Mon | Aug 21, 2017

JMA steps up call for lower interest rates

Published:Sunday | July 2, 2017 | 7:00 AMChristopher Serju
Catherine Goodall (right), beverage marketing manager of Lasco Distributors Limited, in talks with Metry Seaga, president of the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association, ahead of its annual general meeting last Wednesday.

The Jamaica Manufacturers' Association (JMA) will be pressing its case for a levelling of the playing field to allow manufacturers to enjoy inter-nationally competitive loan rates, in keeping with those accorded to other sectors.

"I'm talking about five per cent or lower, the BPO (business processing outsourcing) sector gets it, the tourism sector gets it. We are as [important as] - if not more important than - those sectors. We must get it too," Metry Seaga told JMA's 70th annual general meeting to loud applause, after being re-elected unopposed last Wednesday.

"They have done probably a better marketing job than us. They have gone and convinced the Government that they need interest rates as low as, in some cases in the BPO sector, four per cent - money through the DBJ (Development Bank of Jamaica), and that's great.

"I don't grudge them for it. I'm happy that they've gotten it and I feel facilities as those need to be made available to the manufacturing sector in short order," Seaga told The Sunday Gleaner after the meeting.

He argued that the disparity in interest rates puts micro and small businesses at a severe disadvantage, stymieing their growth potential.

"The bigger companies get good rates, single-digit rates. The medium-size companies may get 10-12 per cent, and then the smaller companies are paying as high as 18, 19 per cent," said Seaga.

"Those are not productive rates. Those are not rates that will allow companies to move forward and be internationally competitive. So we are calling on the Government, and we are planning to have meetings in short order with the DBJ and with the minister of finance, to get rates for the productive sector in the five per cent region," added Seaga.

The re-elected JMA president said some gains had been realised, with loans to manufacturers growing to $17.6 billion in 2016, up from $15.8 billion the year before.

He urged manufacturers to put their businesses in order to take advantage of lower interest rates.

"Our commitment as a business support organisation ... is to ensure that the companies have the requisite documents required to access these loans," said Seaga.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com