Gov't eyes major expansion of special economic zones
WARMINGTON... SEZ Authority will continue to work closely with investors to bring projects to fruition

THE Government is holding talks with a number of prospective investors on projects that are expected to establish 400 acres of additional special economic zone (SEZ) space across the island, estimated at a value of more than US$1.3 billion.

Construction on the projects are expected to start during this financial year.Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Everald Warmington made the announcement in his sectoral debate presentation in the House of Representatives yesterday.

The projects include a facility at Grand Ridge in Montego Bay, a 65-acre zone with commercial, educational, medical/pharmaceutical and commercial industries; a 26-acre film studio and post-production facility in Trelawny; and the Seaview Eco-Industrial Park in the Seaview/Riverton area. The projects make up about 250 acres of mixed-use facilities, data centres, petrochemical, and logistics industries, Warmington said.The SEZ Authority, he said, would continue to work closely with investors to bring the projects to fruition.

Meanwhile, he told the House that at the end of March last year 98 per cent, or 131 out of 134 approved free zone entities transitioned to the new SEZ regime.

“This number, together with the 52 new SEZ developers who entered into licensing agreements with the authority during the reporting period, brought the complement of SEZ entities to 183. This represents a growth trajectory of 30 per cent for the new regime,” he said.

These entities coming on stream have led to an increase in Government earnings from $22 million in 2019 to a reported $381 million by June 2020 and the creation of 50,391 new jobs in the information, communication technology and business process outsourcing, agribusiness, the logistics, and fuel sectors.

According to the minister, preliminary data suggests that after all the current SEZ projects have been processed and approved, employment numbers should jump to approximately 65,000, with women accounting for the majority of workers.

SEZs established across 11 parishes are aimed as an economic stimulus strategy, providing services such as training, incubation space, logistics, warehousing and distribution, and production facilities, and manufacturing, he said.

Warmington noted that SEZs now account for 26.6 million square feet of designated areas across the country. “Despite the coronavirus pandemic, there are 12 new zones under construction in a variety of industries, totalling 1.1 million square feet of committed space. This represents US$660.6 million of direct investment and the addition of 30,226 new jobs, based on the investor's projections,” he said.

He stressed that business confidence in the SEZ model continues to grow, with heightened local and foreign investor interest in a wide cross section of traditional, as well as new and emerging industries.

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS Senior staff reporter

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