Business

Opportunities emerging for Diaspora, says Jarrett

Friday, December 13, 2013    

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EARL Jarrett, general manager of Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS), says Jamaicans in the Diaspora can benefit from the existing investment opportunities, and appealing new ones emerging in the island.

Jarrett pointed to opportunities in tourism, real estate, and the information technology sector, which have the backing of state promotion agency Jampro. He was addressing a 'business mixer' for franchise holders of Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery and Grill, at the Hilton New York JFK Hotel, in New York, recently.

"Wealth creation is occurring in the Jamaican economy," Jarrett told the Golden Krust franchise holders. He declared that potential investors need to take full measure of the developments taking place in the nation.

Over the past five decades, the island nation's 0.7 per cent average economic growth rate has helped to shape perceptions which would position Jamaica as "a country that is not going anywhere", he stated. "But, what the data doesn't tell us is that a large percentage of our economy is not measured in these data- gathering exercises."

An informal network producing goods and services has grown to account for as much as 45 per cent of GDP, said Jarrett, who is also chairman of the Jamaican Diaspora Foundation.

He noted that Jamaica supports a vibrant private sector, with continuing wealth creation at the upper and upper-middle levels of the business community. And he pointed to the fact that many major companies in Jamaica show consistent asset growth and remain highly profitable, despite the economic challenges since the global economic fallout in 2008.

Many Jamaicans are ambivalent about their national heritage, and fail to take advantage of the opportunities which it offers, he said, adding that Jamaica has one of the most recognised and powerful brand images globally, as was demonstrated by its enormous resonance at last year's Olympic Games in London.

Looking at Jamaicans from the Diaspora who recognised the island's potential, Jarrett pointed to British-Jamaican entrepreneur Keith "Levi Roots" Graham, who opened his first Reggae Reggae store locally at Devon House earlier this month.

"Your own Lowell Hawthorne with his successful Golden Krust brand, along with others, are creatively using their Jamaican-inspired products and services to help define and build Brand Jamaica," Jarrett told the New York audience.

Combining the island's image with its wellness tourism potential has attracted the Indo-Jamaican Global MD Group consortium, he stated. "This Jamaican-led consortium of about 50 doctors, from North Carolina in the United States, plans construction of a five-star, 200-room hospital in Rose Hall, Montego Bay, for wellness tourism."

Investment opportunities in real estate have also proliferated, mainly resulting from several major highway projects across the island, which have reduced travel times, and opened new areas for development. Jamaica National Building Society, Jamaica's largest private mortgage provider, serves as a conduit for overseas-based Jamaicans for such projects.

"Harmonisation Limited, a mega-resort project at Harmony Cove in Trelawny, which has been on the drawing board for several years, is set to begin shortly," Jarrett stated. This development will include villas, townhouses, resort accommodation, a luxury resort hotel and a world-class marina to attract tourists and real estate investors to the island.

"Another real estate development which is getting significant traction is the Richmond Development housing community in St Ann," Jarrett told the US business operators. Richmond Development is located along Jamaica's north coast, just a 50-minute drive from the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay.

A further investment option lies in the emergence, over the past 10 years, of call centres across Jamaica and increased interest in the island becoming a Business Process Outsourcing hub. Valued at more than US$200 million, the Information and Communication Technology industry employs some 13,250 persons and is projected to grow by 25 per cent per annum, with businesses needing an additional 2,500 to 3,000 workers per year to meet demand for their services.

Investment opportunities such as these should have a strong appeal to Jamaicans in the Diaspora, Jarrett told the business meeting. "However, it seems that very often we miss the goal of reaching people like you."

He maintained that there has been a focused effort to increase the value and support of the Jamaican Diaspora in the overall plans for the growth and development of the country over the last decade. He said, "We are all part of what I call the One Jamaica project, which aims to bring together all Jamaicans and friends of Jamaica, to do business and create individual and collective wealth; and, by so doing, positively impact the Jamaican economy."

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