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Julian 'Jingles' Reynolds | Which would best serve Jamaica’s growth and development?

Published:Thursday | June 2, 2016 | 6:00 AMJulian 'Jingles' Reynolds

The Develop Jamaica Initiative (DJI) was first presented by me to the Rotary Club of Downtown Kingston in November 2004, and has since been presented to nearly every administration leading Jamaica's political life. All have rejected its use as a model for socio-economic development in Jamaica, some expressing the country's dire financial situation rendering it impossible to raise the required sum to invest in the country' growth and development.

I put it to you, John Public, to examine the initiative and decide which you think would best serve the country's social and economic future.

The Develop Jamaica Initiative, recommends that the Government of Jamaica:

1. Secure financing of US$200-300 million, to be raised through bond issues, inclusive of diaspora bonds, international grant-aid financing and soft loans from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and a consortium of international commercial banks. The capital raised would be used solely for financing targeted developmental projects presented by entrepreneurs, established businesses, and new entities that have convincing proposals that show growth for the Jamaican economy. Investments and loans should not exceed US$6 million to any company. Provide an operating budget not exceeding US$5 million per annum to administer the initiative.

2. Establish an executive committee, a public-private-sector partnership, to set policy and oversee the initiative, chaired by the prime minister/minister of development, with one representative from each government ministry and one representative each from the Opposition, Jamaica Manufacturers' Association, Jamaica Exporters' Association, Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, Jamaica Agricultural Society, Small Business Association of Jamaica, Jamaica 4-H Clubs, Scientific Research Council, Jamaica Bankers Association, the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, Small Medium and Micro Business Enterprise, the University of the West Indies, and the University of Technology. The committee is to meet once per month. Projects to be undertaken by the DJI must have a two-thirds majority vote of the committee.

3. Establish a board of advisers comprising international expertise. This body would meet annually over two days in Jamaica, chaired by the prime minister, and attended by the minister of finance and planning, and the executive director/ development czar.

4. Establish a management/ administrative body headed by an executive director/development czar, supported by a staff. The responsibilities of this body will be to vet the companies and projects to be funded by the DJI, recommend their selections to the DJI executive committee for final approval, and then guide the management of those chosen towards profitability.

5. Assemble a database of managers, marketing executives, lawyers, accountants, engineers, technicians, and executive assistants to be placed, when required, as consultants or temporary staff in companies provided with financing by the DJI. This expertise to be drawn heavily from the diaspora.

6. Launch the DJI, inviting entrepreneurs and companies to present project proposals. Promote the initiative globally through a website.

7. Financing should be made primarily, but not exclusive, to targeted industries. Sectors targeted should be agriculture/agro-industry (fishing, food processing, nutraceuticals, essential oils), the entertainment industry (music, film and television, live performances), tourism (emphasis on attractions and the rebirth of Kingston as a prime destination), alternative energy, information and communications technology, mining, fashion, furniture, craft, health care, childcare and sports. Emphasis would be placed on research and development.

8. Financing would be allocated through equity available via a facility established on the Jamaica Stock Exchange, or via a venture-capital facility. Financing could also be allocated through low-interest loans, not exceeding an interest rate of nine per cent, accessed through the Development Bank of Jamaica, the Export-Import Bank of Jamaica, commercial banks, people co-operative banks and credit unions.

9. The prime minister, in the capacity of chairman of the DJI, and the executive director/development czar, would appear before Parliament once or twice per year, if so requested, to make a report on the operations of the DJI.

- Julian 'Jingles' Reynolds is a writer, film-maker and entrepreneur who operates in the United States and Jamaica. He has been writing professionally for 48 years. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and fiwipro@yahoo.com.