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'LNG will not cut it!'

Published:Thursday | July 1, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Omar Azan, JMA president, addresses the organisation's AGM yesterday. Also in photograph is Deputy President Brian Pengelley. - Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer

Philip Hamilton, Gleaner Writer

Jamaica Manufacturers' Association (JMA) President Omar Azan yesterday challenged the Government to explore alternative energy sources besides liquefied natural gas (LNG), which it has been fervently pursuing with its CARICOM neighbour, Trinidad and Tobago.

Azan, speaking at the JMA's annual general meeting at the association's head office in Kingston, said LNG alone could not meet the energy needs of Jamaica, particularly the manufacturing sector.

He said the Government also needed to implement policies that would encourage diverse energy sources by providing incentives to persons willing to invest in alternative energy sources.

"LNG will not cut it!" said Azan, noting that there were other options available in the region.

"We don't need to reinvent the wheel because there are models in the Caribbean and Latin America."

Local manufacturers have been at odds with the Government for several years over what they say is the high cost of electricity that impedes their competitiveness with regional counterparts such as Trinidad.

Trinidadian manufacturers pay just over three cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity, in contrast with their Jamaican rivals who pay as much as 20 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Azan, who was yesterday re-elected for a fourth term as JMA president, also lobbied for the liberalisation of the energy sector as well as tough action against illegal electrical connections, barring which the country would continue to bear the brunt of high fuel and electricity costs.

He added that, despite the success of the recently staged Expo Jamaica, additional work was needed to strengthen trade linkages and promote Brand Jamaica across the world.

Dollar up, mood down

The JMA president also warned that the recent revaluation of the Jamaican dollar would have negative repercussions for the country's export earnings.

"We have to strike a balance between strengthening the Jamaican dollar and protecting our export markets. The key is to ensure stability of the dollar, as manufacturers need to exist in an environment of macroeconomic certainty," said Azan.

The JMA boss added that his organisation would be partnering with the Jamaica Productivity Centre and other agencies to develop best-practice productivity and environmentally sustainable manufacturing processes.

The JMA's board of directors for the 2010-2011 term comprises Brian Pengelley and Jodie Summerbell, who were re-elected unopposed as deputy president and treasurer, respectively.

Directors Milverton Smith; Steven Sykes; Ian Forbes; Simon Roberts; Christopher Ramson; Harry Harper; and Paulette Rhoden were re-elected.

Newly elected directors David Martin and Christopher Powell will also serve three-year terms.