Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Letter of the Day: Tap Cuba for business windfall

Published:Saturday | April 23, 2016 | 4:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

There has been much chatter recently about our manufacturing sector, including how we can boost local consumption and how we can have more of an imprint regionally by having our goods on foreign shelves. Many manufacturers talk the talk but rarely walk the walk.

Snacks and beverages are a perfect example. Barbados has a plant here, or has licensed its products, as have countless Trinidadian companies. Yet you would be hard-pressed to find a Jamaican company operating in Haiti, let alone the Eastern Caribbean (as it relates to regional manufacturing). One can't expect to break into a market if one hasn't even established distribution links.

All of that, however, is small change when we look north to neighbouring Cuba. Havana will wish to trade with nations that have stood by its government but which also have something to offer it. Jamaica has probably one of the wealthiest regional conglomerates in GraceKennedy and one of the most dynamic in LASCO. If they could get their foot in the door, it's advantage Jamaica!

These companies, and others, cover a broad span of products, pride themselves on local produce and manufacturing, and are very profitable while being very affordable to the everyman. If our manufacturing companies were to target Cuba for both exports and manufacturing, that would greatly boost the respective companies' profits, provide money to Jamaica and Cuba through taxes, and provide good employment to local Cubans.

The opening up of Cuba could also be a boon for our medical and pharmaceutical sector. Our medical and pharmaceutical sector is still in its infancy, more so when compared to our Cuban counterparts. If we are serious about our science and research sector and diversifying our economy, retaining our top scientists and researchers is a must.

We are also home to some renowned hoteliers, and Cuba is looking to expand its tourist sector. Rather than be afraid, these hoteliers should invest in Cuba's hotel sector from the get-go. If that is done, we could link our local hotels with those in Cuba while being able to access relatively cheap foodstuff that we don't produce in abundance locally for our hotel sector.

Jamaica has no excuse not to be a major player, both financially and industrially, in the region, so let us stop complaining about our trade imbalance and do something about it.

Let us not fear the opening up of Cuba but instead ready ourselves for what could be a potential windfall.

ALEXANDER SCOTT

alexanderwj.scott@gmail.com