investment opportunities in key growth sectors will be showcased.
The event, which will be held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre will present a portfolio of significant projects across different sectors, and highlight a slate of high profile local and international speakers to share ideas on the way forward.
By Allan Brooks, JIS Senior Reporter