Business

Jamaica aims to sell government paper to China

BY STEVEN JACKSON Business reporter jacksons@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, January 17, 2014    

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JAMAICA aims to offer government paper to the Chinese market as part of efforts to broaden its investment profile.

Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips revealed these prospects in discussing his December trip to China with local businessmen at the Jamaica Observer head office in Kingston on Wednesday.

"I was not shopping for a particular loan," he said. "But among the things that we raised is the prospect of engaging Asian markets in becoming interested in Jamaican paper whenever we return to the market. There were other issues including lines of credit extended to our Development Bank that arose in discussions central bank to central bank."

Phillips told the local businessmen that 2014 contained three main challenges, including maintaining fiscal prudence, lowering the cost of energy and reducing crime.

"We now need to sustain the rebuild of confidence that is taking place such that investors that have to make this work will make the investment to provide the jobs ultimately," he said.

Last August, a government delegation led by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller visited China to ostensibly celebrate 40 years of China and Jamaica relations. However, the highlight of the visit was the revelation by Chinese authorities of an intent to build an over US$1 billion mega hub in Goat Island, a protected island off the coast of Jamaica.

The Chinese Government led by its agencies have rapidly invested in Jamaica over the last decade. Kingston is the Caribbean headquarters for China Harbour Engineering Company, which has been contracted to conduct major infrastructural projects in the country. Another large Chinese investor, Complant, purchased three sugar factories and leased 30,000 hectares of cane-growing lands from the Government

of Jamaica.

"The mega projects are on track -- the port expansion, resort development, agro parks -- but as important as they are, more important are the hundreds and hopefully thousands of investment projects that people will embark upon," Phillips told the businessmen on prospects for stimulating growth in the economy set to grow just 1.2 per cent in 2014 based on United Nations projections by its regional economic body ECLAC.

Richard Byles ,head of large financial conglomerate Sagicor Group Jamaica, urged cabinet to address crime with the similar urgency done with reforming the economy.

"If we as a country were able to do with crime what we have done with our fiscal deficit and the determination and steadfast nature of our monetary policy...we would change the whole morale of our country," he asserted. "What is the equivalent of all of that omnibus incentive, tax reform and fiscal room coming. What is the equivalent of that with crime. We have to do it."

Head of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica Chris Zacca commended Phillips but called for cabinet to issue an energy, security and bureacracy reform plan with deliverables.

"I would like to see some coordinating role at Jamaica House to pull these things together," he added.

Don Wehby, CEO of large conglomerate GraceKennedy indicated that Government needs more focus on reducing the cost of energy, simplifying the tax system, maintaining tight fiscal management and cutting bureacracy.

Head of Fontana Pharmacy and political commentator Kevin O'Brien Chang urged government to facilitate business processes and also to stem the slide in the annual Doing Business Report published by the lending arm of the World Bank.

The island's ranking has dipped every year since publication from the mid 40s towards the 90s.

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