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Samuda outlines plans for network of business incubators, trade councils
published: Friday | January 25, 2008

Becki Patterson, Business Writer

Minister of Industry, Commerce and Investment, Karl Samuda, is directed to his seat by Sandra Glasgow, chief executive officer of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), at the PSOJ Job Creation Awards Breakfast, Tuesday, at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel, St. Andrew. At right is Christopher Zacca, PSOJ president. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry will be building out a network of 'business centres' or incubators to function as advisors to small entrepreneurs.

Initially, the centres are to be pilot tested in four parishes before moving to full coverage of the island.

Industry Minister Karl Samuda announced the plan in a speech to private sector bosses Tuesday as one of several initiatives to reinvigorate commercial enterprise, including expansion of the call centre industry and positioning Port Royal as a port of call for cruise ships.

Essentially, the Minister's push to orient Jamaica as a serious place to do business gives coverage to a cross-section of enterprises, and incorporates plans to revitalise Kingston through the development of the Tinson Pen lands, and expansion of the Kingston Free Zone.

Samuda on Tuesday also said government was formulating a system of trade councils to be sited in selected world capitals, and whose job would be to entice investment and jobs to Jamaica. The council in London is already functional, he said, while others are to be set up in Brussels, Toronto and Port of Spain.

Essentially, the councils will have similar roles to Jamaica Trade and Invest, government's investment promotion agency.

Jamaica is not the most unfriendly country for business. It's ranked No. 63 of 178 economies on the World Bank's index of business-friendly coun-tries last issued in October 2007, but gets high marks for the ease of starting a business at position No. 11.

Heavy tax burden

But working against the country is its poor ranking at No. 170 for the heavy tax burden imposed on businesses, and its position at No. 115 in relation to the ease with which investors access credit or financing.

The latter is a targeted area to be addressed by the business centres.

Samuda said Tuesday that the one for Montego Bay was in an "advanced stage of readiness."

The 'one stop' centres, as Samuda referred to them, will offer small entrepreneurs advice on how to conduct business, guide them through the process of starting a commercial venture, and point them to where capital financing is available, said the Minister in an address to the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica's monthly Job Creation Awards ceremony in Kingston Tuesday. Awards this month went to Singer Jamaica Limited and Stewart's Auto Sales Limited.

These small loans will enable people to access capital to buy machinery or to introduce technology or underwrite other costs of expanding, Samuda said.

It was not immediately clear whether prospective business operators would be required to pay a fee to access the incubators' services.

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