Tue | Dec 6, 2016

New logistics STEW. One-stop trade shop to complement SEZ plans

Published:Wednesday | October 8, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Anthony Hylton, minister of industry, investment and commerce. File

Avia Collinder, Business Reporter

Minister of Industry, Invest-ment and Commerce Anthony Hylton says the special economic zones (SEZ) to be rolled out, starting in 2016, will be the signal to large international investors that Jamaica is ready for big investments along the value chain.

The SEZ - slated to replace export-subsidised free zones - will provide "superior market-access arrangements through a network of trade arrangements that will minimise trade duties in the major trade lanes," Hylton said on Monday at the ministry's latest logistics confab in Kingston.

As those plans take shape under a new policy that will be codified into law, Hylton also disclosed that he is working on a plan to make it easier for companies to conduct cross-border trade.

The ministry is creating a Single Trade Electronic Window (STEW), aimed at integrating the Port Community System of the Port Authority of Jamaica, the Jamaica Customs Agency's management system, ASYCUDA World, as well as the trade facilitation systems of various governmental authorities.

Details of the project were sparse, but Wednesday Business was advised that STEW will be implemented and managed by the Trade Board Limited as a "one-stop trade shop". Trade Board representatives said STEW will allow businesses to funnel their trade-related applications through one portal and track approvals from relevant agencies.

Trade Board's Victor Cum-mings said Tuesday that STEW is a conditionality under the IMF agreement.

"We are working with Fiscal Services in pulling together the costs and finalising technology needs. We have completed the business process review and we expect to have it in place next summer when we plan to go live," he told Wednesday Business.

"It will be web-based, linking all the major agencies together as a single window. One entry point will satisfy everybody, cutting out the several locations and several fees."

Hylton, on Monday, outlined some elements of the early stage programme, that he said was already "on the way", including business process reviews of all trade-related agencies, completed by a team comprised of the Cabinet Office, eGov Limited, Jamaica Customs Agency, Trade Board, and Bureau of Standards; and eGov having upgraded and integrated trade facilitation systems under contract with the Cabinet Office.

A draft memorandum of understanding among relevant ministries has been developed alongside a concept paper for STEW, all of which have been submitted to Cabinet for approval.

The cost of the programme is being finalised in consultation with Fiscal Services, Cummings said.

The larger Special Economic Zone project is designed to support development of industrial infrastructure that will be attractive for large-scale investments, Hylton said.

"The SEZs will play a key role in terms of economic reforms, attracting foreign direct investment, catalysing development of industrial clusters, attracting new technologies and adopting modern business management practices," he said.

The SEZ policy is meant to position Jamaica to make the leap beyond being a pure trans-shipment point to adding substantial value locally to goods moving through the hub, he said.

Hylton's global logistics hub is an ambitious US$10 billion programme, linked to projects throughout central Government. The initiative has the endorsement of multilateral lenders as a potential game-changer for growth, but at home, there is push for tangible results.

Hylton said discussions are ongoing with "prospective investors and influencers" around large-scale investments in sectors such as energy and extractive industries, ICT/knowledge services, medical devices, distribution and logistics.

"To date, anchor investors originating primarily out of Asia, Europe, North America and Latin America are venturing into a wide range of value-added industries geared for our special economic zones, including third party logistics or 3PL providers, ship repair and recycling, bunkering and consumer product industries," he told the 'Growth Agenda and Special Economic Zones Policy Dialogue', a two-day event hosted by his ministry from October 6-7.

Growth projects being pursued by Government span agriculture, logistics, tourism, IT, business process outsourcing, culture and creative industries, animation and ornamental fish industries, some through public-private partnerships.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com