A delegation from the Indian Economic Trade Organisation (IETO), led by its president Dr Asif Iqbal, on Friday expressed interest in deepening trade relations between Jamaica and the subcontinent, as well as in increasing knowledge exchange and public-private partnerships.
A follow-up to the IETO’s visit in March to attend JMEA/Jampro Expo Jamaica 2023, last week’s mission included courtesy calls on the Ministry of Tourism; Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce; and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. During the visit the group of Indian businessmen and women also met with the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, and the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
On Friday the Indian High Commission hosted a meet and greet between the 17-member delegation and local businessmen, including those in the Indian Diaspora, at the Jamaica Pegasus in New Kingston.
According to Iqbal, “In the matter of four days we’ve had some very fruitful interactions and all of you coming here is testimony to the fact that there is a strong interest in doing something bilaterally.”
The IETO president listed private sector interests in agro-processing, wellness tourism, health, film, among others. On the issue of health, he said that a member of the delegation is exploring the possibility of expanding dialysis centres at public hospitals through a public-private partnership.
IETO is a non-governmental organisation that represents the interest of its members through lobbying, collaboration and facilitation with a focus business empowerment as the engine for economic growth and the promotion of competitiveness in the marketplace.
Speaking to the Jamaica Observer, Dr Iqbal revealed that returning to Jamaica was due to the positive experience he had during Expo 2023.
“We think the Jamaica Expo was really good to understand the strengths of Jamaica and during that expo we were able to get everything under one roof — to interact with various agencies, entities, and government organisations under one roof — and that gave us a comprehensive idea of how Jamaica is and what Jamaica is,” he said, adding that based on observation Jamaica’s systems and government structure would be pull factors for Indian investment.
Looking ahead, he plans to bring a larger delegation when he returns in March 2024. At that time, the Indian High Commission in collaboration with the IETO will host a Indian Diaspora meeting which will include Indians in the US, Canada and the Middle East.
“So they will all join here and we are going to have our own non-resident Indian conference here,” Dr Iqbal explained.
Ahead of the networking session on Friday, the IETO signed memoranda of understanding with the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean (UCC) to train Indian students in business and management.
Given Jamaica’s proximity to the United States, the IETO head said that there are companies interested in investing in digital services and business process outsourcing.
“IT space is something we’re looking at, especially with the time zone that is there with the United States. We have some companies who are working and there is already a company called Amber and Sutherland who have come here and they have given great testimonies as to how it is going to be,” Dr Iqbal shared, adding that the IETO has also discussed training in artificial intelligence and cybersecurity with UCC.
In terms of India’s expectations of Jamaica, Iqbal stated that India has much to learn about developing and marketing its tourism products, and so believes the Ministry of Tourism here can help in that regard.
“We are looking at dialysis centres along with the hospitals here, so a public-private partnership will be involved, setting up dialysis machines in containers because the hospitals have very little space to set up dialysis centres here and we have come to know that and we are getting containers to set up very close to the hospitals so that more dialysis patients can be using this facilities at a much cheaper cost,” he added.
Iqbal argued that with the importation of Indian-made dialysis equipment, the cost of the blood filtering procedure could be halved.
Again pointing to Jamaica’s favourability to Indian businesses in the past, he said the country “could be a great hub for Indian businesses to come here and work more closely to the North American and South American market.”
The International Monetary Fund has projected gross domestic product growth of 6 per cent in India this year. India is the fourth-fastest growing country in the world and is predicted to overtake Germany to take the third spot in that index by 2027.
Now the most populated country in the world with 1.4 billion citizens, the economy is valued at US$3.5 trillion.
“This new growth in India is bottom up. This new growth in India is inclusive…not just the seven major cities,” India’s High Commissioner to Kingston Masakui Rungsung said on Friday.
Pointing to growth in payments on the country’s Unified Payment Interface, the diplomat said the managers of the platform are promoting its use to the Bank of Jamaica and Ministry of Finance.
“India is now outward looking…The 17-man delegation is a testament to what I’m saying,” he concluded.