Better score but lower ranking - Jamaica slips five spots in Doing Business survey
The rankings for business friendliness this year were mixed for Jamaica, prompting the head of the state agency charged with positioning the country for international investments to caution that there was more work to do in that regard.
Jamaica's score improved by 0.55 point to 67.47 points in the survey published annually by the World Bank, but it slid all of five places in the line-up of countries whose systems are most conducive to business and investment.
Jamaicans can start a business and get credit easier than almost anywhere in the world, but expect delays when trading across borders, and good luck when enforcing contracts, according to the Doing Business Report 2019, which downgraded the country five spots from 70 to 75, among 190 nations.
That rank is the same position the island held a decade ago in the 2010 report.
While acknowledging areas in which Jamaica showed progress in the current report, Jampro President Diane Edwards was not inclined to celebrate. She affirmed in a press statement that "Jamaica must implement business reforms faster to remain competitive in the global economy".
Globally, dairy-producing New Zealand continued to hold the top spot for the Ease of Doing Business subranking with the financial centre of Singapore in second position.
Despite difficulties with cross-border trading, enforcing contracts and paying taxes, Jamaica still topped the independent Caribbean and ranked ninth among more than 30 countries in the Americas, led by the United States. Within the year, a top reform resulted in improved access to credit information, the report stated.
"The island actually improved, but other countries improved at a faster rate than Jamaica," said Metry Seaga, president of the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters' Association, in response to Financial Gleaner queries on his take of the new report.
Jamaica's grade on the Ease of Doing Business subranking, which is graded out of 100, was 67.47 in 2019, slightly better than its 67.27 score a decade ago.
The issues of delays at the ports plagued exporters last year but are now fixed, according to Seaga. Last July, truckers staged a two-day protest over the delays in processing containers at the Kingston Container Terminal. The operator attributed the delays to the switchover to the new IT system.
"Things seem to be clear and exports are up now," the JMEA president said.
Out of 190 economies in the report, Jamaica ranked 134 in terms of cross-border trading, registering property at 131, enforcing contracts at 127, and paying taxes at 123.
Cross-border trade worsened over a decade, from 104 to the current position of 134. To export a US$50,000 container of traditional goods out of Jamaica costs US$980 and takes 105 hours to get documentary and border compliance.
But the report indicated that Jamaica has seen some improvement over the years in some aspects of cross-border trading, in particular the new ASYCUDA World database at Jamaica Customs Agency.
"Doing Business data shows that many economies - including Afghanistan, Grenada and Jamaica in 2016, Cabo Verde and the Comoros in 2017, and Angola and Lesotho in 2018 - have experienced reductions in the time to prepare documentation following training programmes or pilot tests" when implementing ASYCUDA World, a data management system developed by UNCTAD.
Still, Jamaica ranks among the best globally in the area of Starting a Business, with a rank of six. It takes three days to register a business, compared to 31 days back in 2002, the inaugural year of the report's publication. Jamaica also made progress in terms of getting credit, which a decade ago was ranked 87 and is now at 12 globally in the 2019 report. Also, paying taxes a decade ago earned the island a spot in the top 10 worst in the world at 174 out of 183 nations, but now it sits at 123.
Over the last 15 years, Jamaica has ranked third in the Latin America and Caribbean region for the implementation of the highest number of reforms at 25.
Jampro and the National Competitiveness Council are jointly engaged with the World Bank on the development of a 'reform memorandum' to achieve better outcomes in the 10 indicators tracked under the Doing Business surveys.