Jamaica Trade & Invest (JTI) Targets Key Sectors as it Positions Jamaica for Growth

By: Douglas McIntosh

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaica Trade & Invest (JTI), the government’s trade and investment promotion agency, is targeting a number of key sectors as it pursues initiatives aimed at strengthening Jamaica’s competitive advantage in the global marketplace, as well as enhancing the country’s position for foreign and local investments.

President of JTI, Robert Gregory, tells JIS News that the organization’s vision for Jamaica is for “sustained economic development, thereby enabling an improved quality of life for all Jamaicans.”

As such “our mission is to facilitate investments and trade by fostering creativity and innovation within sectors of greatest competitive advantage for the economic benefit of our country,” he outlines.

This thrust, he explains, requires “careful and selective approaches” incorporating specific sectors, goods, and services with the potential to provide Jamaica with a distinct competitive advantage on the global marketplace. Key sector areas are: tourism, agri-business and agro-industry, manufacturing, mining and renewable energy, information communication technology (ICT), the creative industry, and offshore financial services.

“These are the areas that we are actually putting our focus on to help to lift and enable them to become the locomotive for our economic growth and development,” Mr. Gregory explains.

In the area of tourism, the JTI head says focus is being placed on the development of “smaller boutique properties and attractions” against the background of massive hotel developments within recent years.

“We want to expand our attractions. We want a variety and diversity of attractions as well as boutique hotels, which are particularly attractive to high-end tourists, and smaller properties that are selective and exclusive,” he points out.

The focus on agri-business, Mr. Gregory says, is aimed at “taking Jamaica’s agricultural produce to the next level. It also speaks to increased technology being utilized in the actual growing of crops, such as hydroponics, to assist in improving the reliability of (Jamaica’s) crop production and the quality of crops being produced.” Hydroponics is a technique of growing plants, without soil, and in water containing dissolved nutrients.

Noting that the agri-business thrust includes organic agriculture, Mr. Gregory says: “It is another way of differentiating the ‘irie’ Jamaican produce from anything artificial. In fact, the organic products fetch a premium price at our hotels, in our supermarkets, and overseas as well.”

In a bid to ensure that the agency can effectively position Jamaica on the global stage, Mr. Gregory says the JTI has undergone a process of re-organization, which includes the establishment of “high impact goals” to measure the agency’s effect on the country and economy.

These goals include: the creation of an enabling environment for business and national competitiveness; sustained and robust economic development; high quality jobs; wealth creating investments; and growth in highly differentiated high-value niche exports.

On the move to better facilitate business and competitiveness, Mr. Gregory acknowledges that there are “many obstacles to doing business in Jamaica” but notes that the JTI along with its partners, have been trying to make this process easier.

“We have been whittling those (obstacles) down to make it easy for people to start businesses (and) to make it easy for people to run their business, making for a better, more enabling business environment, and also focusing on national competitiveness,” he says.

Turning to the matter of job creation and economic growth, Mr. Gregory points out that the impact of investments are measured by the number and quality of jobs created for locals as well as the ability of local firms to supply foreign investment interests with goods and supplies.

“We believe that if investments can be absorbed, by that I mean Jamaicans getting jobs as a result of investments, both foreign and local, and Jamaican businesses can, in a sustained way, supply (the) demands. then we are talking about sustained economic growth and development; a robust one in fact.”

Explaining the focus on high-value niche exports, Mr. Gregory says that while “we are not in a position to compete in everything, there are certain areas that we have a natural competitive advantage in, but of course, this competitive advantage has to be cultivated, created, and sustained.”

He cited Red Stripe Beer, Blue Mountain coffee, and Pickapeppa sauce as high-value products in which Jamaica holds a distinct advantage globally.

“These are essentially low volume, relatively speaking, but high value products. We cannot compete with the mass markets and producers of this world, but we can compete with high value, low volume, highly differentiated products and services that go to niche markets. We can make a good living from that as a country. So this is the strategic direction (that) we are taking to earn our foreign exchange,” Mr. Gregory asserts.

In the meantime, he underscores the need for local interests and stakeholders to recognize the global setting in which Jamaica exists, pointing that the country is competing with others to, in some cases, produce the same goods.

“So your price and your quality have to be at world class standard. You’re either world class or no class. No consumer anywhere in the world is going to accept less than that,” Mr. Gregory warns.

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