Tue | Dec 10, 2019

Jamaica ‘Trade Across Borders’ 2020

Published:Tuesday | October 29, 2019 | 12:15 AM

In 2019, Jamaica is elated that its business reform programme is bearing fruit as seen in the improvement in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 score and ranking, with the latter moving from 75 in 2019 to 71 in 2020. This positive movement mirrors the ongoing successes within the macroeconomy, where there is evident stimulation through investment and infrastructural expansion. Unfortunately, however, improvement in Jamaica’s trade environment continues to lag with a slippage in the ‘Trading Across Borders’ indicator by two places from 134 in the DB2019 ranking to 136 in the DB2020. As is recognised, a movement in rankings across the various business indicators is influenced not only by the initiatives being pursued within the country, but also stands relative to those being pursued by other 189 countries which are assessed by the World Bank.

Having committed to the principles of trade facilitation, embarking on the establishment of a National Trade Facilitation Taskforce and with assistance from donors, such as the World Bank Group and Inter-American Development Bank, Jamaica has undertaken various initiatives, with the following being the major projects:

1. Full implementation of the Automated System for Customs Data;

2. Creation of a Trade Information Portal which provides traders with access to all trade and trade-related regulatory information; and

3. Development of an electronic single window for trade to help create a paperless environment for permits, inspections and release of goods.

The aim of the reform agenda is to facilitate greater efficiency in the flow of exports and imports, as Jamaica advances towards becoming a premier logistics hub in the northern Caribbean. There is much to be celebrated in the excellent work of the Trade Facilitation Task Force Secretariat ably headed by Patricia Francis and the partner on the National Trade Facilitation Committee who has been giving sterling service to the trade programme. Their hard work is seen in the fact that the first two initiatives have been completed, while the third is under development.

But it seems that the world might be improving faster than Jamaica. There are other factors to consider as we look at the wider government involvement in trade. Reforms need to be deepened, and in the same way that the economy was reportedly reformed,not just to fit international best practice, but to set a new standard, trade in Jamaica needs to become the international standard of best practice. Fundamentally, the reforms associated with trade need to be accelerated.

The Customs Act of 1941 is being repealed and replaced, and other outdated trade legislation need to be given similar treatment, but with greater alacrity. Stakeholder consultations in such processes need to be undertaken with a partnership approach in which the policies and new legislation is crafted to meet the concerns of the private sector and solve their problems, as well as those faced by the Government.

If trading across borders continues to languish, becoming a logistics hub may begin to seem more difficult, particularly as regional partners in Latin America and the Caribbean advance their efforts.