Thu | Dec 7, 2023

Gov’t must drive economy through reinvention – business leaders

Published:Friday | June 18, 2021 | 1:09 AMTamara Bailey/Gleaner Writer

With the forecast that Jamaica’s gross domestic product (GDP) will increase by over 3.6 per cent this year and that the economy will regain strength in 2022, heads of some of the largest local-based corporations are encouraging the Government to help drive change in business operations through capacity building, collaboration and a reinvention of value-added services.

President of Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association and Group CEO of Seprod Ltd, Richard Pandohie, who was speaking along with other entrepreneurs at the Adventist Laymen’s Services & Industries virtual forum on manoeuvring businesses throughout COVID on Monday, underscored the importance of the agricultural sector in driving economic growth.

“If we are going to grow our economy in a particular way this has to be an important pillar, and the pandemic has highlighted that food security is very important,” Pandohie said.

He noted that exportation numbers will have to increase and Brand Jamaica properly marketed to increase revenue.

“What’s the point in having a depreciating currency every year if you’re not using it to drive your export business? We see a blueprint now for opportunities. The crisis is evolving. Supply chain disruption all over the world, as world economies recover at different pace is creating a massive impact. There are many opportunities out there and if we get a small dot on the global market that is a big deal for us, so we need to punch above our weight class.”

However, past president of the Jamaica Small Business Association and CEO of Johnson & Son Organic Fertilizer Ltd, Hugh Johnson, said the Government must first pivot from a dated economic regulatory framework to begin the process of reinvention.

“We need to transform that to a productive framework. The [current] framework is not conducive to business environments and is not business friendly. From our colonial masters we were trained to be primary producers, but we must go to value-added [services].”

Experiencing significant successes in its real estate developments during the pandemic, Proven CEO Christopher Williams said it took an aggressive approach to the company’s operation and purchases of two banks, an animal feed mill and seven real estate developments.

“This pandemic has given us a glorious opportunity to reinvent ourselves. Our brand is global, our reach is global and, therefore, our products must be global. Every single apartment that we put on the market was sold in that time. We tripled our marketing spend and the result of that was an explosion of our top line-brand recognition, attracting investors.”

Williams added that approximately 50 per cent of the sales made were to members of the diaspora who invested their stimulus cheques.

“We have to recognise that our products can and must compete in the global space and we will be successful because we are Jamaicans.

Echoing similar sentiments, managing director of Consolidate Bakeries and past president of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, Anthony Chang, said innovation in all areas of operations is key to establishing a strong framework for success.