Opportunities in the business process outsourcing industry
Regardless of how bad the economic crisis is, there are always economic opportunities. Indeed, an economic crisis is a sign that there is a lack of imagination in public policy. However, in the midst of Jamaica's economic crisis there are plenty of economic opportunities.
For example, the export of scrap metal turns junk into foreign exchange. The extraction of rare earth metals from the red mud residue of alumina plants is another example.
Too many people in Jamaica are blaming the Government for their difficult economic circumstances and the formal business spends too much time voicing an endless litany of complaints and demanding help from Government. In the days when foreign exchange was hard to come by, the formal business sector complained and berated the Bank of Jamaica, but the informal commercial traders, often disparaged as 'higglers', found a way to earn foreign exchange and sourced imports less expensively than merchants.
A not so new opportunity which seems set to be coming to fruition is the business process outsourcing industry (BPO). Projections claim that in the next two years the sector could grow by 50 per cent, create 7,000 new jobs and earn US$15 million. Ultimately the sector could employ as many as 45,000. This projection is certainly far too optimistic, but the point is, there is potential.
Every other country in the world has seen this opportunity in the global value and hence Jamaica will face strong international competition, especially from countries with lower labour costs such as India.
Mr Yoni Epstein, president of the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica (BPIAJ), is confident that Jamaica already has a foundation for this industry. By his estimates the sector currently employs 14,000 people and this constitutes a platform of skills on which to build. Other favourable factors giving Jamaica a competitive advantage include a literate, trainable workforce, telecommunication facilities, competitive labour costs and location near to the United States.
Jamaica has to improve its language capability if it is to compete with countries such as Costa Rica where English and Spanish are spoken and the teaching of Mandarin is on the cards.
A grant of US$50,000 from the Inter-American Development Bank will be used to fund the establishment and operation of an incubation centre to be located in the Montego Bay Free Zone to assist new investors to more easily enter the BPO industry.
The outlook for the growth of the business process outsourcing industry in the global economy is bright, particularly as companies outsource to reduce costs. We hope that Jamaica makes itself an attractive internationally competitive location so that it can seize the opportunities proffered by this industry.