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Competitiveness and Growth Project to Get Underway Next Month

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The Government’s $50 million Competitiveness and Growth Project, aimed at strengthening Jamaica’s business environment for private sector investment, is slated to get underway in September.

The six-year project is being financed through a World Bank loan, and was approved by that institution’s Board in July.

The Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) will have responsibility for the initiative’s implementation, through a Project Execution Unit to be established in that agency.

PIOJ Director General, Colin Bullock, who made the disclosure during the Institute’s recent quarterly media briefing at its New Kingston offices, said the project will comprise four components.

They include : enhancing competition in the business environment; facilitating strategic private investments; supporting capabilities and finance of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMES); and learning through project implementation, monitoring and evaluation to be undertaken by the PIOJ.

Mr. Bullock explained that under the component to enhance business environment competition, technical assistance and implementation support will be provided to address “critical business regulation and procedural issues” that constrain firms entering business, operations and expansion, competition, and issues of trade and logistics.

The second component, focusing on strategic private investments, aims to finance studies and channel technical assistance that will enable the Government to prepare for and conclude large strategic investment transactions with private sector participation.

“Strategic sectors include… agribusiness, energy, information and communications technology, logistics, transportation (air and seaports), social sector public-private partnerships in areas such as health and education, tourism, and water and sanitation,” the Director General explained.

The third component, which involves supporting SME capabilities and finance, will provide support directly to SMEs by funding a combination of supply chain learning, skills upgrading, and finance.

Mr. Bullock advised that this component will be undertaken in two parts, targeting specific activities for financing.

Under component 3a, which will focus on SME supply chain support and skills upgrading, the project will finance matching grants and technical assistance to upgrade SMEs’ capabilities in specific eligible supply chains to meet the purchasing needs of buyers.

Component 3b will entail funding a line of credit through the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) for on-lending to approved financial institutions for loans to SMEs.

Mr. Bullock said while the PIOJ will have overall responsibility for the project’s administration, Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) and the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) will be the lead coordinating agencies responsible for implementing the first three components. The PIOJ, he added, will be responsible for the monitoring and evaluation work under the fourth component.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bullock advised that the World Bank is collaborating with the Government to develop and draft a Jamaica Private Sector Growth Joint Business Plan (JBP), as part of the overall programme to strengthen the economy and promote growth.

He explained that the plan, which is expected to be finalized in October, is a management and accountability tool aimed at supporting the prioritization and sequencing of multi-sector activities and milestones “that directly or indirectly contribute to short (0-12 months) and medium-term (one to three years) private-sector led growth,” he explained.

“This monitoring mechanism will be tracking a set of indicators, in terms of progress towards enhancing the business environment for private sector-led growth. The process will facilitate the identification of gaps, and will serve as a monitoring tool for joint-work supporting the development of industries with high competitiveness and potential for attracting foreign direct investments,” Mr. Bullock added.

By Douglas McIntosh

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