GraceKennedy sets a fine example

Friday, May 31, 2019

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To their credit, successive governments have tried their best to stimulate investment in downtown Kingston. Even during the time when this newspaper disclosed that the State itself was spending millions of dollars on expensive rental in New Kingston and other areas uptown — at higher rates than what private companies paid for similar accommodation — the Government pushed the idea of redeveloping the capital's original centre of commerce to reverse abandonment and neglect of property, as well stigmatisation of areas downtown.

As part of that strategy, legislators approved the Urban Renewal (Tax Relief) Act which provides incentives for investments in downtown Kingston. Those incentives, we believe, are encouraging: a tax credit of 33.3 per cent on capital sums invested, tax-free rental income, exemption from transfer tax and stamp duty, and tax-free urban renewal bonds.

Over the years, a few companies have taken advantage of this Act, and on Wednesday we saw the latest benefit of that decision when GraceKennedy opened its corporate headquarters on Harbour Street, across the road from its previous head office.

It is important to note that GraceKennedy has always demonstrated a commitment to downtown Kingston, having kept its headquarters there for decades. Now, the conglomerate has strengthened that bond by bringing together its Group Executive Office,GK Financial Group Divisional Office, and GK Money Services Group comprising Western Union, Bill Express, and FX Trader under one roof.

Indeed, Mr Andrew Messado, the group chief financial officer, told shareholders at the company's annual general meeting on Wednesday this week that the conglomerate was able to remove some of its subsidiaries as well as the central office for the overall financial group to the new building downtown Kingston.

“They were previously occupying high rental spaces in New Kingston, so we are saving some money by bringing them downtown in a combined setting,” Mr Messado explained, adding that in 2017 and 2018 GraceKennedy received tax benefits of $416 million and $428 million, respectively.

That makes economic sense and, we hope, will serve as an example to others, including the State which, we acknowledge, is constructing — with the help of the Chinese Government — a new building downtown to house the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.

GraceKennedy's investment in downtown Kingston must also been seen in relation to the company's drive to become a global consumer group by the year 2020, earning half of its profit from outside Jamaica by having its renowned Grace brand sold on three continents.

As we have stated in this space before, that push by GraceKennedy is an acknowledgement of the capacity of Jamaicans to achieve at the highest level. It also speaks to a refusal to accept the belief by some that we are inferior, or mediocre, because of our economic difficulties and designation as a Third World nation. Plus, it has the added advantage of further promoting Jamaica worldwide.

Well done, GraceKennedy.

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