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JCC: Private sector cautious, but for logistics hub

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, January 15, 2014    

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THE Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) has expressed confidence that the local private sector will invest in the development of the proposed global logistic hub.

"I do feel very, very strongly that the private sector is willing to invest. They are a little bit cautious, but they are willing to take chances," president of the chamber, Francis Kennedy, told the Jamaica Observer weekly Monday Exchange forum at the newspaper's head office in Kingston.

The view was shared by the chairman of the Logistics and Investment Task Force in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Dr Eric Deans, who believes that the local investors could start declaring their involvement in the project from as early as January 21, when the chamber commences a two-day symposium on the proposed multibillion-dollar development.

Deans said that his task force was confident in the success of the project, based on the "scale of and magnitude" of some of the investments it is seeing.

"You will be hearing arrangements very shortly, possibly at the symposium. But, we are very confident that the private sector is (on board)," he told the forum.

According to him, information on investments in the hub is not being revealed publicly by those involved, but they are holding discussions with the task force and making their intentions clear.

"It is not for the Government to reveal those confidential discussions. It is when the investor is ready to announce the project, when they will come out to the public and say, this is what I am doing," he explained.

"It is when they feel that it is opportune, or appropriate, when they will make the necessary announcements," he added.

He said that the public has to recognise that for the first time, the Government is not in the driver's seat, "where they can tell you what is going to happen".

"So, people are asking the Government to explain to them what the private sector is doing: I think that is a difficult job," Dr Deans said.

The Opposition Jamaica Labour Party last week raised questions about the relative silence of the Government on the progress of the project. Its spokesman on industry and commerce, Karl Samuda, called for more information to be made available to the public on the progress of the project, while Opposition leader Andrew Holness questioned whether the Chinese government was still showing interest in developing the Goat Islands as part of the hub.

Kennedy said that the JCC's January 21-22 symposium at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston will explore investment and business opportunities, manufacturing possibilities, the various types of commercial zones being considered and the time horizon in which Jamaica is to ready itself to take advantage of this national project.

He said that there will also be special discussions geared to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises and an exploration of workforce needs.

A key feature of the event will be practical presentations from Singapore, Canada and Panama with representatives from each country outlining the road map to development of a profitable logistics hub. Presentations will also be made by representatives from the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and Caribbean Development Bank.

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