MONTEGO BAY, St James — Immediately after his finance minister enticed potential investors to set up operations in Jamaica, Prime Minister Andrew Holness strengthened the Government’s message that the island is the perfect place to do business as his Administration’s strong fiscal management has created buffers to cushion economic shocks.
“We have managed to diversify our economy and we have put in place policies where we have created buffers. We have fiscal buffers to be able to withstand not necessarily the most extreme shocks, but we can withstand shocks as part of the stability and resilience of our economy,” Holness said in his keynote address to the first day of the Invest Jamaica 2022 Business Conference in Montego Bay on Tuesday.
To emphasise his point, Holness said that had the COVID-19 pandemic struck at any time from the 1970s through to the early 2000s Jamaica would not have been in any shape to withstand the economic hardship it unleashed.
“The Jamaican economy, for many years, went through a very difficult period where we were reliant on a few industries for foreign exchange. I put it to you this way, if the pandemic had struck in 1980, or in 1970, or in the early 2000s, or if it had struck 10 years earlier, the Jamaican economy would not be able to withstand it,” Holness stated.
“We wouldn’t be able to respond with the care package that we gave to the people of Jamaica — supporting incomes, supporting the most vulnerable, and meeting the cost of all the measures that we had to put in place. It would have driven us further in debt. Our debt would have probably reclaimed those high levels of 150 per cent of GDP [gross domestic product].
“And so, when the pandemic struck, we were able to respond immediately, using the buffers that we had created,” he said.
The prime minister also lauded the resilience of the global services industry, which stayed afloat throughout the pandemic.
“Another story of resilience and recovery which supports not just the good governance but the good government is the business process outsourcing industry or, as we are reterming [it], the global services industry. We managed to keep that industry open and functional… so that there was no loss of service during the pandemic,” he said.
“That industry actually grew, and we were able to survive even with a fallout in tourism revenues because the global services kept on performing during the pandemic because of the Government’s policies and support that we put in place to ensure that, that industry could continue to function and grow,” the prime minister stated.
Pointing to the rate at which the sector has grown, Holness said, “A couple years ago that industry employed maybe 25,000 to 30,000 people. Today, after the pandemic, we’re seeing that industry employing just about 50,000 Jamaicans. It is an incredible story.”
He implored business interests seeking to invest in the sector to consider Jamaica.
“It is a rapidly expanding industry. So if you are looking for a place that is near your shores, on same time zone, accessible an hour and a half from any major destination that you may be originating from, and you want high-quality labour that can easily communicate, then Jamaica is the place, and many investors are seeing that potential and they are outsourcing business to a near and friendly and stable economy,” the prime minister said.
“So, if you are in that business, when you go to bed and you wake up tomorrow, Jamaica should be in the top three countries [in your mind],” he added.