Speech by the Prime Minister

Jamaica International Exposition (JIE) Opening Ceremony

Keynote Address


The Most Hon. Andrew Holness, ON, MP

At the

Jamaica International Exposition (JIE) Opening Ceremony

June 1, 2017


Thank you very much master of ceremonies. The Honourable Karl Samuda Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture, Fisheries, my parliamentary colleague Mr. Anthony Hilton; Spokesperson  on Industry and Commerce, members of the diplomatic corps; the mayor, councilor Homer Davis; Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Mr. Donovan Stanbury; Mr. Metry Seaga president of the JMA; Mr. Richard Pandohie Deputy President of the JMA; other members of staff of the JMA; exhibitors; buyers; heads of agencies and departments; members of the private sector; sponsors; distinguished guests; members of the media; ladies and gentlemen and I’m certain I’ll be forgiven if I have forgotten anybody but good afternoon or rather good evening.


I’m very happy to be here today for this Inaugural Jamaica International Exhibition showcasing brand Jamaica to the world. Maximum visibility will be achieved over the next few days to enable the necessary linkages and connections essentially matching opportunities with resources. I think you call it Mr. President B2B – Business to Business engagement.


This event organized by the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association places emphasis on delivering quality products and securing markets.


The timely staging of this event reinforces the deliberate and instrumental approach that Jamaica is pursuing to achieve sustainable economic growth and inclusive job creation. I applaud the JMA, its partners, sponsors, exhibitors and buyers, all playing a critical role in making this Jamaica International Exhibition a success. This event is an important signal to prospective buyers and manufacturers that Jamaica is serious about claiming its share in the vast regional and global market.


Undoubtedly Jamaica has a well-known, well-loved brand. Our brand stands boldly and it is amplified in the global market place. Our brand is an infusion of our music, our hospitality, our culture, our food, our entertainment, our creativity and our innovativeness; all coming together to create a distinct meaning of a Jamaican product or service. Jamaican services and products definitely have an advantage because of our brand.


When Simon mentioned our competitive advantage, a big part of that is brand Jamaica. I’ll never forget travelling overseas and people coming up to me, “where are you from?”, “I’m from Jamaica.” Usain Bolt, Bob Marley but they also say very good coffee, very good rum, beautiful people – the people, the culture make the brand.


We probably will never be able to compete by virtue of large volumes. We will probably never be able to compete by being the low cost manufacturer but whilst those are important variables in the psychology of price and the psychology of demand there are other variables that determine demand and we have some of those variables to our advantage. We produce exotic things. Just in my brief tour I’m told that black castor oil is an exotic product that is indigenous to Jamaica that is in high demand in international markets. We have to capitalize on that.


We have other advantages; our location. Nothing passes through this region without it passing through Jamaican waters. By virtue of our brand, our products are easily noticed on shelves. In fact the Jamaican flag is one of the most known flags in the world and if our manufacturers were to stamp that flag on our products more, I bet you they would move much faster off the shelves; so our brand is part of our competitive advantage.


The Jamaican government is working diligently to broaden our brand meaning and our brand awareness  because yes we want to be known as the coolest people in the world, we want to be known as the fastest people in the world, we want to be known as some of the most creative people and innovative people in the world, we want to be known for our exotic products, we want to be known for our assertive nature but we also need to be known as the best place to do business in the world. We want to be known as one of the easiest business destination in the world. We want the world to know that Jamaica is serious about business. When that becomes a part of our brand then you will start to see real economic growth taking place.


The government is engaged in a very involved process of improving our business climate, in improving the regulatory environment, in ensuring that we create the infrastructure for business.


So for example we are now putting in place the regulations for the special economic zones, long in coming.  In fact, everyday I call up the team from the special economic zone authority. By the way the chairman is right here. He is your president of the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association. The right man there so he understands what manufacturing needs and so the legislation and the regulation will be business friendly, but we will also have to beat all the good governance requirements to ensure that our business is in line with our obligations for anti-corruption, and ensuring that we can’t be penetrated for terrorism or used for other nefarious activities. We have to strike the right balance.


I’m pleased to announce – and I’m making the announcement today so that it will happen. Yes, sometimes you have to make the announcement so that the people who make it happen know that it has been announced; that in another two weeks the regulations will be brought to parliament that will finally bring to life the special economic zones.


We’re taking bold steps to improve our physical infrastructure. I normally drive in from Kingston to do an event at 6:30.  I would’ve had to leave Kingston at about noon. Correct? Anybody who says no to that, you were driving too fast. I left Kingston at somewhere around 4, I’m not going to tell you when I got here, but I got here on time. Infrastructure makes business easier and we are making those investments in our physical infrastructure to make your business that much easier.


The Factories Corporation is here and you can judge when economic growth is taking place when you have a high demand for factory space. Now there’s always a lag time between the thought of a business and the actual development and creation and implementation of the business but a good judge of what is to come is when people are making the investment in the physical space.


The chairman of the Factories Corporation has reported that there is actually an increase in demand for factory space so whilst the first quarter may not look as we would have wanted it to look, we know that future quarters will look better because people are making the investments now. But more than that in terms of the development of infrastructure, the government has taken on a very proactive stance in improving the logistics of our urban townships which is where the majority of our factories and productive operations are.


I share one example of this, the town of Morant Bay.  Very close to it is a factory that used to manufacture tires in Jamaica, a very old factory. It was in operation round about the time you started Little Shelly and many Jamaicans know this. It’s an icon building in terms of manufacturing but it has been there idle for over twenty years.


The government will take that space and we will literally in the twenty-five acres that it occupies, we will create a new town centre for Morant Bay. It will be organized, it will be logically structured for the connections between what is needed for government presence in a town so Mr. Mayor there will be a town hall for the parish council building and it will be right in the center of the new town settlement. There will be a space for a conference centre, a library, there will be space for shopping but more importantly we will create purpose-built manufacturing space.


Of course there was an attempt, and my friend Tony Hilton would know this, there was an attempt to convert the factory into a BPO space. That attempt did not work but we are not losing faith with the BPO sector so there will be some space available for Business Process Outsourcing.


We are creating an ecosystem for business and at the same time building out a new well organized township where we can give the people operating in that space law and order in the public space, ease of doing business and what we all want – a comfortable living.


That is major investment that is being led by the Factories Corporation and I want to congratulate them on the work that they are doing. That is an example of how we will make it easier to do business in Jamaica and we’re going to replicate this right across Jamaica. We want our brand to be known as an efficient place, a place where you can come and find the infrastructure, find human resource and have a good brand value proposition to add to your product that way we will corner the market as a little country.


We’re also spending quite a bit of time on safety and security. The President of JMA when I got in about ten minutes before the start, he engaged me and I kept avoiding the subject but he kept coming back to it. “Prime Minister crime, prime minister crime”.


It is a major concern not just for manufacturers, not just for business people but it is a drag on the quality of life that Jamaicans enjoy. It affects our production but it also affects our products. It affects our tourism, it affects our BPO operations and clearly if there are advisories on websites of embassies and state departments around the world, when people see that associated with our flag it becomes associated with our products. It’s in all our interest to deal with this monster of crime.


The government has taken some very strategic steps. The results are not going to materialize overnight. Some of them will require the support of Parliament. It will require parliamentarians fairly, realistically and honestly debating the issues and coming up with the right solutions.


It starts by trusting ourselves so I’m confident that we will get the special measures bill that has been brought to Parliament passed so we can target those areas that are high crime producing in such a way that is respectful of human rights, in such a way that inures the development of a true respect for law and public order and this is the objective of the government. We want brand Jamaica to be known not just for sun, sea and sand; we want brand Jamaica to be known for sun, sea, sand, safe and secure. Once we have that we corner the market for tourism.


Recently I’ve been looking at figures and I’ve been speaking with the Governor of the Bank of Jamaica and he told me that there is an increase in financing; banks are starting to lend again but more importantly business people are starting to borrow again. In other words people are taking risks and the banks are giving the oxygen of business which is finance and that’s a good sign and the government is making sure that that continues at rates that are reasonable.


Businesses will grow in this environment so yes Jamaica is developing now the reputation as a place where you don’t necessarily have to bring overseas financing to finance your projects; that locally you can finance your projects and an example of this is that the biggest power plant in several decades that is being built in Jamaica, the one ninety megawatt at Old Harbour is totally financed by local banks and that is a major development in Jamaica.


And of course the Minister of Industry and Commerce is here and he will tell you so I won’t that we have a very well run first world standard quality assurance system through the Bureau of Standards. That is what also creates for us an advantage that when we certify our products, any international system of assessment, of testing, can rely on it and that is part of our brand.


We have quality products, which we can certify as quality products and that is a great advantage and we continue to invest in the Bureau of Standards to ensure that all the regulatory standards are in place and are effected.


More importantly we want Jamaica to be known as an efficient destination. So it’s one thing to be efficient in manufacturing and production but when you arrive at the custom hall or the immigration hall, the people who you’re interacting with must understand that they are there to serve you and to move you through quickly and efficiently.


It is always a struggle not just with Jamaican bureaucracy or the Jamaican public service right across the world but we are now engaged in- well we are committed to a very serious program of public sector transformation, to make our public sector more efficient and to improve our customer service experience. That will become part of our brand.  When an investor comes to Jamaica and goes back and say it’s a pleasure doing business with the government of Jamaica, I recommend you to them. There is no other recommendation as powerful as that and we’re working in that regard to make an efficient public sector a part of our brand so that you can sell your products much easier than you can do now.


Of course the Jamaican market as it is, I always say to my colleagues in the cabinet that Jamaica is in a strange place. There are not many countries in the world with 2.8 million people so we’re not quite too small and we’re not quite large; we’re in a little spot there. In fact I can’t find many other countries of our size, so our market is just not at the point where our businesses can just grow exclusively from our markets. We need to expand so I endorse this.


I’m here because I want to see our business people step outside of Jamaica. We have products that can compete and you need to get on that market so that people can see you but the government has a role and the role of the government is to become your ambassadors, not just foreign policy for politics but foreign policy for trade and we’ve made it clear that the Jamaican foreign policy must support our Economic Growth and Job Creation Policy.


I’ve been travelling- not a lot, I don’t have wanderlust but I have been moving around and trying to strike up good relations because that’s how it starts. You make an investment in government to government , country to country and I would say to you, yes we are happy to see our friends from Canada, we’re happy to see our friends from the Caribbean but there is a large Latin American market that you must penetrate that knows about Jamaica, that loves our music.  We may speak different languages but we have similar experiences and we can navigate in those markets as well and I encourage our manufacturers to start looking closely at that Latin American market.


With those very extensive comments and I hope you got the key point. The key point is that the Jamaican government is working very hard to expand Jamaica’s brand meaning and brand awareness.


Yes we want to be the coolest people, yes we’re happy to be known as the fastest people in the world, yes we have created reggae music and influenced pop culture, yes our assertiveness has made us known to the world as people who have stood against oppression wherever it is we stand on principle and for the rights of the individuals for freedom and  democracy but we also want to be known as the most efficient people, the most productive people, the easiest place and the best place to do business; Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise your families, do business and retire in paradise.


God bless you.