INCOMING president of Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association Sydney Thwaites drove home a message of consistency and continuity in advancing his vision for the business lobby group during his tenure over the next year.
Thwaites, who is the co-founder and CEO of Lubricating Specialties Company Jamaica Limited, was elected to the presidency of the JMEA uncontested, being the only candidate nominated at the association's annual general meeting held at the NCB Sports Complex in New Kingston on Wednesday.
He will be supported by Kathryn Silvera, director of sales and marketing at Caribbean Foods Limited, who was also elected unopposed as deputy president of the JMEA; and Robert Scott, general manager, Lifespan Company Limited, who was re-elected as treasurer.
While highlighting some of the positions taken by outgoing JMEA President John Mahfood and his predecessor Richard Pandohie, Thwaites pointed out that since the needs of the organisation have not changed, he will continue to build on them.
Some of the areas of advocacy under Pandohie's presidency Thwaites noted were lower interest rates for small and medium-size enterprises, anti-dumping legislation, investment tax credits, reducing the costs associated with the export process, and updating trade legislation to reflect the needs of businesses and industries. At the same time, he applauded Mahfood for championing the rights of employees to access pension, pressing more companies to explore new export markets, and for small manufacturers to use the Jamaica Stock Exchange as a means of raising capital.
"The priorities haven't changed. There's nothing new that our manufacturing sector needs," the newly elected president told the JMEA membership, adding "We need consistency with those approaches."
He further argued that despite the milestone achievements of the manufacturing sector, and the individual successes of some companies, the country's trade imbalance still remains a challenge to address. In this regard, Thwaites called on the member organisations boost both manufacturing and exports so as to ease trade imbalance.
According to figures from Statistical Institute of Jamaica for the January-April 2023 period, exports grew by 32 per cent year over year to US$677.5 million, due to both higher domestic exports and re-exports which increased by US$72.0 million and US$92.4 million, respectively. While exports from the agriculture and mining industries rose, overall earnings from the export of manufactured products fell by 3.1 per cent as the country's sales in refined petroleum declined.
"We can help that imbalance without exporting what we manufacture," Thwaites stated.
"So I'm not laying out for you any new plans. There [are] no new tools in the toolbox, the priorities are not new. We're going to consistently strive to meet the needs of our membership through advocacy, through exposure, through export, and through supportive initiatives. Richard and John had the solutions that we're going to consistently make sure we pursue," he continued.
Turning his attention to the Government, the CEO of Lubricating Specialties said the organisation stands ready to engage and collaborate with the current Administration, having witnessed a number of milestone accomplishments including currency stability, managed inflation, low levels of unemployment, reduction in government debt, and resiliency post-COVID.
"All of those positive signs have led to our S&P ratings [upgrade] — that is not a small deal either," Thwaites emphasised.
S&P Global Ratings last week changed Jamaica's credit rating from B+ to BB- with a stable outlook, granting the country its highest rating since it began assessing Jamaica in 1999.
Notwithstanding, he asserted that JMEA "will be vocal about the needs of our manufacturers and exporters".
"We also need smart and consistent government policy…we ned to address issues in trade, education and infrastructure," the new JMEA president declared.