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Have a second look at Jamaica - Private-sector leaders urge diaspora to invest in country

Published:Friday | October 16, 2015 | 10:00 AM
Mahfood

Buoyed by the positive impact of initiatives to strengthen the economic framework, local private-sector leaders are encouraging Jamaicans in the diaspora to invest in Jamaica. They are also encouraging young Jamaicans who have migrated to return home to seek out opportunities.

Stating the case during the 12th series of the annual JN Outlook for the Future meetings in Toronto, Canada, and New York in the United States on October 7 and 8, one of two main speakers, William Mahfood, president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), underscored the positive changes to reposition the country for growth and development.

He noted that inflation and interest rates were down, with inflation at its lowest rate in history at 2.2 per cent, and that commercial interest rates have fallen from between 18 per cent and 19 per cent to single digits.

"You can borrow money now for large projects at single digits of about eight and nine per cent," he told the more than 100 Jamaicans at the New York Hilton Midtown Hotel in Manhattan.

In addition, he noted that the country's balance of payments had improved from a negative J$2 billion to a positive J$39.4 million and that the debt-to-GDP ratio was now 126 per cent, down from 146 per cent. The fiscal deficit, as a percentage of GDP, has also improved, he noted, moving from 3.5 per cent to 0.7 per cent.

Mahfood, who is also chairman of the distribution company Wisynco, said the exchange-rate adjustment has also impacted positively on the competitiveness of the local manufacturing sector through import substitution, although he cautioned that devaluation of the Jamaican currency was not a sustainable measure for growth.

The PSOJ boss stated that as a result of the strengthening of the economic pillars, the country's competitiveness improved on the latest World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness index. Jamaica moved up 11 places on the 2015 index from 97th to 86th out of 140 countries.

Mahfood also highlighted that the improved value of foreign direct investment, including the recent purchase of Red Stripe by Heineken, is an indication that international business confidence is rising in Jamaica, although security and justice continue to be a problem affecting investor confidence.

"Remove the bureaucracy; put in proper tax measures; put in a just and fairer system of doing business and procedures and systems that you would be accustomed to in the USA and Canada, and investments will flow into Jamaica," he advised Government.

Notwithstanding that, he reiterated that the economy was positioned for investment and that there were many opportunities for young Jamaicans abroad in expanding private sector companies such as his own Wisynco, Cari-Med, and others.