Vaz appeals to Jamaican Diaspora for investment

Addressing Jamaicans at the Jamaica-USA Chamber of Commerce luncheon last week Jamaican Minister Daryl Vaz appeals to the Jamaican Diaspora to invest in Jamaica’s economic development.

Garth A. Rose

Last Friday, Oct 6, Minister Without Portfolio, in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Daryl Vaz, was Keynote Speaker at the luncheon of the 13th Conference of the Jamaica USA Chamber of Commerce (JAUSACC).

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Minister Vaz was subbing for Jamaica’s Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Karl Samuda, who was unable to attend.

The minister told his audience, consisting mostly of South Florida and Caribbean business men and women that, “Jamaica is always seeking and ready to welcome investors to our shores.  As a result, we are looking at ways in which we can improve and make it easier to do business in Jamaica.”

He offered some of the plans being implemented by the Jamaican government to target these investors, and engage the Jamaican Diaspora.

The plans include the role of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF), a merger of former ministries to move the industrial sector “further along the value chain and to foster agro-industrial growth.”

The Agricultural sector

Vaz explained that while the agriculture sector has emerged as a major player in the vision of a better and more prosperous Jamaica, significant investment is needed. “Unearthing the vast potential of the land and to maximize the wealth creation possibilities will require an investment of more than just finances.  We also need expertise. The Jamaican Diaspora can make a huge difference in this regard,” he said. “If even 10 percent of the share of the over US$2 billion in remittances sent home annually were invested in small businesses and agriculture, this would make a significant difference in enhancing some of the growth targets of the sector.”

Expansion and redevelopment of the agricultural sector includes focus on production of Irish potato and onions. Sweet Potatoes, yams and peppers are also identified for special attention as part of an export thrust. Other crops include strawberry and mushroom production, to satisfy the needs of the Jamaican hotel sector.

Vaz also indicated steps are being taken to modernize the agricultural sector, including improving land irrigation nationally. He said the Jamaican private sector was involved in the agricultural modernization project. “There are a number of big players in the sector investing heavily in agro-business and partnering with farmers and guaranteeing sure markets for their produce and livestock.”

The Diaspora’s assistance is being sought to fund the agricultural sector, “While we continue to press for funding at low interest rates for our farmers, the Diaspora can help by mobilizing its own resources to be made available to farmers and enterprises in Jamaica.”

General investments

The minister said while specific investment is needed to modernize the agricultural sector, Jamaica is ripe for investment generally, He said, “Our vision of real growth for the country, led to the creation of the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation (MEGJC) that I am proud to serve as Minister without Portfolio.”

The ministry has identified strategic investment priorities that will set the country on the path to growth with jobs. These priorities include:

The Logistics Hub initiatives; agro-parks; business process outsourcing; tourism diversification, including eco and medical tourism; creative industries; energy diversification and international financial services.

Investment priorities include: agro-processing (food and beverages), aquaculture, coffee, education, entertainment, information communication technology (ICT), Fashion, materials and mining

Vaz said, “The Ministry has met with all the major investors and has removed obstacles to investments that were in the pipeline, in addition to facilitating new investments.”

Modernizing the labor force

He also said as Jamaica attracts investments to build the required infrastructure, the country is seeking to equip the labor force with the skills in demand by investors. To this end, the MEGJC has formed strategic partnerships with the Jamaica Manufacturers Association (JMA) and the Business Process Outsourcing Association to establish Sector Skills Councils (SSC). This is a recommendation from the Labor Market Forum held in February 2017, with the support of the IDB.

This initiative is expected to address skills gaps currently being experienced by employers and will lead to greater employment and productivity.

Jamaica’s open for business

Making a special appeal to the Jamaican Diaspora, Vaz said, “You understand the local economy and culture, and are willing to take on greater risks in business and investment opportunities that others may choose to pass on.  If this is your inclination, I urge you to forge relationships with like-minded individuals in this Chamber who want to accelerate the development process in Jamaica. Jamaica’s doors are open for business.”

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