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Diane Edwards

JAMAICA - Economy

Effort underway to improve ease of doing business in Jamaica

President, Trade & Investment Jamaica (JAMPRO)


Before joining JAMPRO, Diane Edwards served as General Manager and Director of J. Wray & Nephew UK Ltd., where she successfully grew the UK company’s turnover by 77% over 10 years. Edwards holds an MBA from New York’s Pace University, a master’s in international relations from Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, and is fluent in English, French, Spanish, and German.

"The remittances from the diaspora amount to over USD2 billion per year."

What is the role of the Jamaican diaspora in investing in Jamaica and consuming Jamaican products?

The remittances from the diaspora amount to over USD2 billion per year. In addition to that, the diaspora is the warm market for Jamaican products. Due to nostalgia, people want to eat what they remember from their childhood; therefore, we have the opportunity to sell into that diaspora market. The UK, Canada, and the US are the core markets for our food exports in particular. We have been successful with this, for example, with companies like GraceKennedy, which has been a huge exporter and investor in these markets. GraceKennedy exports into the North American Tri-State area around New York and has its own manufacturing company in the UK producing for that market. It has also opened a distribution company in Ghana and is present all over the Caribbean. JAMPRO takes Jamaican companies to trade shows internationally. For some markets, this is our principal means of penetration. We try new consumer penetration strategies as well. Currently we have several companies exhibiting their products in a cosmetics and beauty supplies store in London. We are bringing in distributors to look at and try the products, and hopefully sign contracts.

What is JAMPRO doing to promote foreign investment in Jamaica?

Our investment program starts with Vision 2030, a bipartisan program that aims at making Jamaica a developed country by 2030. Part of that vision includes FDI. We have six sectors in which we promote investment that we have selected based on Jamaica’s advantages, such as our natural and human resources and location. The six sectors are tourism; outsourcing; minerals, mining and energy; manufacturing; logistics; and agriculture. One of the biggest events we have is our triennial Jamaican Investment Forum, which we stage in Montego Bay. We held this in 2012 and 2015, and the next one is in 2018. This event is for around 400 hand-picked and vetted investors. We invite people we specifically want to talk to and who are focused around our six targeted sectors. Of these six, tourism is one of our biggest sectors and contributors of foreign exchange. Tourism is growing at about 5% per year in terms of visitor arrivals. There are around 10,000 rooms that we know are going to be built in the next five years. Secondly, the outsourcing, including the business process outsourcing (BPO), sector presents a huge opportunity in Jamaica, with 25,000 people employed in the industry and growing. The opportunity here is because we really have a strong local workforce for BPO. Added to this, our proximity and cultural affinity with the US makes it quite seamless with Americans being happy to have their call answered by a Jamaican voice. In the minerals, mining, and energy sector, our largest mineral exports are bauxite and alumina. We have had some strong inward investment in this area recently with the Chinese takeover of the Alpart Alumina Refinery in St Elizabeth, and the Noranda company out of the US that has taken over the plant in St Ann. In addition to bauxite, over 80% of the surface area of Jamaica is limestone and we feel there is a huge opportunity for export because we have a pure grade of limestone here at around 99.4-99.8%. This means we can export food and pharmaceutical grade limestone. In terms of energy, JAMPRO has a plan to expand the use of renewables to 30% by 2030, The country is somewhere in the region of 12-14% renewables currently, including solar and wind. We have projects in both those areas already. Manufacturing is going to receive a huge boost because of the development of Jamaica’s Special Economic Zones (SEZs). The SEZs are going to be taking over from the free zones because they are a concept that is more integrated into the fabric of the economy. This is what makes it exciting because we are really looking at investments along the whole value chain. This leads on to logistics, and Jamaica’s location directly north of the Panama Canal gives us huge opportunities for being a regional distribution hub. The Port of Kingston was privatized in 2016 to CMA CGM from France and it is upgrading and improving the efficiency of the port. The sixth sector where there are huge opportunities is agriculture. Jamaica has long been a producer of sugar cane, but there are other products where the country also has great advantages that we have not maximized yet. One of these is Blue Mountain Coffee, which is one of the most expensive in the world, it is in the top five. Then of course there is cocoa production. Jamaica is one of the eight countries in the world that are allowed to use the term “fine cocoa” because of the blend of cocoa we have. There is a lot of other fresh produce that has potential that we can develop further.

Is the government changing the regulations to make doing business easier in Jamaica?

Absolutely. There is a huge program to make doing business here easier and to catapult us into the top-10 countries in the world in terms of the ease of doing business rankings. Currently, Jamaica is ranked 67th internationally. We have a plan to get the country into the top 10 by 2020. To do that, we have to look systematically at all the factors that go into doing business. JAMPRO monitors those factors, and we have also the Secretariat for the National Competitiveness Council, which coordinates all the government agencies that have an input into those indices. We have a vast program of e-government to put all the government’s services online, along with the port community system that will allow paperless trading with Jamaica, and a target by YE2017 to be able to set up a company in less than a day, and then in one or two hours. Big companies here can already pay their taxes online. We are also looking at creating an investment portal that will allow for all business transactions to be made online.

What are your goals and objectives at JAMPRO for 2018?

Our goal is to triple FDI and local direct investment. We feel there needs to be a balance between foreign and local investment. One of the things we think is exciting is that the local private sector has increased in confidence. The confidence level index is at about 149, meaning there is a high level of business confidence. Almost all the large companies in Jamaica are investing and expanding at the moment. We also want to diversify the FDI we attract because we think the balance of the two is what will drive Jamaica to achieve 5% growth in the next three years, which is our goal.



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