ROSE HALL, St James — Jamaica will be vigorously exploring the option of helping investors who have a challenge getting visas to other countries, a part of the strategy being proposed by newly minted Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce (IIC) Senator Aubyn Hill.
He pointed to the cash-rich Middle East as one part of the globe that he will be looking to for long-term investment.
“It is an area that we are going to continue working on because it is a rich area. You have tourists who want to come to the West. They can't always get visas in other countries but Jamaica can, with the proper restrictions through the Ministry of National Security and so on. We have a much different arrangement. So, it is all those aspects of investing that we are looking at,” he told the Jamaica Observer on the sidelines of Thursday's launch of the World Free Zones Organization (WFZO) 8th Annual International Conference and Exhibition (AICE).
It was not immediately clear what measures Jamaica would use to facilitate access to third-party countries. However, at least five countries in the Caribbean — St Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, and St Lucia — have citizenship-by-investment programmes (CIP). Under the CIP, sometimes referred to as “economic citizenship”, people wishing to acquire citizenship of a country with which they have no previous ties, can do so after meeting certain criteria and making a significant investment in that country's economy.
However, concerns have been raised, in recent years, about the character of some of the individuals who have used the scheme to skirt immigration requirements. A July 2021 report in the Guardian newspaper said their investigations had revealed that more than 2,000 people — including some being sought by the police — had bought passports from the Pacific nation of Vanuata that gave them visa-free access to the EU and UK.
Despite concerns, the CIP is not illegal and there have been calls, in Jamaica, for it to be explored as a way to lure deep-pocketed investors. Hill appears to share the view that vigorous efforts must be made to attract the wealthy.
“I want to make sure that people understand that [just] because the UAE (United Arab Emirates) or Saudi Arabia is rich, you just don't go there and pick up the money. You have to sell the investment like you would sell in Denmark or the United States or anywhere else; and it takes time,” he said.
In addition to Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett's efforts to tap more into the luxury Middle East markets with big spenders and to get Jamaica on investors' radar, Hill explained that he would also like to see investment in the country's logistics sector.
In addition, he will be ensuring that an industrial apprenticeship programme which is on the books of IIC but was never implemented, is put in place. The minister who has been on the job for approximately two weeks following a Cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, said the initiative will be his “new and developing purpose to make sure that there is an impact on the country in general and not just investment.”
He also pointed to the importance of not just skills training, but moral discipline.
“I just took over this ministry and I was looking at the 30 or so functions and number 19 said 'industrial apprenticeship'. Now, we haven't had any of that much here in Jamaica but… my ministry is going to be driving that — with the ministry of agriculture too but really education and STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] — to make sure that we have the people trained in all kind of skills. [This will] make sure that [when] we have all kind of investors in, we do have our people here to serve them,” he said.
— Anthony Lewis