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Speech

These are unprecedented times. The Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has wreaked havoc globally with the way we live and our way of doing business. Our island was on the cusp of making major economic breakthroughs, but we are now suddenly facing the challenge of our lifetime, a challenge that affects Jamaica’s greatest asset: the wellbeing of its people.

The Jamaican government has been doing the right thing, making the creative and necessary decisions to thwart the spread of COVID-19 through the enactment of the Quarantine Act and implementing a number of measures to curtail the spread of the virus. Further, the necessary preparations are being made to ensure that Jamaicans will have the health services needed if they do contract the virus by increasing both testing and treatment capacities.

The government has also put many fiscal measures in place to protect the economic gains that have been made, so that Jamaica can return to its growth agenda after addressing this health crisis and any resulting shock to the economy.

Faced with this national crisis, which threatens our economy, JAMPRO is developing a set of new measures to bolster growth in the economy. As Jamaica’s economic development agency, JAMPRO must support our most innovative and creative businesses to expand their production and access new markets, while continuing to build a more business friendly environment.

We expect a changed world to emerge post COVID: a trend towards buying local, more health-conscious consumption, increasing demand for natural remedies, rising e-commerce and expanding digital and online solutions.

JAMPRO’s renewed focus will be:

• Increasing our support of the agribusiness sector to attract and facilitate new technology driven investment, as well as, facilitate linkages between farmers, manufacturers, and service providers. We must increase production to improve food security, raise productivity and create sustainable value-added food products.
• Driving the conversion to a digital economy, by upskilling our young people during this e-learning stay at home opportunity and accelerating the development of a National Digital Services Strategy
• Improving our service and relevance to local businesses, who must become the drivers of Jamaica’s economic recovery, particularly with global FDI expected to fall by 5% to 15%.
• Increasing government coordination with organisations like the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) and Sugar Company Holdings to pool our resources in developing coherent strategies to sustain and drive the economy during and after the crisis period, respectively.
• Stepping up our advocacy to government on behalf of the productive sector and enhancing our programme of improvements to the business environment.
• Partnering with bodies like the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA) and the Scientific Research Council to develop new products for the post-COVID world
• Facilitating the sustaining of business operations by unearthing commercial opportunities and connecting business players across key sectors to drive these opportunities.
• Exploring the challenges regionally to determine how Jamaica can support commercial activities through collaboration with our Caribbean neighbours as we all grapple with the potential impact of the virus on sectors like Tourism.

This is just a snapshot of what the Agency will be doing during the crisis, amongst other activities in alignment with our mandate to facilitate investment and export, while advocating to improve the business environment of Jamaica. We are ready to support our clients on their investment projects or export opportunities – and we are looking at ways to identify and secure new opportunities for them.

Recovery is on the horizon – if we work together

As Chairman of JAMPRO, it is my belief that wherever we can assist the Jamaican people and business, if the conditions allow us to, we must. JAMPRO is exploring innovative ways to support the people of Jamaica through this crisis and to provide a springboard for our business environment after the worst has passed.

We will continue to closely monitor the global economic situation to better advise our clients on investment and export matters.

Jamaicans can overcome anything, and if we take this threat seriously, and follow the recommended behaviours such as social distancing, increased hygienic methods, and protecting our loved ones (especially those at risk), we will be able to come out of this stronger.

I urge all Jamaicans to work together so that we can overcome this global threat. If we do this, Jamaica will recover, we will be safe and healthy, and we will minimize the impact to our economy. Protect your families and loved ones at this time; let us protect the advancements we have made, as we look forward to a new day.

Senator Don Wehby,
Chairman, JAMPRO

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