Cash in on your country

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, February 18, 2019

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During the bad old 70s, when many were fleeing Jamaica, I noticed that upper income folks were not moving. Rather, they were installing more sophisticated security features, bought more dogs, and built guardhouses at their gates. I remember the late Cecil Charlton saying to security mogul Kenny Benjamin, “Kenny, I need you to sell me some of them 'tump-a-tail' dogs!”His description of the popular Dobermans. Clearly, these well-heeled Jamaicans saw the value of remaining here.

One lady who had sold out and migrated in a rush returned in the early 90s to see her old house listed for lease at a premium. “God really has a sense of humour,” she told me after she signed the lease and moved in.

The Jamaica Observer reported on January 31, “Fitch Ratings Agency, today upgraded the Government of Jamaica's Long-Term Foreign-Currency Issuer and Local Currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) to 'B+' from 'B', and revised the outlook to 'stable' from 'positive'. The agency also upgraded the country ceiling to 'BB-' from 'B'. This is Jamaica's highest rating in over 10 years, said the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service.”

Now, with growing interest in Jamaica, everyone, whether of small, medium or large means, should be looking at investment options. Many have been paying into National Housing Trust (NHT) for years, not realising the increased benefits being offered by them.

Here is information from the NHT website: “Loan limits have been increased for the following groups:

“Non-Homeowners: A non-homeowner is a contributor who does not have any legal or undisputed right to ownership of a residential property.

“If you do not own a house and have never accessed a benefit from the NHT, you may access financing up to the loan ceiling. The current loan ceiling is $5.5 milliom.

“Homeowners: An eligible contributor who is already a homeowner but has never received an NHT loan, can get up to $2.5 million to extend, repair and improve his premises or help buy another property. It can also be used to purchase and install a solar panel system and provide hurricane shutters.

“Persons buying residential lots: An eligible contributor can now get up to $2.5 million to buy a residential lot being sold on the open market or being sold by the NHT. Two persons may co-apply for the new maximum limit of $5 million.”

In this galloping real estate market there are excellent opportunities for those with combined incomes:

“Under this policy, two applicants can combine their incomes to access loans from the NHT of up to $11 million (ie $5.5 million each). If one applicant cannot afford to borrow his maximum individual loan of $5.5 million, but the other person is able to afford a higher amount, then the other person with the larger income may access up to $2.5 million over his own loan limit to facilitate the purchase/construction of a residential property.”

NHT interest rates range from two per cent to six per cent, with rebates for individuals with disabilities. Interest rates for mortgages from commercial banks are competitive, and these can be combined with an NHT loan. I entreat young professionals to invest in that first piece of real estate in a solid location. This has been my refrain for years; a former employee expressed his gratitude for my advice, because he had invested in a small studio, the rental from which he was able to use to fund postgraduate education overseas.

As has been reported by Bloomberg, Jamaica's stock market recorded the strongest growth in the world in 2018. I can hear the voice of the late investment guru Sushil Jain saying, “Make sure you invest in the stock market. Don't you want to have Don Wehby and Patrick Hylton working for you?”

Now there is the social stock market which gives social enterprises the opportunity to access funding from the public. Congratulations to my friends at Deaf Can! Coffee Company, among the first listings, whose products and services are exceptional.

Because we wanted to become engaged with the clients we have served over the years, we bought a few of their shares on the stock market and watched as they multiply and increase in value. In reading their annual reports, we noted that they had significant holdings in real estate, and in our own small way decided to take a few steps which have also been rewarding.

Whenever you are wondering how Jamaica is doing take a look at the business programmes and business sections of our newspapers. You will see that, while some of us are continually stuck on cable TV, others are planning their way ahead, and overseas investors are seeing great possibilities here. The French company Total is set to become a big player in Jamaica's petrol market as they are purchasing the Epping facilities.

There are some 5,000 hotel rooms to be added to our stock.

With the arrival of the 'SeaWalk' articulated pier, and a sizeable investment in a Port Royal Cruise port, residents of that area, Harbour View, Bull Bay, and Rockfort should be getting together to plan cultural and tour packages. Our Rockfort Mineral Spa is said to be one of the best in the world, and surfing is a big attraction in Bull Bay. A ferry ride over to the Kingston waterfront will take them to historical sights in the city.

Have you been down to the Kingston waterfront recently? It is bustling with new restaurants and clubs. People are not rushing home from their downtown workplaces anymore; instead, they are cooling out at the pier, their cars lining most of the length of Ocean Boulevard. The folks who had invested years ago in Ocean Towers apartments are now seeing their property appreciate.

Meanwhile, uptown, apartment buildings are appearing everywhere, and getting higher as we maximise the use of landspace in our in-demand metropolis. Among them is the planned Residences at the Terra Nova condos will offer luxury accommodations and services.

A recent release from our Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC), co-chaired by Bank of Jamaica Governor Brian Wynter and Jamaica Money Market Brokers President Keith Duncan, noted, “The EPOC met on January 15, 2019 and reviewed the latest available results for the period ending September 2018. Based on the preliminary results for performance to date through the end of November 2018, the GOJ [Government of Jamaica] is on track to meet the targets for the Quantitative Performance Criteria (QPCs) and indicative targets (ITs) for the IMF [International Monetary Fund] Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) as at end-December 2018. As a result of the overall strong performance, the GOJ has met all eight macro-fiscal structural benchmarks for the November 2016 to November 2018 period. The GOJ has also met the 14 structural benchmarks for public sector transformation, public bodies and public service reform through end-November 2018.”

Good people, we can spend our time gossiping and bickering over tribalist pettiness, or we can focus our energy on making the best of this positive environment for economic growth. Record your goals, study your options, and step up for yourself, your family and your country.

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at




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