The Most Honourable Andrew Holness ON, PC, MP
Prime Minister of Jamaica
Official Opening of Pepsi Jamaica New Production Line
November 7, 2023
First, let me apologize for Minister Fayal Williams, I gather she was here, but she had to run off to Parliament.
Allow me to acknowledge in similar form my neighbour and friend, the Member of Parliament for Western St Andrew, Tony Hilton; good to see you Tony, and I hope you recover quickly.
It is a coincidence that Tony is also the Opposition Spokesman on Industry and Commerce, but it is no coincidence that I am the Minister of Economic Growth and Job Creation, which is what we celebrate here today. If it is one thing that has done well, not by subjective analysis, but by the data and the statistics, is that our economy is growing and jobs are being created, indisputably so.
Let me acknowledge as well, Alberto Ramirez, General Manager for Pepsi Cola
Anecia Levy, your Transformation Manager
Luz Tejada, Commercial Manager
The Executives and Management and staff of Pepsi Cola
Members of the private sector who are here in support of Pepsi Cola and this significant investment.
Members of the media
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen.
As I go through the protocols, and I survey the audience, I see some students here from Charlie Smith High School and Pembroke Hall. Please give them a round of applause; grade 7 and 11 students.
I arrived a little bit late this morning because I was detained by a matter which I won’t bring to this platform because this is a celebratory platform, but I ask you to spare a moment of thought and reflection for those two students who were the victim of a senseless act of terror in Western Jamaica.
People, it is always an immense pleasure for me to participate in activities celebrating the improvements and expansion of businesses within our country and within the manufacturing sector. So, it is with immense pleasure that I join you this morning as we gather to celebrate the official opening of Pepsi Cola Jamaica’s new state-of-the-art production line.
Pepsi Cola Jamaica is a subsidiary of the Central America Bottling Corporation, one of the world’s leading beverage and snack companies. Pepsi Cola Jamaica focuses on manufacturing, distributing, and marketing a variety of PepsiCo’s beverages and snacks, not just for consumption in Jamaica, but for export regionally and internationally.
With the opening of this new production line, Pepsi Jamaica has invested twenty-two million United States dollars and will be able to produce even more of its high-quality products. In addition, it has positioned itself and Jamaica to become the central hub for the Caribbean.
This is a wonderful day for the company and for Jamaica. And it is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the team at Pepsi Jamaica. I would like to congratulate the management and staff of Pepsi Jamaica on this remarkable and bold leap forward as this facility increases production capacity by 60%. There is no doubt that this is a game changer. And I am sure that other competitors are looking on and saying, hmm, we need to make similar investment; and that’s simply good news for me.
I am particularly pleased to note that the new production line has created additional jobs, representing a 20% increase in the company’s workforce.
People, these jobs are not just statistics. They represent lives and livelihoods. They represent dreams and aspirations fulfilled. They represent economic independence. They represent social mobility. They represent human capital and skills.
My university professor is here, and he knows I am going to acknowledge him. He is partially responsible for who I am. He disowns me at times but that is how it is. Nevertheless, he has been noticeably clear on defending the statistics of our reduced unemployment. For some, the reduction in our unemployment juxtaposed against seeing in communities, young men still not employed in formal and meaningful economic pursuits. In seeing our young men still being involved in criminal activity. In seeing so much human resources going to waste. It may seem as if the figures are not adequately capturing those persons.
The truth is that, and I do not intend to get into any lecture as to how unemployment is calculated, except to say that we have not changed the way in which we have been calculating unemployment over the last 30 years. When the numbers have been extremely high. It is the same metric that is used. What has changed is that the fiscal management of the country has created an environment of confidence in the business community, particularly as it relates to the stability in taxes and in parallel, the development of the institutional framework particularly as it relates to monetary policy and foreign exchange management, which has given the private sector the confidence to invest. And this investment is pulling into formal employment those persons who are willing to work, seeking work, have educated, and upskilled themselves to be able to take advantage of work.
Where we are at now in the society is that we have absorbed all those persons into the formal economy and so where we are now as a government, we never had this problem before, but it is a good problem to have. We have to rapidly engage those who are on the margins of our society, who have, by whatever circumstances, have decided that they don’t want to participate in the labour force either because they may feel that the economics of the current wage level is such that it doesn’t provide them an incentive to work, or that criminal activities may pay them better or it may be that they have decided to stay home and be maintained. Or they may very well feel that because they have no education and no skills, it does not make sense that they put themselves in the labour market.
So, the government must create new programmes through HEART/ NSTA, and by extending the school leaving years. You would notice that we have added on two additional years to school leaving and we are putting in all kinds of programmes to keep our youngsters in schools so that when they leave the transition from school to work is seamless; all these programmes are being instituted as we speak.
While we will be able to stem the immediate dropout from school to work, there is a stock of human resources that for decades fell between that bridge of school and work, and they are out there in the communities. As you are driving to this plant, you will see them. They are in your community surrounding this plant. They are in my community just across the road and they are the ones who are getting themselves into problems; they are the ones committing the crime and they are the victims of the crimes themselves.
It is a national emergency to get our human resources that are not in the labour force. First, to get them into a culture of work, to develop the work ethic, and to get them the skills to make them functional and that is now a driving priority of this administration. This is an investment from a multinational corporation, and I must say, and I try not to venture into these controversial areas because there are so many different perspectives on the issues and so many special interests that sometimes important conversations get diverted into areas that are really carried to extreme of nonsense and divert the attention and focus of the nation.
But there are calls in certain quarters in the private sector that says that Jamaica may very well have to consider if its economic growth potential continues at this pace, that we may very well have to have a programme of controlled and increased entry of workers from overseas to supplement our labour force.
It is controversial and I hope and pray that my comments are not taken and carried to ridiculous extremes. I’m really hopeful that Jamaica’s commentators can take the time to research before they comment on issues as to the various growth strategies that were employed in the past that our neighbours around us are employing and that we may very well have to employ because there are various estimates as to the actual pool of labour that is outside the formal labour force.
If we continue to grow and our growth pace increases, we will use up those who are outside; in the next five years, six years, the next decade. Who would have thought ten years ago that Jamaica would be at this place now? But you cannot wait until you are at that point in the future that you make policies for that time in the future. You must be thinking ahead and that is why you have this government who sometimes we must take decisions that in the present you do not see the logic of it and immediately you jump on it for political short-term reasons without seeing the long-term strategic direction.
Jamaica is in a particularly good place, but there are challenges and obstacles which may not be evident in front of us. It requires strategic thinking. Forgive me, General Manager, for using your celebratory platform in the presence of my friend in the Opposition, who the appeal was really to him to raise this issue because you have expanded your plant by 60% and you are expanding your labour force. So, those people who are critical of the numbers, this is the perfect example of why our unemployment rate is going down. And I am sure you face that challenge in trying to find a skilled labour to build this plant in eight months. We celebrate eight months, but I was not applauding at eight months, this could be built in five months.
Pepsi Jamaica is also a major contributor to our country’s economy. The company exports its products to nine islands within the Caribbean, as well as to Belize, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada. In addition to the company’s economic contribution to Jamaica, Pepsi Jamaica is also a good corporate citizen as it has partnered with Recycling Partners of Jamaica evidencing its commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility. I suspect professor that is why you are here, chair of the Recycling Partners of Jamaica.
In an age when we must confront global challenge of plastic waste, this collaboration is both commendable, and forward thinking, and I applaud Pepsi Jamaica and Recycling Partners of Jamaica. By actively engaging in recycling initiatives, the company is contributing to a cleaner and importantly greener, and more sustainable future for our island and the wider world. Further, Pepsi Jamaica has established partnerships with both the Heart Trust/ NSTA and the Caribbean Maritime University; two educational and skills-training institutions that prepare young people for the world of work.
This approach is a shining example of how the public and private sectors can and should work together to strengthen our workforce and drive our nation’s development and growth. This is a win-win scenario for all involved including the potential to recruit new persons into our labour force.
I am confident that Pepsi Jamaica will continue to grow and succeed in the years to come. The company has a strong history of innovation and success, and we thank them for their commitment to Jamaica and our people.
Now, I would like to take a moment to talk about the importance of manufacturing to our country’s economy. Manufacturing is a critical sector of our economy, and it is one of the drivers of job creation and economic growth. Manufacturing is the largest industry among the goods producing industry and the sixth largest industry overall accounting for 9% of total GDP. Like the general economy, the manufacturing industry has recovered from the impact of COVID-19 with output levels in 2022 being 3.5% above pre COVID levels in 2019; that is a significant improvement.
The manufacturing industry grew by 6.3% in 2022 and contributed 0.6% of the 5.2% GDP growth recorded in 2022. The manufacturing industry has also done well on the export side. Manufacturing exports have grown significantly over the last five years from about 30.8% of total exports in 2018 to 70.3% of total exports in 2022 making manufacturing the single largest goods producing export industry.
The food, beverages and tobacco sector has been a major contribution to this growth, accounting for 25.3% of total exports in 2022, up from 13.5% in 2028. So, for those people who continue to believe a narrative that nothing is happening, that is not true. Change is happening right before our very eyes. This expansion by Pepsi will no doubt contribute to even further improvement within the manufacturing sector. When we manufacture goods in our country, we create jobs for our people. We also boost our economy by generating tax revenue. And when we do make exports, we are also earning foreign exchange.
In addition, manufacturing has linkages with other sectors of the economy, particularly transportation, coordination, and retail. I am committed to supporting the manufacturing sector in our country. I believe that manufacturing is one of the keys to creating jobs, boosting our economy and improving the lives of our people that is why I’m here today, not as Prime Minister; I’m here today as the Minister of Economic Growth and Job Creation to celebrate this significant investment in our capacity to produce, create jobs and earn.
So, I am confident that the manufacturing sector will continue to grow and will continue to play this important and pivotal role in ensuring that Jamaica achieves prosperity and peace. My job continues to be to put in place the programmes and the policies to make this happen. Keep investing. Keep growing. Keep employing. Keep dreaming big. At one point I thought you said, keep drinking big. I am sure some of you heard that but keep investing. The dream of prosperity is being fulfilled daily by the actions of entrepreneurs and businesspeople and our workers.
God bless you and thank you.