By Francine Buchner
The government of Jamaica has said that they want make the country a global logistics hub at a “Doing Business in Jamaica” conference recently held in Toronto, Canada.
“The idea here is to position Jamaica, in light of the expansion of the Panama Canal, to be able to host the largest cargo ships in the world,” said Jeffrey Hall, director, Board of Directors, JAMPRO and Group Managing Director, Jamaica Producers Group Ltd.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller was to be the keynote speaker but had to fly back to Jamaica earlier that afternoon before Hurricane Sandy hit the island.
Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) in collaboration with Canadian Council for the Americas (CCA) and event patrons, Michael Lee-Chin and G. Raymond Chang hosted the conference.
Hall said that job creation is on the prime minister’s agenda and in the first six months of her coming into office, Simpson-Miller dropped the tax rate for business from 33 per cent to 25 per cent, “the lowest tax rate in Jamaica’s independence.”
This summer Jamaica passed landmark legislation that states, any multinational corporation that comes to Jamaica for the purpose of setting up its regional or international headquarters, ex-patriots in that business who work there, will also be tax-free, but on the condition that they bring jobs to Jamaica.
Senator Arnold J. Nicholson who delivered the Prime Minister’s speech on her behalf added that a Secured Transaction Act is also being implemented.
“In the last 12 months, my Group of Companies, which is owned entirely by Jamaicans, and has done business in Jamaica for over 18 year’s, has made a series of new investments and acquisitions worth about CDN $40million in agro-business, tourism products, mining and most recently logistics, all in the island of Jamaica,” said Hall.
Michael Lee-Chin, chairman of Portland Holdings Inc. spoke about the realities versus the perceptions of opportunities in Jamaica, and laid out his three preconditions: Whenever there is a difference in perception and reality, there is always a huge opportunity to create wealth whenever there is a dearth of equity capital in a region/sector Whenever there is dysfunctionality.
Stressing further, “So where ladies and gentleman do you find an abundance of those three preconditions: Jamaica!” And upon which he based his decision to buy the National Commercial Bank (NCB), which was the amalgamation of Barclays Bank and the Royal Bank of Canada, on the realities.
Today, Lee-Chin is reaping the rewards of his decision back in 2002. “So I’m suggesting to investors in this audience . . . It’s for us as analysts, as businesspeople to make sure that we do not make decisions based on perception, but we go and walk the ground to make sure we make decisions based on reality,” said Michael Lee-Chin.
Bruce Bowen, president and CEO of Bank of Nova Scotia Jamaica Ltd. said the banking sector is sound and stable and on par with any other bank in the world.