Letters to the Editor

Use Sandy to refocus on growing the economy

By Robert Stephens

Monday, October 29, 2012    

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With the devastating effect of Hurricane Sandy on the lives of many Jamaicans, we must now more than ever, re-focus on growing the economy. Focus must be around areas where we have a competitive advantage, particularly in terms of our location as a port for a logistics hub, airports as tourism, shopping, entertainment and business hub, our cultural tourism, ICT and our agro-Industry potential.

Kingston as the logistics hub is a vision whose time has come. With the Panama Canal expanding, Jamaica has the greatest opportunity to be the distribution hub of the Americas. The key is to partner with a shipping and logistics company, preferably out of Asia, that can buy into the concept and feed the traffic through Jamaica. It seems that with China Harbour the Government has selected the partner and now we have to ensure that they deliver the goods and provide the economic stimulus, especially in terms of jobs for Jamaicans.

Montego Bay as the entertainment and shopping hub of the Caribbean catering to South and Central American clients, in particular, is moving in the right direction, but requires more boutique shopping in a Free Zone environment and needs to have more direct air links with South and Central America.

An airline partner such as Lan Chile and an entrepreneur or group who understands retail shopping needs to be targeted, but the concept and location of the shopping should be the subject of a planning exercise which looks at all aspects of MoBay, including a bypass road that removes the congestion from the downtown and hip strip areas. The hip strip also needs a real estate developer to take over the four hotels (two of which are closed) and develop a comprehensive hotel, shopping and entertainment experience around the strip.

Port Antonio as the eco-heritage tourism hideaway of the Caribbean looks as if it is now taking shape, with Portland Holdings choosing Geejam Collections to manage its hospitality and tourism properties, and work on the Trident Villas and Castle resumed, and plans for Dragon Bay being revisited by the Sandals Group. This could see a resurgence in the potential for developing Navy Island and both the West and East Harbour of

Port Antonio.

Port Royal, linked to Kingston and Spanish Town to develop the historic triangle as the Caribbean hot spot for culture and heritage, really is now long overdue for development. We hope that all hands will now be on deck to ensure this becomes a reality.

Portmore, as the ICT hub of the Caribbean is also long overdue and the Factories Corporation needs to take a lead role by selling its existing occupied US-dollar earning properties to Pension Funds either directly or possibly via a Real Estate Investment Fund such as Kingston Properties. Use the earnings to develop new space for this industry, particularly in Portmore where they already own real estate. Partnering with local and overseas partners is possible,

but these opportunities need to be acted

on rapidly to get things moving.

Agro-industry developments need a parish by parish focus, looking at what can be grown and processed for export and maximising our local value added, so we can retain more of the potential earnings for our local producers. The practice of exporting green beans of coffee, for instance, should be prohibited as we need to produce the finished roasted coffee locally to a much greater extent.

As with our juices, we now need to expand our growth of our exotics and produce not just juices but other confectionery and processed products for the international marketplace. The demand for our exotics is almost unlimited, but we need to plan and implement action to ensure we have a comprehensive islandwide programme that is properly coordinated and managed through private and public sector collaboration.

Let us use the restarted Partnership for Transformation as the platform to get all our partners (government, opposition, unions, private sector and civil society) singing from the same hymn book to build our nation as a truly independent economic and social powerhouse and as an example for the rest of the world to emulate as we have done in our sports and music.

rspragma@yahoo.com

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