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Bureaucratic process at JSEZA is holding back progress - Howard Mitchell

Published:Thursday | October 18, 2018 | 12:00 AMMark Titus/Gleaner Writer
Howard Mitchell

President of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) Howard Mitchell, says that the bureaucratic process at the Jamaica Special Economic Zone Authority (JSEZA) is counter-productive and is calling for greater support from the Government for the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector.

"What I have seen here indicates to me that we have made a very good start, BPO have tremendous potential," said Mitchell, following a tour of several outsourcing firms in Montego Bay, yesterday. "We have a national treasure here, but it makes it all the more important that we push the Government and ourselves to ensure that the young people and people out of schools are fully equipped to deal with the increasing quality demand of the global (market)."

He continued, "Education is a big part of it but also facilitating the approvals, the bureaucratic process. From what I am told here, the special economic zone authority needs to step up its game. It is not moving fast enough, and it is holding back progress for Jamaica."

The SEZ Act was passed in January 2016, repealing the Jamaica Export Free Zone Act, and included tax and Customs incentives for qualified entities.

The BPO sector enjoys the highest employment growth rate of any group in the last decade but has expressed dissatisfaction with the slow pace of approvals at JSEZA, which they claim costs them millions of dollars.

"I am very impressed with what I see here, but what I pick up is that the State needs to do more to enhance what we have, and that is what I will be doing as the PSOJ," Mitchell said. "I am going to be pushing the State to facilitate the growth that I see here."

The tour was arranged following a raft of criticisms regarding the value of the outsourcing industry to the Jamaican economic growth agenda, which has approximately 60 near-shore firms in operation and a labour pool of some 36,000 employees.

Mitchell has publicly voiced his concern that if the quality and level of skills in BPO are not improved, it could become a repressive economic source.

"What today has done for me is shown me that the BPO sector needs the help of the PSOJ to engage the State to do more to facilitate their growth," he told The Gleaner. "What I see are happy people in good working conditions that are apparently enthusiastic about working, and that is an eye-opener for me and will cause me to be a bit more supportive of the BPO sector."

As he called for more outsourcing firms to become members of the PSOJ, Mitchell stated, "The BPO operators need to stop hiding their light under a bushel because the world will not know what you do unless you speak of what you do."

The BPO sector has been identified as one of the drivers of the country's growth agenda and contributes US$450 million to the Jamaican economy, with a wage bill of approximately $42 billion, annually.