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Government to Expedite the Development of Special Economic Zones

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The Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, plans to introduce policy measures that will expedite the development of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Jamaica, as a critical component of the Global Logistics Hub Initiative.

Portfolio Minister, Hon. Anthony Hylton, said the proposed policy will guide the passage of critical and relevant pieces of legislation; create a supportive policy and regulatory framework for the SEZs; and help to create the institutional strengthening required for timely establishment of the SEZs.

Mr. Hylton was addressing stakeholders on Thursday morning, July 10, at a meeting to discuss the SEZs policy framework held at the Ministry’s St. Lucia Avenue offices in New Kingston.

He informed that an interim policy has been developed by the SEZ Policy Steering Committee, which is being chaired by Former Jamaica Promotions (JAMPRO) President, Patricia Francis.

The Industry Minister said the interim policy provides an overview of the issues that must be addressed and the approaches to take to resolve such challenges.

He informed that in putting together the policy, consultations were held with various organisations, and preliminary research was carried out by a team of technical officers in the Ministry to inform recommended policy strategies.

Through the policy, the Government is seeking to make the SEZs part of a successful strategy in attracting investments and creating jobs; ensuring that the SEZs are economically sustainable and deliver positive results, including catalyzing economic reforms; and ensuring the sustainability of the SEZs from an institutional, social and environmental perspective.

“In essence, therefore, we see the SEZs playing a key role in terms of economic reforms, attracting foreign direct investment (FDI), catalysing development of industrial clusters, attracting new technologies and adopting modern management practices,” Mr. Hylton stated.

He said the Ministry’s role at this time is to develop the necessary legal, and institutional framework for the SEZs to be world-class attractions, not just for foreign investors, but for domestic investors as well.

Mr. Hylton said in creating the SEZ policy framework, Government is also cognizant of the need to support measures that will ensure linkages to the local economy, through interventions to provide opportunities for the local supply chain, skills management and technology enhancement.

He noted that whatever policy regime is put in place must comply with Jamaica’s obligations under the World Trade Organization (WTO) by 2015.

Chairman of the Logistics Hub Task Force, Dr. Eric Deans, said the SEZs legal and regulatory framework is critical to the success of the SEZ and the Global Logistics Hub project.

He noted that the policy will ensure Jamaica’s competitiveness on a regional and global scale. “If we are not competitive with Mexico, Costa Rica, or the Dominican Republic, we will not get the business here,” he said.

Dr. Deans said it is also important that the frameworks that are put in place are not only competitive, but are also in accordance with international best practice.

At least 16 locations are to be designated special economic zones (SEZs) under the Government’s logistic hub initiative. These include the Kingston Container Terminal, Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA), Vernamfield in Clarendon and the Goat Islands project.

By Athaliah Reynolds-Baker

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