Avia Collinder, Business Writer
Anthony Hylton, the minister of industrys investment and commerce, announced Tuesday plans for the development of a global shipping and logistics hub for Jamaica as the flagship project of his ministry, but said its chief role would be hunting down capital and investors.
Hylton offered no details on what it would cost to develop the hub or the number of jobs it would create, saying only that its five components would be attractive to investors given the expansion of the Panama Canal.
None of the projects are new.
Two of them have indicative pricings that total J$106 billion.
Hylton said he has already received expressions of interest from potential investors in the Persian Gulf for the development of the hub, which he says could position Jamaica as the logistical centre for trade in the Americas.
The plan has five elements:
the dredging of the Kingston harbour and expansion of port facilities;
the establishment of a dry dock facility at Jackson Bay, Clarendon;
a bunkering facility at Cow Bay in Yallahs, St Thomas;
construction of a cargo and maintenance, repair and operations facility at Vernamfield in Clarendon; and
development of the Caymanas Economic Zone (CEZ).
All five projects are carryovers from former administrations. Hylton said he has no intention of starting from scratch with any project, and was more focused on helping the respective agencies and ministries tie down financing to get the projects off the ground.
The CEZ is the only one of the five projects to fall within the purview of the industry ministry. The others are energy and transport related.
Vernamfield was previously costed as a US$1-billion (J$87b) project of the transport ministry; while the economic zone, which is being managed by the Factories Corporation of Jamaica, has indicative pricings of at least US$210 million (J$18b), as well as J$900 million for land acquisition.
Luring foreign capital
No estimate of the total size of the investment needed was given, but Hylton suggests that capital is more open to such projects now that the Panama Canal expansion is under way. The canal project has a 2014 deadline.
"Major developments in the global shipping and logistics industry and the geography of global trade have created an enviable window of economic opportunity for Jamaica ... . This investment opportunity is considerable," said Hylton.
"Altogether, these projects represent potential investment effort that will drive growth and employment for many years," he said. "The ministry's role is to help in defining the investment opportunities and to work across ministries to implement this vision."
No timelines were given for the projects' implementation.
Hylton, who announced the hub at a press conference that focused on a 10-point strategy for his ministry, said he is proposing a policy-driven approach to promoting investments and sectoral growth.
"The strategic focus of the MIIC will be on restructuring and rationalising its operations to modernise our industry, stimulate investment and facilitate commerce," he said.
Mum on tax breaks, waivers
He made no promises of tax breaks, waivers or cheaper funding for business development, citing Jamaica's limited finances.
Hylton's 10-point strategy is built around: economic growth with jobs; improved customer service from the ministry and its agencies; the expansion of the role of Jampro and the Jamaica Business Development Corporation, along with the foreign ministry to establish markets in the diaspora and "beyond"; working with other ministries to facilitate cross-sector investments; working with the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining to reduce energy costs; address Jamaica's falling rankings in international business and economic reports; fostering start-ups and early-stage ventures; addressing priority legislation; crafting policies for the development of the micro, small and medium-size enterprise sector; and bringing new ideas to market through product development and commercialisation.