Late, but not too late on the logistics hub
Last week, Jamaica celebrated the Eisenhower Fellowship Programme which has operated since 1953. To date, 14 Jamaicans, starting with Mr Horace Barber in 1969 and including Mr Morin Seymour and Dr Keith Panton, have been selected from a global catchment of applicants.
Jamaican Dr Parris Lyew-Ayee Jr has been awarded a fellowship for the year 2014. He was chosen from candidates from 49 countries. The Eisenhower Fellowship Programme is chaired by former US Secretary of State General Colin Powell, and the Jamaica selection committee is chaired by Ambassador Dr Richard L Bernal.
The function in honour of the Eisenhower Fellowship Programme was put to productive use by the dynamic Ms Sandra Glasgow, who took the initiative to invite Mr Solomon Chi, businessman and investor from Shanghai, China, to speak on how the world views Jamaica's plan to create a global logistics hub.
An investor in ports, Mr Solomon Chi delivered a wake-up call to an audience of business leaders. His message was that, in terms of benefiting from the synergies with the enlarged Panama Canal, Jamaica has a comparative advantage in its geographic location, but it is off to a late start.
Late both in regard to when the multiplier effects of the canal will start to be felt, and more important, is that Jamaica is off to a late start compared to other Caribbean and Central American countries that have also spotted the opportunities and are seeking to capitalise on the Panama Canal dynamic.
We have warned in this space that the competition includes Cuba, the Dominican Republic, The Bahamas, Haiti, Puerto Rica, Costa Rica, and Colombia. We have also warned that their developments are already in the implementation phase, and Jamaica is still in the planning phase.
Mr Solomon Chi i made two astute observations. First, Jamaica has to move quickly and decisively if it is to benefit from the new developments. Second, we should not see this as a winner-take-all as there are benefits to be had, even if they do not all accrue to Jamaica.
He particularly emphasised the range of related services and support businesses which can emerge from an enlarged port and logistics hub, and suggested that there are possibilities for the manufacture of goods by Chinese firms in instances where goods made in China face anti-dumping and other trade barriers in the US and European markets.
His presentation told the story of China's growth being partly based on investments in infrastructure. This, he stressed, was a prerequisite for Jamaica's logistics hub and port modernisation and enlargement. Chinese infrastructure development is inspirational because it made any engineering difficulties for any site, including Goat Islands, seem manageable.
In seeking to create a global logistics hub Jamaica is late coming out of the starting blocks, but hopefully, like Usain Bolt, we can move "quickly and decisively" into the drive phase.
As we know from track and field, the best position is to finish first. There are advantages to being first, and often people forget who came second and third.