Francisco A. Laguna & Rolanzo White
After rebounding form the financial crisis of 2008, Jamaica is now welcoming foreign investors. The government has turned its attention to bolstering the economy and continuing impressive performance in tourism, logistics, and manufacturing.
The Jamaican Government, led by the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO), is creating an environment conducive to foreign direct investment. JAMPRO is an Agency of the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce that promotes business opportunities in export and investment to the local and international private sector. With the debt to GDP ratio declining as a result of debt restructuring and fiscal contraction (estimated 140% at the end of fiscal year 2014/15), Jamaica is ripe with opportunity.
The Jamaican economy is driven by foreign direct investment (FDI). Jamaica received an estimated US$ 551 million in FDI inflows for 2014. The country has a strong relationship with the United States and the United Kingdom, and the levels of FDI can be partly attributed to these relationships. The World Bank has also been extending credit and development assistance to Jamaica through several projects in various sectors.
In May 2013, the Jamaican Government implemented the Growth Agenda Reform Program, supported by a four-year loan arrangement under the International Monetary Fund’s Extended Fund Facility (EFF), which provided Jamaica with Special Drawing Rights (SDR) of US$ 932.3 million. The program’s goal is to improve the business environment and facilitate strategic investments.
The Jamaican Government has made a point to create a legal atmosphere that supports private enterprise. Jamaica has an independent judicial system that is based in English Common Law which upholds the sanctity of contracts. Jamaica gives “National Treatment” to the profits foreign investors make on the island, and they do not put limits on the foreign control of companies nor do they restrict non-residents from buying real estate. Under the Omnibus Tax Incentive Framework, all investors benefit from a non-discriminatory and consistent tax incentive regime that seeks to catalyze foreign direct investment. As a result, Jamaica has jumped 27 places to achieve an overall ranking of 58 out of 189 economies, according to the 2015 Doing Business Report: the highest ranking in the Caribbean.
The most dynamic sectors in Jamaica have been tourism, logistics, and manufacturing.
Jamaica received just over 2.08 million stay-over tourist arrivals in 2014, according to newly-released data from the Ministry of Tourism. That represented a 3.6 % increase over 2013, when the country topped 2 million visitors for the first time and added US$ 2 billion to the local economy. Potential investors are invited to explore the opportunities that exist for the development of boutique, large scale and city hotels. The government is also working to complete Casino Gaming and Timeshare legislation, which will add new dimensions to Jamaica’s dynamic tourism industry.
Jamaica is home to the Kingston Harbor, the world’s seventh largest natural harbor. With the expansion of the Panama Canal, Jamaica is set to benefit from innovative and advanced commercial ventures in logistics. Jamaica will look to offer better logistic efficiencies to markets in the region by leveraging their existing infrastructure. The island enjoys a prime location in proximity to major East-West shipping lanes and direct connections to all regional ports, which has impressed other countries, including China. According to Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, China Harbor Engineering Company Limited and its parent company will invest between US$ 1.2 and 1.5 billion in the development of a transshipment port in Jamaica.
Jamaica’s manufacturing sector is important to the national economy, accounting for 8.4 % of GDP and generating export earnings of US$ 772.5 million in 2013. The country boasts over 300 companies in the sector engaged in a varied range of manufacturing enterprise that include agro-processing, bedding, leather, stone and clay products. Jamaica is also showing growth in mining, agriculture, and business process outsourcing (BPO).
Jamaica has shown resiliency and impressive growth to become an investor paradise. Investors may want to take a second look at the land of wood and water. They will be surprised by their economic growth.
With offices in Jamaica and throughout the Caribbean, contact TransLegal to learn more about FDI in Jamaica and the region.