The Most Hon. Andrew Holness ON, MP
Opening of GWest Medical and Business Centre
November 2, 2017
I will be back here again later this month as we continue to cement Jamaica as a global conference destination when we host the Global Conference on Sustainable Tourism from November 27th to 29th. That conference will focus on a larger scale what GWest is in fact showcasing here today bringing ideas and capital together to create a valuable offering which will stimulate economic growth, job creation and profitability.
Let me extend congratulations to the management and staff of the GWest centre particularly to the founders Dr Konrad Kirlew, Dr Ladi Doonquah, Mr Wayne Gentles, Mrs. Elva Williams- Richard and Mr Dennis Samuels and Mrs. Denise Crichton-Samuels for their confidence in confirming Jamaica as the place of choice for successful business endeavours.
I congratulate all who are involved, who played a role. I note NCB Capital Markets, JMMB and our own JAMPRO who played integral roles in making this venture a reality. I know that it took a lot of focus, ingenuity and optimism to realise this goal today and I congratulate you all for your effort.
The GWest property represents another major investment in real estate development and in the provision of medical services in Montego Bay. We know that Montego Bay is one of the fastest growing cities in the Caribbean. Its development is therefore of critical importance to the governments growth strategy.
We’re positioning this western city as a major centre for business and investments such as GWest reflects the type of needed businesses in the city and the commitment that will ensure that Montego Bay is a major hub of commerce in the Caribbean.
The development of sixty-two thousand square feet of multipurpose space includes a clinical laboratory. The second phase will include a modern outpatient surgery centre and an eight bed inpatient centre. GWest centre also houses other private owned medical facilities such as Zierlich Internal Dialysis Centre, Heart Smart Centre, Radiology West Diagnostic Imaging Service, Facial and Oral Surgery Associates, North Coast Imaging, Peak Dental, WJOS Medical Centre, a 24hr drive through pharmacy and other medical specialties. In short this is a shopping mall for medical services.
It is a patient-centric all-inclusive offering in a quality internationally accredited environment right at home in Jamaica. In addition to the local persons being targeted, the global growth in the flow of patients’ health professionals and medical technology across national borders has made medical tourism a thriving sector.
Jamaica is ideally poised for this growing market which was valued at approximately US$20 billion in 2016 and is estimated to reach approximately the US$47 billion by 2021. Jamaica’s advantages include the availability of quality medical professionals, the island’s strategic location, increasing diagnostic facilities and importantly government support to facilitate growth in this market.
Jamaica must continue to diversify and expand our tourism product in order to meet emerging market demands. Travelers are more discerning and in some cases due to aging and complex health conditions availability of world class health facilities is considered when making decisions to travel for vacation, business or to return home.
Of course we cannot ignore the reality that crime is also a serious consideration and indeed an impediment o business growth in Jamaica. The business community in Montego Bay is especially sensitive to this reality and I stuck this in here because I wanted to say to the business people who are here that I listen to the radio, I hear your cries and I get all the messages that are sent through various channels about your concern regarding crime in your wonderful city. I take them seriously and we’re doing all that we can and more to ensure that we bring this situation under control very quickly.
With continued commitment and partnership with the people, the business community and other stakeholders in Montego Bay we’re serious about effecting sustainable positive transformation. Earlier this week with unwavering support in Parliament we were able to secure the extension of the Mount Salem Zone of Special Operations for a further sixty (60) days and this will give more space to the law enforcement teams to continue their security work and for the Social Intervention Committee to actually start the social intervention projects that will see to a long lasting sustained peace in those areas where the zones are implemented.
As we seek to improve on what exist, we acknowledge the need for partnership and I’m happy to note that GWest is participating in the “adopt a clinic” initiative by adopting the Granville Medical Centre and I want to applaud you for that good corporate citizenship initiative.
We applaud businesses for being responsible corporate entities remaining cognizant that in order for business to thrive an enabling environment must be in place.
I’m pleased to note that GWest is not just intending but has started the process of being listed in short order on the junior stock exchange. I think that’s a very good business decision.
For entrepreneurs raising capital especially in an environment like Jamaica is always a daunting task and I thought Dr Kirlew, that you were going to go into some of the details because you said that sometimes it felt like you were in a war and I can just imagine how difficult it must have been to accomplish this in the current environment.
It is something that the government is very sensitive to. Our policy of broadening financial access through a financial inclusion strategy to support businesses, to ensure that we are improving on the efficiency of the regulatory environment; I think we’re gaining some successes and I want to also thank your financing partners NCB and NCB Capital Markets for financing a project like this. Too often we hear the criticism that our banks are only financing risk-less investments. This certainly is not one of them and it is also a vote of confidence in the economic direction that banks are now willing to look at investments, calculate the risks and absorb them in their portfolio and actually lend and I think once we get more banks doing this – I’m saying that the data is showing that loans for productive enterprises are increasing not just for consumption but for productive enterprises are increasing. That is a very good sign for growth and so the providing the financing facility for this kind of investment the government is very pleased and we want to call out NCB and NCB Capital Markets for taking the risks and making the loan to make this possible.
But after you’ve built a facility like this, it makes good business sense to seek to share the ownership, to disperse the ownership in the population and the best route to achieve that is through the junior stock exchange and I would encourage all Jamaicans that when you do eventually list I don’t foresee any challenges in that. You’ve started off with very good people, very experienced people in JMMB and you have a good mentor on your board and you’ve taken on independent directors who understand the process of listing as well so I’m expecting that you’ll be able to go through the regulatory processes very quickly and I would encourage all Jamaicans to own a piece of GWest through the stock market.
The truth is that we took the administration of the government on the mantra of economic growth and job creation. The two things are not separate, they are related but it is not a complicated endeavour but it is complex so we are seeing excellent job creation data but we’re seeing growth that is not as strong as we would want it to be and there are many reasons for that. It could just be the stage that we’re in that businesses that were started maybe a year or so ago they’re just coming to the point now where they’re going to be employing people so we’re seeing a bump in employment.
We need a new set of investment to start to take effect on the economy for us to see the growth numbers move but I’m making the point that government can’t grow the economy. Governments create the environment for growth. Growth is really a function of the private sector. It is businesses that make the decision that make the decision to invest and take risks, to put up whether you call it the concrete or build the innovation in technology or start some new service. It is the private initiative that really drives economic growth and the purpose of government is to create the environment in which private initiative can flourish.
I think the government needs to do more. We’re doing quite a bit but we need to do more and do it very quickly so that more people in the private sector can say I will take the risk and invest. Everywhere I go I meet Jamaican entrepreneurs who are saying they want to invest but for whether it is the permitting process, whether it is some regulations, whether it is something to do with custom and of course fears of security, so I want all our entrepreneurs here to be reassured that the government understands this very complex but not complicated dynamic of getting growth and that we are committed to doing everything in our powers to make sure that we create an environment in which you can grow and thereby grow Jamaica.
Whenever we see businesses opening and I’m invited I try my best to make an appearance, to associate with growth. GWest is a part of the growth of the economy and though I can’t take credit for it I certainly want to associate with it and use it as an example for other business people who may be thinking about it to say here is a perfect example as someone who has taken the risk, who is doing well and has the full support of the administration, the government to ensure that you are successful in your business.
But you would understand if I made the other point, very important point too that more businesses like GWest mean more revenues for the government.
I’m confident that GWest through this landmark facility will be contributing significantly to building the Montego Bay community and the wider Jamaica.
I’m certainly proud of you and the team and I wish you all the success.