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  • Minister of State in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Sharon Ffolkes Abrahams, has lauded the Montego Bay Free Zone (MBFZ) for the positive impact it has had on Jamaica’s economy over its 30 years of existence.
  • She also credited MBFZ for the significant investment opportunities it has provided for both local and foreign investors.
  • Mrs. Ffolkes Abrahams was addressing the Free Zone’s 30th anniversary Open Day ceremony, held at the free zone complex in Montego Bay on March 5.

Minister of State in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Sharon Ffolkes Abrahams, has lauded the Montego Bay Free Zone (MBFZ) for the positive impact it has had on Jamaica’s economy over its 30 years of existence.

She also credited MBFZ for the significant investment opportunities it has provided for both local and foreign investors; the employment opportunities for skilled and un-skilled workers in the western parishes, and its role in establishing and developing the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry in Jamaica.

Mrs. Ffolkes Abrahams was addressing the Free Zone’s 30th anniversary Open Day ceremony, held at the free zone complex in Montego Bay on March 5.

“Looking back, we can see how the Free Zone has grown since its establishment. Today, the MBFZ has a huge impact, not only on the parish of St. James, but indeed, on the whole Jamaican economy. The MBFZ is an achievement that has touched the lives of many Jamaicans, their employers and families, and we certainly welcome the successes that have been achieved over the years,” the State Minister said.

However,  she said while the existing free zone regime continues to play a significant role in Jamaica’s economic development, there are a number of factors that must be addressed in going forward in order to meet anticipated changes in how free zones will be operated in the immediate future.

As they are, free zones present rigid eligibility requirements in terms of qualifying activities and the amount of manufactured goods that have to be exported. Also, there is restricted interaction with the rest of the economy, and generally, they have accessibility challenges due to their location in industrial areas or near ports or airports.

She pointed out that in this new phase of development, free zones will be replaced by Special Economic Zones (SEZs) as a requirement of a new World Trade Organisation (WTO) policy regime.

“The WTO stipulates that this should be done by the year 2015, and that is where we are, as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the MBFZ,” the State Minister said.

Mrs. Ffolkes Abrahams emphasised that SEZs are highly effective for job generation, particularly for women entering the workforce. They stimulate export growth and diversification in both the range of products and markets and they enable technology transfer and skills upgrading, she added.

“Special Economic Zones will support a broader-based growth path for our country, and also help to develop our manufacturing capabilities with transnational corporations, attract more investments, and grow our exports,” she said.

Such developments, Mrs. Ffolkes Abrahams said, go hand in hand with the development of Jamaica’s human resource capacity and in this regard, the Government has invested in the Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI), expanding its existing skills training facility at the Montego Bay Free Zone and its upgrade to an Integrated Workforce Development Centre (IWDC).

The MBFZ is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a series of planned activities under the theme: ‘Positioning for the Special Economic Zone’. Owned jointly by the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) and the Government of Jamaica, the MBFZ was established on March 1, 1985 to promote foreign direct investment. It earned some US$120 million last year.

Some 15 exhibitors from the finance, telecommunication, education, security, energy, service and manufacturing sectors participated in the free zone’s first Open Day exercise.