Fri | Dec 9, 2016

Rise in competitiveness NO FLUKE

Published:Sunday | September 14, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Anthony Hylton, Guest Columnist

The foundation of Jamaica's economic growth strategy relies on a sustained investment effort. The country's ability to build and maintain its global competitive advantages - a country's competitiveness - is perhaps the single most important hurdle we have to address to implement a successful economic growth strategy.

Essentially, this means that the country must create a dynamic business environment that is favourable to driving innovative start-ups, expanding established enterprises, and the development of globally competitive firms.

Competing in the global economy demands, therefore, that the domestic business environment be significantly improved to operate at global standards. As a country, we cannot make any serious headway in achieving growth unless we are able to build the necessary capacity to meet the demands of the global marketplace. The infrastructure that supports quality standards development and quality assurance also occupies a central place in our drive for competitiveness.

The Global Logistics Hub Initiative (GLHI) is another critical element in Jamaica's growth agenda. The broad implications of the GLHI for competitiveness and growth, however, cannot be fully appreciated without a clear understanding of the essence of the initiative, its scale and scope, and what it seeks to accomplish. The initiative encompasses the wider elements supporting our business reform agenda, the quality standards infrastructure, as well as policies aimed at unlocking the growth potential of the micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSME) sector.

In this regard, we believe that the GLHI as a strategic anchor for the development of a globally competitive platform for economic growth. A high-performance, logistics-centred economy means investors can get their projects moving quickly, quality goods and services can be traded with ease, and a dynamic economy will be created to generate jobs at an accelerated pace.

business linkages

Initiatives supporting the unlocking of private-sector investments are not limited to large local investors and foreign investors. These initiatives are designed to also stimulate business linkages and investments in the micro, small and medium-size enterprises sector.

The strategy of developing a logistics-centred economy requires that the MSMEs are transformed through a sustained programme of capacity-building, and the adoption of globally competitive practices and standards. This means becoming ready to enable their integration into global production and supplier networks. The logistics-centred economy is not simply about large infrastructure projects, but it is also about creating a platform for the efficient flow of business activity. The role of information and communications technology is central to this effort, as it will require the integration of networks of communities and systems that are all part of a global value and supply chain.

As a consequence, the Government has implemented a set of policies to remove impediments to trade and investment. The initiatives, being coordinated by the National Competitiveness Council (NCC), constitute a business-reform agenda that is central to facilitating trade and investment. The export-led growth targeted by the Logistics Hub Initiative requires not only critical transportation and industrial infrastructure; it is supported by legislative and administrative regimes that can speed up the flow of business transactions in a manner that encourages investors to establish businesses in Jamaica in preference to regional and global competitors.

The ever-changing competitive capabilities of countries remain key to the competitive dynamics of global investment and trade activities across the world, and assume major policy focus in the quest to achieve sustained economic growth and improved living standards.

What then has accounted for Jamaica's steady upward improvement on the Global Competitiveness Index? This is a result of a determined and coordinated effort to implement reforms that are critical to improving the business climate. Jamaica's movement up the rankings is not the result of some fluke, but is a guaranteed outcome.

The business-reform agenda was developed based on certain areas of focus of the Government, since it came to office in January 2012. The National Competitiveness Council (NCC), under the chairmanship of the minister of industry, investment and commerce, with its secretariat housed at JAMPRO, elevated competitiveness to the centre of the economic growth agenda. It is the coordinated efforts and systematic work of the membership of the NCC, along with the work of other entities of government, including the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, the Ministry of Finance and Planning, Ministry of Local Government, the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, and so on, that have accounted for this rise in Jamaica's ranking on the GCI during this period.

competitiveness

Jamaica's competitiveness as a destination for investment and trade, and business generally, is a precondition for the country to attract foreign direct investment as it positions itself as a world-class logistics hub. Competitiveness is synonymous with logistics and the development of a logistics-centred economy. Both of these factors speak to the ease and speed of doing business and the minimisation of friction, bottlenecks and other impediments in the business environment.

Earlier this year, the Global Logistics Performance Index (LPI) registered Jamaica leaping some 50 places to rank 70th out of 160 countries, up from a 2012 ranking of 124th out of 155 countries. The report indicated that Jamaica increased substantially across all the sub-indices, the largest occurring in customs and infrastructure. Evidently, the factors that have propelled Jamaica's ranking on the LPI have played a critical role in the GCI. Therefore, it should not be a surprise that as we focus on implementing the logistics-centred agenda, we are also making significant headway in our competitiveness agenda.

For 2014-2016, the NCC will continue its work in coordinating the Business Environment Reform Agenda, which outlines the reforms under national focus and breaks down the reforms by implementing agencies. Some key reforms currently under way in this period include:

Establishment of the Port Community System, the customs management system ASYCUDA World, the Trade Facilitation Single Window and e-Trade (Government online trade facilitation system), which, over the next 24-30 months, will transform the interface between the business community and various stakeholders (public and private) in trade activities.

Streamlining the development reviews application process to fewer than 90 days.

Implementation of the AMANDA system in all parish councils and referral agencies, which will allow investors to track the status of their applications in the system.

The Insolvency Bill currently before Parliament will be passed in early October 2014, and will further enhance the business environment by ensuring that assets are mobilised and not imprisoned by an inefficient and archaic bankruptcy procedure.

Jamaica's ability to implement business reforms on a timely basis has a direct impact on the country's image as a destination for trade and investment. We in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce will continue to play our role, along with our other partners in government, in improving the business environment.

G. Anthony Hylton, MP, is minister of industry, investment and commerce. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.

Figure 1

Ja's Rankings on the         Rank                            Score                          
Global Competitiveness
Index       
   

GCI 2014-2015                   86                                4.0

(out of 148)

GCI 2013-2014                   94                                3.9

(out of 148)

GCI 2012-2013                   97                                 3.8

(out of 144)

GCI 2011-2012               107                                    3.8

(out of 142)