Q: What do you see as Jamaica’s strengths as an investment destination, and what do you think it could offer investors?
A: The strengths have to start with Jamaica’s people. [We have] an educated, literate, trainable workforce. Jamaicans are hospitable people, creating a social environment that is liveable. So, we’ll start with our people and move on to our institutional and constitutional arrangements. It is a tried-and-tested parliamentary democracy, with the rule of law and the stability that this ensures and which we have experienced for more than 50 years.
With our location in the middle of the Americas, between North America, South America and Central America, and easy access to Europe, more links, communication and connectivity to the rest of the world is assured. Infrastructure is developing, and there is room for growth and attraction of foreign investment.
Q: As you mentioned infrastructure, tell us about the plan you have to make Jamaica a logistics hub.
A: Jamaica is aiming to become the fourth node, the fourth pillar of the global trading system, recognising that the other three are Singapore for the Far East, Dubai for the Middle East and parts of Africa, and Rotterdam for much of Europe. Nothing of this sort exists in [the Americas]. With the change of transportation, particularly the expansion of the Panama Canal, there will be a need for a node or a pillar in this part of the world.
We are on the doorstep of the Panama Canal. Our attributes – deep-water ports, a sheltered harbour and strong telecommunications infrastructure – link Jamaica to the rest of the region and the rest of the world. There are also our airports: two international airports at the moment and a planned third international airport to be focused on passenger and cargo traffic. And, with the development of special economic zones and a major commodity port, we can create an integrated facility to move goods, which currently come into the trans-shipment port, into facilities beyond these ports for industrial activity, where we can add value and the goods can then be exported to the rest of the region, hemisphere or the world.
It is an ambitious project, but I believe this approach is well suited to not only our location but also our position in the tourism sector: the movement of people over the years has oriented us to a service-based economy. Logistics is essentially a service-based economy and our people are being trained now in various institutions, universities and tertiary institutions to enable them to perform those additional activities that are required.
There is a need therefore for significant foreign investment, to the tune of anywhere between $8bn and $10bn. And the level of interest that we have encourages us that this will happen.
Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges to meeting these ambitious goals?
Well, it is a timeline. It is [important that] we move as quickly as we need to move, given the opening of the [expanded] Panama Canal, which is sort of a benchmark of the timeline. And [it is important that we] get all of this done in a way that does not introduce the kinds of inflationary expansion that sometimes happens [when countries undergo rapid development].
We will have to respond [by undertaking] significant training of personnel, but we are encouraged by the fact that Jamaica has a large diaspora that can and will play an important role in these activities. And we are also part of the Caricom [Caribbean Community] region, through which additional labour and capital can flow, to ensure that this will happen on a timely basis.