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Doing Business

Starting a business in Jamaica has become easier than ever, and companies will find an investment-friendly business environment.

Jamaica’s growing business sophistication makes it the top destination for investors and businesses seeking lucrative opportunities for trade and investment. The island continues to outperform the rest of the Caribbean and Latin America in terms of the ease of doing business. The World Bank ranked Jamaica 70th out of 190 countries in its 2018 Doing Business report, ahead of Antigua and Barbuda (107), St. Kitts and Nevis (134), and Grenada (142). Jamaica has also consistently fared well on the index for ease of starting a business, jumping from 12th place in 2017 to fifth in 2018, far ahead of the average for the Caribbean and Latin American countries.

The Caribbean island offers a stable and democratic environment with a welcoming business climate. There is an investment-friendly government and, subsequently, no restrictions on the foreign ownership of assets or the repatriation of profits. The government has also made efforts to cut back on red tape and make starting a business easier, particularly in terms of the area of credit and resolving insolvencies. Jamaica comes in third in Latin America and Caribbean in terms of the highest number of reforms implemented since 2015, trailing only Mexico and Colombia. Starting a business in Jamaica requires two procedures and three days, a vast improvement from 10 days prior, and far less than the average in the Caribbean and Latin America, with 8.4 procedures and more than 31 days. Moreover, according to the World Bank, it costs 4.8% of per capita GDP to start a business in Jamaica, compared to 37.5% in Latin America.

Jamaica has sought to improve the ease of doing business by reinstating next-day services for company incorporation, making it faster to start a business, and implementing a web-based customs data management platform, ASYCUDA World, reducing the time for documentary compliance. It has also invested in its electricity distribution network, improving the reliability of electricity supply in Kingston in particular. The World Bank also ranked Jamaica 128th in 2018 in terms of registering property in Jamaica, an improvement from 2017. It takes eight procedures and 18 days in Jamaica, compared to 7.2 procedures and 63.3 days in the Caribbean and Latin America.

Key sectors that demonstrate promising growth include service, tourism, and agriculture, with business process outsourcing (BPO) in particular growing from strength to strength. According to Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO), the island’s investment and export promotions agency, the number of jobs in the BPO sector grew from 17,000 to 25,000 in the last few years, and the agency expects this to grow by another 5,000 in 2017. Jamaica’s proximity to the major markets in the western hemisphere and status as the third-largest English-speaking population in the region has enabled the sector to truly boom. Services being provided from the island include tech support, graphic design, finance and accounting, and claims and payroll processing, among others.

To set up a business, a company must determine the legal structure best suited to its needs. The two basic options to choose from are: a company—a commercial enterprise registered or incorporated under the Companies Act—or a business—a sole trader or partnership registered under the Business Names Act. The company must check with the Registrar of Companies to determine if the desired name is available and acceptable at a cost of JMD500. It is also recommended that one reserves a name reservation for 90 days for a fee of JMD3,000. Subsequently, companies have to file the Article of Incorporation and Business Registration Form with the Registrar of Companies. They are required to submit two forms: the Article of Incorporation and the Business Registration. Companies are no longer required to submit forms separately to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), Taxpayer Registration Number (TRN), and General Consumption Tax (GCT). These registrations are now subsumed under the Business Registration Form. Costs include JMD24,000 for registration fees, JMD500 for stamp duty, and JMD3,000 for next-day processing.

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