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Government’s efforts at expanding Jamaica’s productive capacity will be focussed heavily, over the next two years, on the development of facilities, to accommodate Information and Communication Technology (ICT) operations, by entities desirous of investing in the sector.
This, according to Industry, Investment, and Commerce Minister, Karl Samuda, who says the expansion of Jamaica’s productive capacity, is necessary, if the country is to be positioned as a competitive destination for investments in the global marketplace. He further notes that in attempting to achieve this competitive edge, standards have to established “by which the rest of the world is judged, and (by which they) will judge us.”
Mr. Samuda, who was speaking at the global launch in Jamaica of the 2008 World Investment Report, at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston, on Wednesday (Sept. 24), said Jamaica can no longer rely on old methods to undertake productivity, citing the need for changes to be effected in this regard.
“We have to introduce new technologies in the mix. We have to create the incentives for investors to invest in new technology that can be applied to the domestic situation, so that we can become competitive, both for the local market and for the international market. We have to attract people, we have to be fashionable, we have to be relevant.we have to be competitive,” he stressed.
The Minister pointed out that the Government has been proactive in this regard, and alluded to the former administration’s efforts to this effect, through, what he said, was its laying the foundation for the development of a “very excellent road infrastructural network,” and pledged that “this (current) Government will continue to expand on that.”
Mr. Samuda said, however, that there is need to “go one step further,” citing that the administration must now look at establishing investment opportunities, by building facilities that will attract the kinds of developments that can create jobs, particularly in ICT.
In this regard, the Minister said development of ICT facilities will commence on land, owned by the Government, at Naggo Head, St. Catherine, as well as on 500 acres at Caymanas, also in that parish.
Mr. Samuda also disclosed that the government will, through the Factories Corporation of Jamaica (FCJ), seek to dispose of factories currently occupied by investors who wish to acquire them, adding that the new facilities would then be constructed.
“We will go about. building new ones, and opening up, as it were, similar to what we do in tourism, new gateways, new opportunities. Our emphasis will (also) be on expanding and developing the port facilities. (All of) that is going to be dedicated to activities that would create jobs, whilst, at the same time, providing facilities for storage and freight forwarding. That would complement the port, which, eventually, is really the future of Jamaica, because of the need to utilise the advantageous location that Jamaica enjoys, for transshipment and so on,” he outlined.
The Minister argued that, the ultimate goal was earning foreign exchange, in order to sustain Jamaica’s balance of payments. He noted that, currently, the country’s deficit is “unsustainable,” which, he contended, is the result of a “growing deficit in our trade balance.”
“That has to be curtailed, that has to be reduced, or at least contained, so that we can be able to build the kind of foreign exchange reserves that are based more on what we earn, rather than what we borrow,” he added.
Mr. Samuda noted that, save for remittances, the economy would be in “serious trouble”, in terms of the exchange rate. He argued that Jamaica’s currency would be devalued because, “at the moment, our inflows from remittances exceed any other category.”
“This places us in a peculiar and precarious position, if we consider, for instance, the developments in the United States, which may have a severe impact on our Diaspora, who have been sending funds back to Jamaica. Recently I heard stories of persons in Jamaica being requested by residents overseas to assist them, rather than the other way around, because things have gotten very difficult”, he said.
“So, it is quite likely that we could see tremendous pressure being brought to bear on the levels of remittances that we have become accustomed to receiving, and we have become so dependent on. This just simply raises the red flag, as to the need for us to expand our productive capacity,” the Industry Minister said.
Alluding to a recent meeting with a leading American corporation, which he and Jamaica Trade and Invest (JTI) President, Robert Gregory, attended in New York, Mr. Samuda said discussions revealed that the Caribbean is not regarded as particularly attractive for investments, adding that destinations with “humongous” developments are more favoured. He contended that unless Jamaica and the region pursue activities that will transform the region to the desired global requirements, there will always be a challenge in attracting the necessary capital investments, that will benefit the Caribbean.
“We have been attractive as a tourism destination. What we need to do now, is to go beyond tourism, and do the things that are not well known to the rest of the world. We must now convince the rest of the world, through our actions, through the development of hard and soft infrastructure, through the creativity of our great minds to conceive large and cutting edge type developments, that we stand ready to participate in the world economy,” Mr. Samuda asserted.