Wed | Sep 20, 2017

Chinese good for Jamaica - Holness

Published:Friday | August 11, 2017 | 8:00 AMChristopher Serju
Liu Xiangang, (left), project manager China Harbour Engineering Company; Niu Qingbao, (second left) Chinese Ambassador to Jamaica, and Prime Minister Andrew Holness, (third left) sign the agreement for the Barbican Road upgrading work. Looking on are Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Audrey Sewell and Delroy Chuck, justice minister and member of parliament for the area.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Wednesday publicly addressed concerns about the recent wave of investments by Chinese nationals, some of whom have been accused of unseating locals, en route to dominating and controlling the commercial pulse of many town capitals across the Jamaica, insisting that in the long-term Jamaica and Jamaicans would be the real beneficiaries.

"Recently, I have been quietly observing certain commentary being made in the public domain about the increased investment activity in Jamaica by our partners the Chinese Government," he said at the contract signing ceremony for the Barbican Road upgrading works in St Andrew.

"Jamaica has never been a xenophobic country. We've always been embracing, very open to other countries. It is understandable however, given our current economic state that there are fears, especially when it comes to jobs and the high competition for jobs, for businesses. When we see where businesses that were formerly owned by locals are being bought out.

"But the Government of Jamaica is very sensible, and we understand what is happening," Holness said. "I want to re-assure the people of Jamaica that the Government of Jamaica will always act in the best interest of the people of Jamaica. But there are some realities which we cannot escape. We cannot hide our heads under the sand and pretend that these realities do not exist," the Prime Minister told his Jamaica House audience.

One of those realities, he explained, is that with China, now probably the world's largest provider of foreign direct investments across the globe, it would be foolhardy to ignore them.

He advised the country against allowing the window of opportunity for our true economic independence to pass by. "... We are claiming independence, but we can only claim and hold that independence when we economically independent," Holness said. He indicated that independence is "when we have good roads, when we have good institutions, when our GDP (gross domestic product) is not small as it is, but we can stand up to the world's progressive countries and show our own productivity and creativity."

Holness continued, "and that means that you have to be receptive to investments, not just from China, but Jamaica wants to see a diversified portfolio of investors coming into this country. We want investors from all over to come here and invest. We want people to choose Jamaica to invest, we want people to choose to make their homes in Jamaica and so the Government of Jamaica has, not just with my government but with the previous government and the government that I was a part of before that, developed a strategic relationship and partnership with the Government of China."

'Take a progressive view towards engaging foreign investment'

Jamaica continues to benefit from partnership with the Chinese, as evidenced by number of major infrastructural investments, and stands to gain much more, Prime Minister Andrew Holness pointed out, even as he appealed for understanding of the process.

"As China develops and attains First-World standard, which they will do within a generation, so, too, Jamaica wants to develop and attain First-World standards, and we can't do it by shutting off ourselves from the world. We can only do it by integrating ourselves and making ourselves a critical element and node in the world economy, and that is what we are doing.

"We won't do to leave any Jamaican behind. We will make sure that the prosperity is shared for all. I want to reassure Jamaicans that the fears that are being expressed, that we must take a very progressive view towards engaging foreign investment in our country."