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Jamaica’s manufacturing and food processing sectors continued to thrive during 2004, growing by some 3.6 per cent, and contributing 13.8 per cent to gross domestic product.
Industry and Tourism Minister Aloun Ndombet-Assamba, in her contribution to the 2005/06 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (May 25) credited the growth to strong performances in food processing, beverages, tobacco, chemicals and chemical products and non-metallic minerals.
Mrs. Assamba said the government recognised the importance of manufacturing to the country’s economic security and its prospects for future growth and was committed to boosting the sector by providing quality industrial space through the Factories Corporation of Jamaica Limited (FCJ).
She noted however, that the prevailing high levels of crime and violence and the continuing high cost of credit, were among the challenges to the sector, which negatively impacted the prospects for industrial expansion, economic growth and job creation.
“The fight against crime and violence is one for the entire country and the creation of a social climate that encourages investment and business development is a national task,” she told the parliamentarians.
Where the high interest rates were concerned, the Industry and Tourism Minister voiced her support for the campaign by the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association (JMA) and the Jamaica Agricultural Society, to encourage financial institutions to reduce their lending rates.
She indicated that the government had taken the lead in this effort by considerably reducing the cash reserve requirement, and gradually lowering the Bank of Jamaica rates, consistent with prudent economic management.
She said that market forces must now work to ensure that the benefits were passed on to borrowers.
Meanwhile, as part of the commitment to small business development and to the lowering of interest rates, the Ministry has identified $100 million under the Government of Jamaica/European Union Credit Scheme for Micro and Small Enterprises, for direct lending to the productive sector through Pan Caribbean Financial Services Limited. Loans between $2 million and $10 million will be made available at a 10.5 per cent interest rate, the Industry and Tourism Minister informed.
She noted that the objective of the programme was to enable small and micro enterprises to retool and expand their operations. Under the facility, due diligence will be undertaken by Pan Caribbean, while the JMA will carry out the certification of the productive enterprises involved.