Is Jamaica the right address for investment business success?

Business

Is Jamaica the right address for investment business success?

BY KEITH COLLISTER

Friday, December 13, 2019

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In late October, Jampro and the Jamaican High Commission in Port of Spain hosted a business investment breakfast in Trinidad attended by several of their most prestigious business leaders. The objective was to share some of the good news coming out of Jamaica and highlight a few sectors here which may be potentially attractive for Trinidadian investors.

The event was the brainchild of Jampro's manager for new market development, Nicholas Sutherland.

In many ways it was a follow-on to an event put on by the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) in early February this year, when, led by their immediate Past-President Larry Watson, the JCC had hosted a team from the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce led by their Executive Director Gabriel Faria, and which had Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, as guest speaker.

The Trinidadian team included nearly a dozen companies from areas such as office furniture (Boss), software (MCS) and media (Simply Intense), as well as manufacturers, and a wide variety of distributors.

Derek Lawrence of Insepra (one of the Trinidadian companies which includes a variety of businesses including barcoding and labelling) observed at the time that the mission was:

“A fantastic opportunity to network with the business community and meet key persons within the JCC, Jampro, Bureau of Standards and other institutions that are associated with foreign investment. We got a better understanding of the Jamaican market, its culture and the Government's priorities in terms of investment. Our main objective was to find a partner/associate. We have already engaged with a potential company and negotiations are in progress.”

One of the key speakers at the October Jampro event was Angus Young, chief executive officer of NCB Global Finance, who is based in Trinidad. Young spoke about his experience working with the Jamaican banking and financial services conglomerate and his perspective on the recent developments in the Jamaican economy and the welcoming nature of Jamaica towards foreign investors, as well as our very investor-friendly policies.

Young observed: “There is no denying that the two major capital market hubs of the English-speaking Caribbean are those of Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica. Over the last two decades both hubs have had, and continue to have, significant volumes of domestic and foreign currency deal flow. Both have also supported issues regionally, meaning outside of their domestic space. However, an argument can be made that the Jamaican capital markets are the most sophisticated for a number of reasons, but most notably for its support of both debt and equity raises, the depth of its secondary markets and the fact that it is the furthest along in capital market development involving its wider population.”

One of the investors who spoke at the Jampro event was serial entrepreneur Joe Pires, chairman of Caribbean Chemicals and Agencies Ltd, a significant investor in Jamaica (as well as many other businesses throughout Trinidad and the wider Caribbean).

In a follow-on interview on a recent trip to Jamaica last month Pires noted:

“As a Trinidadian, I fear that Jamaica is overtaking Trinidad as the capital and leader of the region. Jamaica's Government has shown leadership in economic reform and works closely with its private sector, a key advantage which means business here plays a significant role in advancing policies to improve Jamaica's business environment. The Government listens to the private sector, particularly those with their ear to the ground. The economy is advancing with the lowest level of unemployment that Jamaica has ever seen.

“As a Trinidadian with multiple Caribbean hats, being invested in a number of regional local economies and the United States, I can say that Jamaica now has the friendliest business environment in the region. Jamaica has already passed Trinidad in finance, while your manufacturing base is becoming more important while Trinidad seems to be getting out of manufacturing.

“We have invested more in Jamaica than any other country outside of Trinidad, about US$10 million over the last four years, and reinvested all the profits (taken no dividends), and I want to expand further in Jamaica as we also find it more friendly and easier to do business than the Dominican Republic and Central America, where however, we are also planning to expand to take advantage of their larger markets.

We believe there is a great opportunity for Jamaica in agriculture (related to our core business), with the introduction of new disease resistant, higher yielding crops. For example, we have introduced a new potato here from Ireland with 50 per cent higher yields, and plan to continue to introduce two or three crops per year.”

In his presentation to the Trinidadian investors, Sutherland noted that a key underlying factor which has fostered Jamaica's recent economic growth and improving investment environment “is a shared vision by both political parties regarding Jamaica's macroeconomic future and adherence to maintaining pro-investment policies, clear rules and a welcoming attitude to foreign investors. Other factors which have drawn Trinidadian companies to Jamaica are our market size, investor-friendly policies, no restrictions on the purchase of real estate, no foreign exchange restrictions or restrictions on repatriation of profits”. All of this made Jamaica, as he put it, “the right address for business success”.


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