Omar's New Year wish list - Procurement waivers, cheap factory space, single-digit interest rates
Omar Azan, president of Jamaica Manufacturers' Association (JMA), is flanked by Commissioner of Customs Danville Walker (left) and Minister of Agriculture and Land Dr Christopher Tufton as the three men share drinks and a laugh at the JMA Christmas luncheon, held at the association's secretariat on Duke Street, Kingston, December 8. - Rudolph Brown/Photographer
President of the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association (JMA) Omar Azan, while accepting that in 2009 manufacturers benefited from the removal of the two per cent customs users fees (CUF) on raw material and capital equipment, says that more has to be done by government to encourage manufacturing in 2010 and beyond.
While the removal of the CUF has been a major incentive for the sector, Jamaica's manufacturers, if they are to be competitive with its regional and international counterparts, more should be done to help the sector, Azan said.
His push on behalf of member companies was done at the JMA's annual Christmas luncheon on December 8, a week before the Government unveiled a new $21.8-billion tax package to raise new revenue.
The Government, Azan said, needs to demonstrate that it is serious about job creation and the Buy Jamaica, Build Jamaica campaign by giving more support to local companies in their procurement practices.
He also called for the establishment of the National Food Safety Unit as a 'one stop shop' to remove the need for agro-processors to visit multiple agencies, to acquire the necessary documentation to export, which has not materialised to date.
At customs, he said, trade point systems need to be speedily implemented to integrate the transaction processing network.
"We need to change our mindset and buy local," he added, stating that this would provide the jobs which the Government has set its mandate to provide.
The JMA president said that the cost and availability of factory space must also be addressed as this "affects the ability of manufactures to produce new stock, and for businesses to retool and expand."
Needed as well, he said, was an energy police with incentives to reduce dependence on petroleum and Jamaican oil importation bill.
"There seems to be a problem with implementation in this country. One such problem is the implementation of the procurement policy, which stipulates that 15 per cent of total procurement is reserved for local small- and micro-enterprise suppliers.
Azan applauded the credit enhancement facility announced by Government but said, as well, he needed a status report on $1 billion, which was said to accompany this initiative for the sector.
Noting as well that the offer of a combined $1.5 billion of funds to businesses, priced below 10 per cent by National Commercial Bank of Jamaica and Scotiabank Jamaica, was to be applauded.
But, he added, those rates could still go lower.
"If inflation is at 6.1 per cent, there is no reason why rates are not in single digits," he said at the luncheon.
In 2010, JMA activities, he said, would be centred around the 'Buy Jamaica' campaign, a road show in Ocho Rios during manufacturers month, a tertiary entrepreneurship challenge and Expo Jamaica 2010, which is scheduled for Kingston from June 17-20.