The Most Hon. Andrew Holness ON, MP
Itelbpo 5th Anniversary Celebration
October 4, 2017
It is my great pleasure to be here with you this evening. I make it a point of duty to be present at these very important openings – groundbreaking – because it drives home the point that great things are happening in Jamaica and believe me I am doing about three per week so it’s amazing what is happening in Jamaica and it is showing the psychology of economics: confidence.
People are willing to take risk and Yoni, Lisa, Richard you have taken a risk on Jamaica and that is something that the government looks on and we’re very grateful for that and we encourage more Jamaicans to take a risk on Jamaica but we’re not saying that you should be foolish with your money because what the government is doing is to make it easier for you to calculate your risk and it is clear that you have been able to project what the future will be. You have been able to calculate what the risks are and find them acceptable and then you have made wise investments. We understand that this is the partnership that the government must continue to nurture.
When you take that risk- and I’m saying it in this language because I want your employees to understand that you have placed your resources at the peril of the economy of a market that they too have an interest in it because what you have done as entrepreneurs to have invested in this is to share the prosperity. When we speak of prosperity we’re not just talking about prosperity for the owners of capital, we are talking about a prosperity that is shared that when the owners of capital take the risk and they create employment, their workers should appreciate that and ensure that the capital is successful because it is not just the people who own capital will benefit by virtue of their employment.
You now have your independence in your hands because that is what your employment is. Your employment gives you the independence to now start to figure out how do I plan for my education? How do I buy my little car? How do I start to pay down on the house that the NHT is building for you which is now very accessible and affordable? So it all works together in a very nice partnership. The government creates the atmosphere and the environment that builds confidence for the investors to take risks and in taking risks they create jobs, people get to earn an income, plan for a better future for themselves and their children. What we are trying to do as the government is to create what I like to call virtuous cycle of economic growth and job creation. How do we make this happen on a continuous basis?
Firstly, let me point out two things. Coming into Montego Bay and getting stuck in the traffic you recognize that the government has a role to ensure that the infrastructure is in place to facilitate greater investment and I can imagine the productivity loss that Montego Bay goes through every day; evenings and mornings. We are committed to building that bypass. We don’t want to make an error so we’re now in the process of doing all the studies. They’ve done the traffic count, we’re doing designs to see where’s the best place to get the alignment for the bypass and that is being done.
As prime minister you begin to realise that major projects really rely on your own drive and impetus and if sometimes if you’re not behind them, they don’t happen so I want to reassure the people of Montego Bay that though I have to apply for a visa to come here that I am right behind the bypass to get it done.
We almost floated off before we got here because the drainage is clearly an issue. That’s a short term immediate capital expenditure, that’s between the NWA and the parish council to resolve and I’ve seen it for myself. I’m going to make sure that Minister Vaz “Mr. Fix-It” pull the agencies together because clearly it would have to be a cooperation between the Parish Council and the NWA to correct that problem so I’m making another commitment that the next time I come here in heavy rains there will be no water on the road. Note what I said, the next time that I come here in heavy rains.
The other commitment that I make to you is to address the other binding constraint for the growth of your industry and that is the labour force. It’s amazing that you would think that an industry like this that employs people and has the potential to employ vast numbers of people that an actual constraint to its growth would be having the human resources that are trained at a level to assume work immediately. It is really an indictment on Jamaica that we have not been able to so far to provide the human resources that is the trained workforce to keep pace with the demand for services here in Jamaica.
When I was Minister of Education it was assessed that one in ten that interviewed would have qualified to work. I suspect that it hasn’t changed that much. It’s probably still around maybe one in ten, one in nine but we need to do far more than we’re doing now. I have given my commitment and I am working. We have put in place a programme called the HOPE programme which is mobilizing our youngsters who have just left school between the ages of nineteen and twenty-four and we’re getting them work-ready on an accelerated basis and very soon you will have a supply of work-ready persons to employ into your operations.
The HOPE programme is specifically designed to deal with what we call the knowledge, skills and attitude model; to get our young people with a certain level of knowledge for the industry in which they will operate, develop their skills but more importantly adjust their attitudes so that they are work-ready and in a frame of mind to be productive. Again we give that commitment to this industry which we see as the critical growth industry for Jamaica’s development.
I notice that you’ve used “The power of the people” as your theme. Lisa that is different from people power but you’re right. This industry is about people and many of the people who you will be employing are young people, millennials, and they have a different outlook, a different perspective on life and this industry actually suits their lifestyle, suits their outlook and if we invest in it as a partnership; government supporting and business supporting, we should be able to make a significant dent on youth unemployment in Jamaica. And you know what, once we start to have an impact on youth unemployment that is when we really start to have an impact on crime and violence.
I’m committed to this industry. When I gave my budget presentation in 2016- I want make sure that I have the right figures, we have had eight hundred thousand square feet of space within the BPO sector with forty-four companies working in the sector employing approximately eighteen thousand five hundred workers.
By March 2017, we had 1.3 million square feet with fifty companies operational in the BPO space that represented an increase of sixty-five percent. We were able to do that in one year.
By the time I go to make my presentation in parliament in February 2018 next year we should have additional space of 1.3 million square feet, adding another twenty thousand new jobs conservatively. The government is committed to making this happen and we’re committed to point where we are also building space for the BPO sector.
We are building space through the Port Authority of Jamaica and through the Factories Corporation of Jamaica so we are also taking part in the risk, we’re also showing our commitment and I’m confident with the energy that I see in this room and the interest, Jamaica is poised for growth, for great things and to have a shared prosperity for our people.
Ladies and gentlemen it is my pleasure to have been here but before I go let me offer my personal congratulations to Yoni, Lisa – you make a great team and of course to the best father in-law, congratulation and thank you.