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Speech

Salutations:

Chairman
Mr. Brian Pengelley – President of the JMA
Executives and Members of the JMA
Distinguished Guests

Ladies and gentlemen

 

Good Evening. This Awards Banquet is no ordinary gathering.

This is a significant moment, not just for the JMA, but for Jamaica as well. There are several reasons why I say this.

For one, this is your 65th Anniversary. Secondly, this banquet is being held in our 50th year as a nation. And thirdly, Jamaica is at a critical economic juncture and manufacturing is important critical to the economic survival of our nation.

There is no question in my mind that your theme is quite accurate. Indeed, “Manufacturing is the Engine of Growth for Jamaica." In the context of economic development, the old adage, “Do or die” could well be paraphrased, “Build or die”. The manufacturing sector, generally, and the Jamaica Manufacturers Association in particular, represent an important cog in the wheel of the economic viability of our nation. Put simply, if the manufacturing sector does not do well, our country is not likely to succeed.  

If you do well, then the country will feel it immediately. Manufacturing is an engine of growth for Jamaica. We must re-tool, we must be bold, we must be innovative, we must develop new products, we must find new markets and we must expand our businesses. Your products must also improve our way of life, and standard of living.  

I come here this evening to do three things:

One, to thank you for your continued contribution to national development; Two, to congratulate you on your resilience through these tough economic times, and; Three, to challenge you in this our Fiftieth Year to continue to work towards our nation’s   development. 

Let us join hands in partnership to build a Jamaica so that we can all be proud of a Jamaica that leaves no one behind.

Let me express my gratitude on behalf of the Government and people of Jamaica to you for your contribution to Jamaica’s development.

I congratulate the JMA on achieving this important milestone of 44 years.  Let me encourage you to remain focused on your critical mission of advancing economic growth and expanding employment opportunities, while improving your profitability.

The manufacturing sector is a resilient one. Over the years, you have faced many challenges. Despite these challenges, some small companies have still managed to grow into medium-sized ones, and medium-sized companies have expanded into large ones. 

Our products now reach a global market in Asia, and in Eastern Europe you continue to extend your reach in our traditional markets of the USA, UK and Canada. Phenomenal brands have been developed here on our rocks, and I thank you.  I have said, time and again, Jamaica is more than just a name, Jamaica is more than just a brand. Your products are more than just a brand; they are the pride of a people. As a people, what is there that we can’t achieve together, if we put our hearts in it?  We defy the logics of physics as a people.

As we celebrate our strengths and successes, we must also reflect. The economic journey that our nation took over the past fifty years, has led us to our current realities.  This journey has not always provided this sector with smooth passage. I must therefore challenge you this evening to take stock and examine how we can work together to improve our prospects.

Mr President, you put it clearly earlier, so we can work in partnership. Your vision challenges us to remain vibrant and dynamic; to embrace change and innovation; to use appropriate technologies and be inventive. Your vision reinforces the importance of partnerships and keeping your employees motivated and productive.

Your vision is not only relevant to your sector, but relevant to our country. Of course, as manufacturers with businesses that operate within a competitive global marketplace, you are also aware of the challenges facing our world that make our own economy particularly vulnerable.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, fellow Jamaicans:

It is no secret that over the past three decades there has been a decline in the contribution of the manufacturing sector to our Gross Domestic Product and a corresponding decline in its contribution to employment.

At the same time, the country experienced very high levels of manufactured imports.  Yet, even as challenges loom, all is not lost. Your sector is recovering from the impact of the great recession that began in 2008.  Last year, the sector recorded growth of 1.8 percent.  That was the first time that growth was seen since 2007, when it grew by 1.2 percent. This recovery is a good sign that my administration is seeking to build on as we make every effort to grow the economy to create jobs.

The manufacturing sector is a critical element of the government’s growth strategy as we seek to work together to strengthen and build our economy. The success and growth of this sector depend very significantly on the macro-economic conditions.

Government has to play its part. We have to manage the fiscal deficit. We have to reduce the debt to GDP ratio within a reasonable time frame. These issues are the subject of current discussions with the International Monetary Fund. 

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Building a competitive platform for manufacturing is not an easy task.  The time has come for us to look dispassionately at the current situation, embrace the challenges, and take the bold steps to design solutions to build a globally competitive platform for our local manufacturing sector.  This will require greater levels of teamwork and closer collaboration between government and the private sector to put in place the core elements of a viable strategy for this sector. This has to be achieved within a framework for national development. As a result, I wish to see planned development of each sector and sub-sector, characterized by a joined-up approach to government.

I have suggested to Minister McNeill and hoteliers and investors that any expansion plans for hotels should be accompanied by consultations with manufacturers to identify what from Jamaica can be used in these hotels.  I will be happy to be the strongest advocate for the Buy Jamaica campaign.

From they are going to build, there must be some consultation and I will be your strongest advocate for the Buy Jamaica campaign.

The Government has embarked on legislative and other measures to improve the conditions which affect the productive sector and from which the manufacturing sector should specifically benefit.

Let me deal with two overarching commitments of Government before addressing the legislative steps which we are taking. Firstly, we are committed to making the Public Sector a more efficient facilitator to improve productivity.

Secondly, we are committed to securing sustainable and affordable supplies of energy. Electricity prices are the most significant impediment to economic growth and job creation facing Jamaica. On Tuesday, Minister Paulwell outlined to the nation one important step along the path to lower energy costs.  The Government will no longer be involved in the selection of the fuel source. Our role will be to create the legislative and regulatory framework for the energy sector. Market forces will determine which fuel source is best suited for our conditions in Jamaica.

We have introduced Net Billing, which allows homeowners, small businesses and light manufacturers to establish their own generation capabilities and sell their excess to JPS via the national grid.

We have removed the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica’s exclusivity on development of renewable energy technology in Jamaica.

We have conducted a review of the Renewable Energy Tariff Regime. A major disincentive to investment in renewable energy in Jamaica was the low tariff being offered to energy producers. We will change this.

Additionally, your Government is developing a legislative framework that encourages entrepreneurship, or risk-taking, as the basis for new business formation.

We are modernizing our Insolvency Legislation with the active involvement of the private sector. We expect to put new insolvency legislation in place by early next year.

We are also working to introduce the Secured Transactions Act.Even though interest rates may be trending down, access to capital is still a challenge to businesses and particularly to the manufacturing sector. Under this new piece of legislation, companies will be able to use other types of assets as securities for loans and will not have to rely purely on real estate. This is expected to significantly increase access to credit.

So ladies and gentlemen:

Our government is paying significant attention to creating opportunities to penetrate foreign markets through the diligent work of our foreign missions and JAMPRO.

Jamaica has tremendous geographical advantages that can allow us to benefit from significant developments in shipping and trans-shipment presented by the expansion of the Panama Canal.

We are positioning Jamaica as the logistics hub of choice for such activity. The logistics hub will be a platform for the renewal of the country’s manufacturing capacity. It will offer significant opportunities for investments in the new wave of export-oriented and high-value niche manufacturing.  I look forward, as I am sure you do also, to the speedy and effective implementation of this mega-project on which so much of our collective future depends.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen:

My Administration is acutely aware of the fact that the manufacturing sector is vital to Jamaica’s economic survival and growth. We are aware of the challenges that you face and are eager to deepen and strengthen our partnership and broaden the avenues of cooperation to ensure that your sector grows. We are taking critical legislative and practical steps to assist the manufacturing sector.

I am proud of your achievements as a sector. Mr President, I also want to take this opportunity to congratulate those among you who have been recognised for your achievements.

I salute you, the members of the Jamaica Manufacturers Association and express confidence that together we will achieve our goals. May God bless you; May God prosper your businesses; and may God prosper Jamaica, Land we love. I thank you for allowing me to participate tonight.