A 42-month wait for an investor is not Usain Bolt speed, PM


A 42-month wait for an investor is not Usain Bolt speed, PM

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

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Maybe Prime Minister Andrew Holness is the only one in his Administration who appreciates the need for dispatch in the area of approving investment projects.

However, if we are wrong in this, we expect that he would already have scolded the people responsible for subjecting potential investors to interminable delays, as was the case with Karisma Hotels and Resorts which came to the country three-and-a-half years ago, ready to do business.

We suspect that Mr Ruben Becerra, Karisma's vice-president of corporate affairs and business development, was being polite when he spoke recently at the two-day Caribbean Hotel Investment Conference and Operations Summit in Montego Bay, St James.

“This has been a long story. We started three-and-a-half years ago and the good news is that everything is ready. All the process that needs to be done is already done,” he said as he announced that ground would be broken next year for the 4,800-room multi-resort development project in Llandovery, St Ann.

That investment, he revealed, is near US$1 billion.

A resort of that magnitude will generate many jobs in the construction phase and, most naturally, when the property is up and running. While we acknowledge that all the necessary approvals must be granted, and the investor must pass all due diligence tests, we cannot fathom a wait of 42 months.

That certainly does not square with Mr Holness's declaration that the Government is determined to ensure that the ease of doing business here will be at the speed of legendary Jamaican sprinter Mr Usain Bolt.

“What I want to communicate to you today, as potential investors in the region, is that this Government is serious about making Jamaica the place of choice for your investment,” Mr Holness told delegates at that same Caribbean Hotel Investment and Operations Summit at which Mr Becerra spoke.

Mr Holness correctly acknowledged that we have a lot of work to do if we are to achieve that ideal, as the 2019 Doing Business Report ranks Jamaica 71 of 190 countries which, he noted, “reflected an improvement of our ranking for the previous year by four places”.

Of significant note, though, is that the current ranking represents a plunge from 64 in the year 2016. The impact of that drop was explained by Mr Michael Lee-Chin, chairman of the Economic Growth Council, in his ninth quarterly report last week.

According to Mr Lee-Chin, the information he has is that every one place in ranking is worth US$500 million in foreign direct investment, therefore a seven-place fall has cost Jamaica more than US$3.5 billion.

The prime minister has assured the country, and indeed potential investors, that his Administration is actively working to improve those rankings. We note too the acknowledgement by Mr Lee-Chin, in his report, that there have been nominal improvements in a number of areas, among them the time it takes to start a business.

Our suggestion is that this needs to remain one of the Government's top priorities as there is no gainsaying the fact that an increase in investments will lead to the creation of more jobs which will redound to the benefit of Jamaicans and the country in general.

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