By Balford Henry
Chairman of the Jamaica Special Economic Zone Authority (JSEZA), Metry Seaga, says that in just over a year of operation, the authority already has on the ground more than US$500 million in investments in special economic zones (SEZs) and over 5,000 jobs.He said that the strategy that will be employed to realise success with the SEZ regime included:(1) a clear plan has been developed, outlining what is to be done and how it will be done, which will be integrated into the larger economic development strategy;(2) establishing a sound legal and regulatory framework, in which adaptability will be key and gaps that exist in the legislation will be addressed; and(3) a high-level leadership and inter-agency coordination.He said that under the leadership of Prime Minister Andrew Holness, the authority would develop a collaborative approach to this segment of government business.“I am using this opportunity to call on all agency heads, permanent secretaries and ministers to put their weight behind us, to put their weight behind a cause greater than you or I, a cause that is for our country Jamaica,” he added.Chief executive officer at the authority, Dr Eric Deans, said that being an agency of the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Prime Minister Holness has led the speedy implementation of the legislation and regulations.He noted that JSEZA is an important part of the Government's mission to transform Jamaica's economic fortunes.“Not with fluffy narratives and empty promises, but with dedicated work and coordinated effort to drive change,” he added.He stated that the authority, in driving change, has not shifted direction to full implementation mode.Dr Deans also noted that, for several decades, Jamaica has experienced slow economic growth, and the change that was really needed was “big, bold and disruptive action”.He said that Jamaica is diversifying its industrial base through a strategy that involves the creation of special economic zones to attract a wider range of industries. These industries are being established in specific industrial clutters and include transnational and local operations.He said that the country is receiving support for its Global Logistics Hub Initiative from the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and other multilateral institutions.The Jamaica Special Economic Zone Authority (JSEZA) is the agency of the Government of Jamaica responsible for facilitating the development of and promoting investments in special economic zones in Jamaica. The JSEZA was established in 2016 under the Special Economic Zones Act.The authority regulates and supervises SEZs through the administration, issuance of guidelines and directions to developers, occupants and zone users in relation to the SEZ Act. It also provides policy direction for the development and sustainability of Jamaica's economy, through the administration of Special Economic Zones and attract new and diverse investments in the zones, as well as establish efficient investor and business facilitation one-stop service
“At last count we projected approximately US$5 billion in investments with over 100,000 jobs being created in a range of sectors, including manufacturing, logistics, business process outsourcing, just to name a few,” he said at Wednesday's ribbon-cutting ceremony at the authority's head office, Waterloo Road, Kingston.
Seaga said that there has been a significant growth in the BPO industry segment of the free zone and indicated that the time was right to start realising significant growth in other areas as well.
He said that the local investment landscape had transformed considerably over the past decade and a half, and investors from across the world were now setting up businesses on the island.
“Partners from countries that we had no relationship with are now knocking at our doors. Our own Jamaicans are jumping on the opportunity to play their part in the investment landscape,” he stated.
He noted that under the previous free zones system, there were no incentives to purchase locally, but under the SEZ local purchases are exempted from general consumption tax (GCT).
“So there is no payment of that 16.5 per cent on your electricity bill or telephone bill. That is big savings, and there is a push to connect local suppliers with SEZ investors,” he noted.