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President of Jamaica Promotions Corporation (Jampro) Shulette Cox makes a point in discussion with EY Caribbean’s Executive Chairman Wade George at the Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall hotel in Montego Bay, St James, on Thursday. (Photo: Karl Mclarty)

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 16 May 2024    admin   

Overseas businesses displaying optimism about island, say execs

FOREIGN investors are displaying optimism about Jamaica’s business environment against the background of an economic reform programme that, among its highlights, has reduced the nation’s debt at a pace that ranks among the world’s fastest over the last decade.

According to Ernst & Young (EY) Caribbean, the high level of investor interest is reflected in the fact that around 120 companies, representing more than 10 countries, are now gathered at its Strategic Growth Forum in Montego Bay to network and possibly make deals with local businesses.

The four-day conference at Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall comes amid the Caribbean country recording 10 consecutive quarters of economic growth since the COVID-19 pandemic and a record low 4.2 per cent unemployment rate. The nation has also reduced its debt to gross domestic product from 149 per cent to 74 per cent over the last decade, which ratings agency Fitch recently said represents the third-largest decline in debt among all rated sovereigns over the period.

“As a Jamaican you should be very proud of what your country has been able to achieve over the last 10 years, in terms of coming out of the IMF [International Monetary Fund] programme, starting to exhibit consecutive quarters of growth, unemployment, [and] business confidence that’s different,” EY Caribbean’s Executive Chairman Wade George told the Jamaica Observer on the margins of the forum.

“We are [also] seeing Jamaican businesses reaching out across the region and making acquisitions,” he said.

Businesses from Jamaica, Suriname, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Latin America are among those represented at the forum.

“We really serve all the top-tier clients. So it was an idea of how do we get all these top-tier clients across the region to come together, and they were all interested in Jamaica,” Maria Daniel, partner, strategy, and transactions at Ernst & Young Services Limited, who played an integral role in the organisation of the forum, said.

Daniel told the Observer that Texas-based global technology consulting firm, MTX Group, is among the companies looking to invest in Jamaica. MTX Group mainly provides transformational solutions to international clients in the public sector, across the health care, safety, education, and transportation industries. It was co-founded by EY World Entrepreneur of the Year, Das Nobel, who is attending the conference.

“Das Nobel, who is by no means a small entrepreneur, who represents the United States in the World Entrepreneur [programme], is here, and he wants to invest in Jamaica,” Daniel said. “The way he invests, it’s not just about the company, it’s the community. I have already started connecting him.”

With a number of big businesses such as MTX looking for technology solutions at the conference, Shulette Cox, president of Jamaica Promotions Corporation (Jampro), said at least six local companies under its Technology Innovation District (TID) Accelerator Project are represented at the forum.

“We have artificial intelligence, we have cyber security, we have software developments, we have digital management systems, we have data analysis, so it varies,” Cox said. “What we want to push is knowledge processing and how we process knowledge at a higher level.”

Jampro’s TID Accelerator Project targets entities in niche sectors such as software development, digital services management, cybersecurity, and mobile and web app development. The initiative is part of the national investment and promotion agency’s focus on global digital services, one of its main target areas.

“For us, global digital services spans the gamut of outsourcing, from business process outsourcing right through to knowledge process outsourcing (KPO), and what we want to do is expand more significantly into KPO,” Cox said during a presentation on Jamaica’s investment climate at the forum.

She said the creation of more jobs, underscored by record-low unemployment; increasing investments; and higher export earnings — the value of exports rose 16.9 per cent to US$1.4 billion between January and October 2023 when compared to the similar period in 2022 — are all positive indicators of the agency’s performance, which she attributes to the country’s improved fiscal standing, in particular lower debt.

“For us at Jampro, what that means is that if we are paying less loan money, we have more money to do the things that we need to do to grow the country,” Cox said.

Source: Ja. Observer



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