BPO players unhappy with SEZ plans
Business Process Industry Authority of Jamaica (BPIAJ) president Dr Guna Mupurri says the lobby group is awaiting the final decision on fees to be imposed on users of special economic zones (SEZ) before deciding on its next course of action.
"We have some concerns, but we are waiting on the SEZ authority to come back with their final proposal before responding," Mupurri told The Gleaner on Monday. "We are also very concerned with the long time it is taking to complete the regulations for the SEZ."
An investor who attended a sector meeting last week, where the issue was discussed, told The Gleaner that some players in the BPO industry were not keen on SEZA's suggestion for an annual charge of US$30,000 for developers; US$10,000 for occupants; and US$5,000 for support services.
"It would mean that the developer and the support services will be passing on their new costing to us," said the investor, who asked not to be identified. "Eighty per cent of the workforce within the SEZ is as a result of BPO operations, any additional fee is just another strike against us, an already uncompetitive industry in this region.
"We should be looking for ways to become more competitive by providing incentives such as lower energy cost and lower-costing turnkey facilities for new businesses, and even additional incentives for each person employed by a local investor," the investor added.
The SEZ Act was passed in January 2016, repealing the Jamaica Export Free Zone Act, and included tax and customs incentives for qualified entities. The BPO sector enjoys the highest employment growth rate of any sector in the last decade and presently accounts for more than 22,000 jobs across the island.
'Every occupant has to pay'
When contacted for a comment on the concerns in the BPO sector, Metry Seaga, the chairman of Special Economic Zone Authority (SEZA), told The Gleaner that based on the mandate of the agency, every occupant within the SEZ will be charged a fee.
"We have not finalised the fees as yet, we are in discussion, trying to come up with the correct fees that would be appropriate for not only the BPO sector, but for all the users of the special economic zone," said Seaga. "This is a brand new authority, and prior to this we had the Free Zone Act, which has been repealed. The new authority, comes with certain responsibilities and things that must be done, and, as a result, the fees to develop the industry have to be charged."
The SEZA head also revealed that his agency would be doing promotions for the industry in partnership with JAMPRO, and that the Chief Parliamentary Counsel has given a two-week deadline to complete the SEZ regulation.