Live up to promises, Madam PM
The Jamaica Manufacturers' Association (JMA) notes with interest Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller's expression of support to the manufacturing sector during her recent address to the 10th Anniversary Pinning Ceremony of manufacturing company Newport Fersan.
The prime minister gave the assurance that the Government was committed to advancing the manufacturing industry, with specific reference to the facilitation of exports. The JMA welcomes the prime minister's assurance of support and anticipates the necessary measures that must be implemented and escalated to facilitate the development of the sector.
The complete story of Jamaica's manufacturing is about its importance to the nation's economy and workforce and the challenges that policymakers must address for the country to once again become the leaders of industry within the region.
No sector creates more economic value or supports more additional jobs than manufacturing. This is reflected in the multiplier effect, and it underscores why a strong and healthy economy requires a vibrant and growing manufacturing sector. It is time for Government to seriously address the challenges that restrict greater growth and threaten the Jamaican manufacturers' ability to compete in the global market.
Export is key to growing the manufacturing sector and the economy. Companies must look increasingly away from targeting the local market and focus on global trade.
The Customs Act Amendment Bill, in its current form, will not facilitate the movement of cargo but creates greater levels of bureaucracy as it increases the powers of customs and fines. The JMA is one of several key stakeholders in disagreement with the current amendments and urges further consultations around the bill if we are serious about developing the industry's capacity to take advantage of global opportunities.
A pressing issue continues to be the cost of energy compared to prices available to our regional and global competitors. This burden raises the cost of every product that manufacturers produce and every job that companies create. It puts Jamaican companies at a real disadvantage and discourages additional production, growth and entrepreneurship in Jamaica. There has been some progress in this area, and we must continue on the road to securing cheaper and more reliable energy. The JMA supports an energy strategy that promotes energy independence and the investment of renewable energy in the manufacturing sector.
Tax reform is critical to strengthening manufacturing and must be prioritised. We have reduced corporate income tax, which is a good start. We must continue to work towards securing comprehensive reform for a simple, easily administered, and evenly shared tax structure.
The Government cannot move too quickly to create the environment in which, particularly our MSMEs, which represent a critical element of economic activity for Jamaica as they do for many
economies across the world, are given greater access to financing.
The number-one problem cited by our MSMEs is the great difficulty faced in accessing funding to take their business to the next level or to remain viable. This is especially critical in respect of financing export activities. Policies are urgently needed to address this problem to give our entrepreneurs a reasonable chance at viability.
Crime continues to be one of the greatest disincentives to investment in Jamaica. It is estimated that the direct cost of crime is more than three per cent of GDP and does not include the impact on business, which is more than we can imagine. The problem must be addressed in a real and forthright manner for us to move ahead as a country.
As part of any serious plan to support the manufacturing sector, the Government must buy Jamaican when it is spending our tax dollar. Government is the largest purchaser of all goods and services and must lead by example. This is how we will see small companies grow into medium-size companies and medium into large. We will see employment increase and our economy grow from strength to strength.
These pressing issues must be tackled with alacrity if the Government is serious about supporting manufacturing. We appreciate the prime minister's expression of support and anticipate a sense of urgency in working with manufacturers to raise the sector's productivity and realise its enormous potential in nation-building.