Tue | Dec 10, 2019

Cost of doing business still too high – JMEA

Published:Friday | June 28, 2019 | 12:30 AMChristopher Serju/Gleaner Writer

The high cost of doing business in Jamaica continues to be a major hindrance to local operators and is a matter of major concern to the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association (JMEA), its deputy vice -president, David Martin, acknowledged on Wednesday.

Martin used a tour of Trade Winds Citrus Limited’s farm, factory and nursery in Bog Walk, St Catherine, to voice his discontent, despite some signs of progress.

“The struggle continues as evidenced by the anaemic growth rates we have had for the last 16 quarters. The private sector, broadly defined, has been challenged to step up, invest and grow the country. We at the JMEA – and I speak on behalf of all manufacturers and exporters – believe we could do much more if we were not hindered by the exorbitant cost of doing business on this island,” he declared.

While applauding the gains made on the macroeconomy under successive People’s National Party and Jamaica Labour Party administrations with the guidance of the International Monetary Fund, which have resulted in dramatically lower interest rates and greater access to capital, Martin said the growth rate remained dismal.

GROWTH TOO SMALL

“The one and half per cent growth that we’re getting is so small. Jamaica needs to be five or six per cent, and even if we had 16 straight quarters annualised at five, six per cent, trust me, this country would look completely different in the space of five to 10 years. You’d be shocked,” he told The Gleaner.

Among the hindrances Martin pointed out was high energy costs, pointing out that Jamaica’s electricity price is one of the highest in the world.

“As a matter of interest, we rank among the top 10 countries that have high electricity rates. At US$0.24 per kilowatt-hour, many energy intensive opportunities are closed to us,” he said.

The JMEA deputy vice-president added that according to statistics from the latest Doing Business Report, Jamaica’s cost of exports was the highest in the region. "We are approximately 65 per cent higher than the Latin America and the Caribbean average,” he pointed out.

"For these reasons, Jamaica has lost billions of dollars in potential investments because of the inefficient government bureaucracy and our micro, small and medium enterprises suffer the most," he lamented.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com