Address by the
Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller
Prime Minister of Jamaica
Opening Ceremony of the Jamaica Investment Forum 2015
Wednesday, 11 March 2015
Montego Bay Convention Centre
Montego Bay, Jamaica
- The Honourable Anthony Hylton, Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce;
- Other Ministers of Government
- Hon Dr. Wykeham McNeil
- Ministers of State
- Members of the Diplomatic Corps
- Heads of International Organizations
- Ms. Anabel Gonzalez; Senior Director, Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice World Bank Group
- Mr. Hans Schulz; Vice President for Private Sector, Inter-American Development Bank
- Mr. Jacques Nyssen; Head, Structured Finance Hub, Commerzbank – although you are not here in in your other capacity, I also greet you as Jamaica’s Honorary Consul in Belgium.
- Mr. Milton Samuda, Chairman, JAMPRO and other board members
- Mrs. Diane Edwards, President, JAMPRO
- Permanent Secretaries
- His Worship the Mayor Cllr. Glendon Harris
- Hon. Ewen Corrodus, Custos of St. James
- Mr. William Mahfood – President, Private Sector Organization of Jamaica
- Other leaders and representatives of the Jamaican Private Sector;
- Our overseas guests and members of the international investor community
- Sponsors of this important forum;
- Members of the Jamaican business community;
- Heads of Government Departments and Agencies
- Other Distinguished Guests
- Ladies and Gentlemen
- Members of the Media
I am pleased to welcome you all, to this staging of the Jamaica Investment Forum.
On behalf of the Government and People of Jamaica, I welcome, in a special way, our overseas visitors and friends to the warm climate of our beautiful island home. I know many of you have left inches of snow on the ground and icy winds in the places you call home. I invite you to make Jamaica home for a few days and allow us to embrace you with our warmth and radiance – like the sunshine outdoors.
We say about our island home “once you go you know”. It is more than ‘just’ a slogan. The words carry great meaning. Now that you are here, there is so much that we want you to come to know about us.
- seeing the beauty of our land rich with resources of all kinds;
- getting a taste of everything that is delectably and deliciously Jamaican; and
- feeling our true and sincere warmth…
…You will experience our efficiency and effectiveness and our keen sense of business. You will learn that we are businesslike, and at the same time hospitable. You will come to know a people and an island that is the perfect environment in which to do business.
We want you to know that we do not take your decision to join us at the Jamaica Investment Forum lightly. It is our intention to surpass all your expectations. We will engage you with winning business and investment possibilities and;
We will make sure that you come to know and experience the full measure of the hospitality for which we are world-renowned.
I extend congratulations to the hardworking team at JAMPRO, and I thank our sponsors for their important collaboration in the staging of this event. In March 2012, I had the honour of presiding over the first staging of this Jamaica Investment Forum. My Administration had just taken office and ushered in new energy and fresh optimism in Jamaica. Nevertheless, we had to contend with a global economy which was then still in recession.
At that first Jamaica Investment Forum, we welcomed over 100 local and foreign investors, to whom we presented a range of investment opportunities.
I am pleased to say that we have already translated some of those opportunities into tangible investments. Today, three years later, we are welcoming over 137 foreign investors and overseas guests who are participating in this Forum.
The Jamaica Investment Forum 2015 is about maintaining the momentum and building on the progress we are making in attracting world-class investments to our highly diversified economy. For the next two days, Jamaica will present to you the full array of what we have to offer in our investment portfolio.
We have also invited some of our leading local businesspersons to participate in the various business discussions, and in the process of the decision-making to secure outcomes from this Forum. Our goal is to facilitate win-win investments that will bring you a good rate of return, and also create the jobs we desire for our people.
Job creation is important to every Government and it is central to the Government that I lead.
Employment brings stability to families. Stable families give rise to strong communities and motivated people, who are essential for business and investment to thrive.
My Government, in inviting you to do business with Jamaica, is committed to nurturing the enabling environment for investments to succeed. This is why we are ensuring that the fundamentals of our economy are sound and sure, as we accommodate greater levels of foreign direct investments. Minister Hylton has pointed to our strong performance, measured by the major global business and economic indices. You would also know that our fiscal discipline has won the approval of the Big Three international credit rating agencies—Standard and Poors, Moody’s and Fitch. Dr. the Honourable Peter Phillips, my Minister of Finance and Planning will speak in more detail about the economic outlook for Jamaica.
I want to let you know however, that Jamaica continues to perform strongly and remains on track with our targets under the four-year Extended Fund Facility with the International Monetary Fund. We have passed seven consecutive IMF reviews. Our external debt continues to trend downwards with substantial improvement in our balance of payments.
Jamaica enjoys strong democratic traditions, and successive governments consistently respect and honour business agreements. It is therefore not by accident that Jamaica’s profile as a leading Caribbean business and investment destination is strong and rising.
In 2011, Foreign Direct Investment inflows into Jamaica had fallen dangerously low to US$211 million dollars on account of the global recession. By 2013, FDI inflows into the island had more than doubled to US$561 million dollars.
As we continue our upward movement in this regard, I say to you, there is room for more investment in our economy.
Opportunities are plenty.
Investor confidence is high!
Now is the time to invest in Jamaica.
We are open for business on a global scale!
We are the best place to do business in the Caribbean, as recently profiled by the influential Forbes Magazine. We are ready for more tangible and quality investments such as the Sutherland Global ICT/Business Process Outsourcing investment at the University of the West Indies, which emerged out of the last forum.
Sutherland Global is an outstanding example of the expansive growth now taking place in our ICT/BPO industry, the epicentre of which is located here in the city of Montego Bay. They are now expanding to Mandeville in Manchester. I commend the principal of the Sutherland Global.
Data shared by the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica demonstrate that the ICT/BPO sector has had a major and positive impact on unemployment, especially youth unemployment.
The sector currently employs more than seventeen thousand (17,000) people, up from twelve thousand (12,000) in 2012. The sector has also improved on its earnings, moving from US Three Hundred Million Dollars ($300M) in 2012 to Five Hundred Million Dollars ($500M) in 2015 – an increase of 66 percent. There is a clear connection between the Jamaica Investment Forum in 2012 and the growth we are experiencing in Jamaica’s ICT/BPO Business. It is my hope that this Forum will bring even greater returns for this important industry.
Even as we invite you to consider business opportunities in the established sectors of our economy, I feel compelled to share with you lucrative possibilities in non-traditional areas such as Jamaica’s emerging Nutraceuticals Industry. It is an area which I believe in, not only for the economic benefits to be derived, but also because of its emphasis on healthy lifestyles and wellness. Nutraceuticals are from food sources with extra health benefits. They also include medicinal plants and natural mineral water. Here in Jamaica, we also have several sources of mineral water with wellness spas at Bath in St. Thomas in the eastern end of the island, Milk River in Clarendon in central Jamaica and the Rockfort Mineral Bath in Kingston.
Ladies and gentlemen
We are ready to move from ideas and the production of samples to major investments and large-scale operations. I invite you to give careful consideration to these possibilities. We are confident about our products and our capacity to partner with you for business success. We have also made considerable investments in our economy, in the quality of our human capital and our physical infrastructure. We place serious focus on the education of our people. We want to assure you that in Jamaica you will find the most portfolio of investment opportunities in the Caribbean.
We have invited you to this Forum to remind you that we are the 3rd largest English-speaking nation in the Western Hemisphere.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Now that we have met and have the rest of the week to get to know each other better, I am confident that you will leave here understanding believing and feeling what we mean when we say the slogan mentioned earlier, “Once you go, you know”. When you leave here we are confident that you will truly ‘know’ about the opportunities in Jamaica, feel the spirit of Jamaica, and join in the steady heartbeat of our island – our buoyant business sector.
Those who call Jamaica home and do business here regularly, will now ‘know’ of new opportunities, new pathways to prosperity through new and expanded partnerships.
In the words of the great Reggae Icon Robert Nesta Marley – Bob Marley – I welcome you to Jamaica in the spirit of “One Love, One Heart”.
“Let’s get together and feel alright!”
Let’s do great business together.
I thank you.