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Growth & Jobs | What are the opportunities? - Diaspora asks for investment specifics in relation to logistics hub

Published:Thursday | July 27, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Michael Lee-Chin
Members of the Jamaican Diaspora at the Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference at the Jamaica Concerence Centre last week.

Government agencies and organisations are insisting that the State has made significant progress in developing the Jamaican logistics hub; however, some members of the Jamaican diaspora remain unhappy about the flow of information regarding investment opportunities.

Speaking during the Diaspora Growth Forum, organised by the Jamaica National Group, at the Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference, Michael Lee-Chin, chairman of the Economic Growth Council (EGC), emphasised that the project was moving forward. The conference, held at the Jamaica Conference Centre, ended on Thursday.

"This is an important national objective and we are going to make sure it's brought home once and for all," Lee-Chin declared. He revealed that the Government engaged a former Israeli government minister of infrastructure to assist in bringing the country's Logistics Hub Initiative to fruition.

"He was in charge of all roads, all toll bridges and all ports - airports; and, he is now working with us. And, he has given us access to his entire network," the EGC chairman disclosed. He also said that an emissary has been sent to Singapore to gather information about the Singapore model, as the Government refines its plan for establishing the logistics hub.


Prepared for logistics


Also speaking at the forum, Elva Williams, senior vice-president of finance at the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ), emphasised that Jamaica was prepared for logistics, noting that the country has the infrastructure, which makes it prime for global investors.

She added that Jamaica was also viewed as the fastest-rising country in terms of its competitiveness based on the global Logistics Performance Index (LPI), which indicates that in 2015-2016, the country was ranked 86th; today, it ranks 75th; and is number nine in the Caribbean.

"We are geographically located, with global connectivity," she said, noting also that the country has a diverse educational pool, and is the largest English-speaking country in the Caribbean.

"We have a good road network, which government continues to expand and develop," she added. "And, importantly, we have stability in our democratically elected government; therefore, we have a stable political system, which makes us ideal."

Williams revealed that the Government was also on track to complete some port developments, with two new berths at the Montego Bay port to be completed during this financial year. These berths will handle containerised and bulk cargo as well as fuels and a contractor has been engaged to start the project.

The nation's ports were being modernised, she said, with the use of the ASYCUDA system at the Jamaica Customs Agency.

"We also have the legislative framework to support it," Williams added. "And, importantly, the rest of the world recognises us," she said.

Action now - Diaspora not impressed with mere talk about preparedness for hub

The continued emphasis of the country's preparedness is not enough for some members of the diaspora attending the conference.

Beverley Johnson, a Jamaican living in the United Kingdom, was among those who insisted that the Government provide specific information about what Jamaicans overseas can invest in, so that they can contribute to, and benefit from, the Logistics Hub Initiative.

"Jamaica's logistics space already exists," Johnson said. "What is now necessary is for innovation to take place and for the Government to give us a list of the possible areas people can invest in, such as husbandry, port storage, operations, etc. However, while you keep coming to forums and telling us about the logistics hub, you are not telling us what's really there, and how quickly it's going to be done."


Emerging opportunities


In response, Edmond Marsh, vice-president of business development at the PAJ, indicated that there were many emerging opportunities in support services that would assist to build out the logistics hub ecosystem. And, he contended that there were opportunities emerging from the infrastructure that the Government had been putting in place, such as roads and port development.

"What we need now is for locals and members of the diaspora to put their money where their mouth is," he said. "There are opportunities right now ... as we speak."

Acknowledging the observations of the diaspora members, Earl Jarrett, chairman of the Jamaica Diaspora Foundation and chief executive officer of the Jamaica National Group, proposed that the Government look at establishing a website.

"That would also address the issue about the list of things to be invested in," he advised.