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Pengelley: Jamaica should weigh value of Chinese investments

Published:Thursday | January 22, 2015 | 6:08 PMTameka Gordon

Brian Pengelley, president of the Jamaica Manufacturers Association (JMA), says Jamaica may not be getting the best value from investments being pumped into the country  through the massive inflow of Chinese investments.
He advises that Jamaica should seek to protect itself through tight and thought-out contracts between the two trading partners.
Pengelley made his comments in response to questions posed on the final day of the 2015 Jamaica Stock Exchange Capital Market Conference, which wrapped in Kingston on Thursday.
Asked what the Chinese may have seen in Jamaica that local investors have not, leading to a big glow of investment from the Asian powerhouse and the world’s second largest economy, Pengelley commented that while the JMA was not averse to China’s investments, “I am not too sure some of those investments bring value to Jamaica,” he said.
Pengelley said the Jamaican Government must ensure contracts are structured in such a way that Jamaica does not find itself on the short side of these ventures in the long run.
“We have to look at how we develop those contracts where we say this is what you will be getting but here is what Jamaica wants”.
In making his presentation on re-igniting the manufacturing sector across the region, Pengelley pointed to several factors which he said the manufacturing sector and the government must give keen attention.
For manufactures, he suggested companies tap into emerging areas such as bamboo and medical marijuana as well as scour the market for product-needs that can be exploited. “We must diversify. We need to look at the range of products in the economy and what we can do more of and diversify”.
He suggested as well that local producers take better advantage of trade agreements.
“We have to look at the trade agreements we have. I don’t think we are taking full advantage of the European trade agreement. We need to be very informed (and) support each other,” he said.
And, he also hit out a segregated approach to growth, both locally and regionally, charging that a concerted regional push can position the Caribbean as a pivotal manufacturing region capable of taking on global imports.
“In 2013, CARICOM imported a total value of over US$29 billion from the rest of the world. Exports are concentrated in a few goods and markets as well as tourism services. The manufacturing sector can play an important role in combating these vulnerabilities through increased exports, import substitution and the diversification of products,” said the JMA president.
But, “We have to make sure we have a level playing field for us all to survive. We have to do away with the fighting - should we be in Caricom, should be out of Caricom; Trinidad does this, we do that - there is no room for that,” he said.
“The manufacturing sector, across the region can be that spark that lands us back into a position that of productivity, (but) we have to live better. We have to look closer to home and do more trade with our neighbours before we take on the world,” Pengelley said.
Locally, larger companies, he said, should support other entities within the region by procuring from them before looking abroad.
Government, he added, should do away with red tape and unfriendly export procedures.