Location, logistics key
Jamaica’s failure to achieve sustainable economic growth has long been attributed to its inability to move beyond primary production in agriculture, as well as the mishandling of its mineral resources.
Now a prominent businessman is pinpointing another key feature that he believes is being underutilised in the island’s push for growth – its location.
“Jamaica’s location in the Americas rivals that of Singapore in Asia, and we have never used our location to our advantage,” president of the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA), Metry Seaga, believes.
“What a country like Singapore does is import all of their raw material and then they add value to it at the highest end of the scale. So they bring in sugar, they bring in milk and they bring in coffee – none of which they grow – and they put them together and make a coffee drink that they export all over the world.”
Seaga, who was speaking at the recent weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Kingston at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel, went on: “The reason I bring up Singapore is because they have not a single natural resource. They have no water, they have no agriculture, they have nothing, except location. And what we have failed to do for 40 years, we have failed to use our location.”
After delivering the keynote address, Seaga fielded questions about Jamaica’s inability to grow the manufacturing sector and address the country’s yawning trade deficit. He used the example of Singapore to rebut the long-advanced view that the country’s inability to compete in manufacturing and exports on a global scale was due, in large measure, to its small size, citing a visit to the Asian country.
“When people say to me that Jamaica is too small to compete on the world stage in manufacturing and we don’t have enough scale and we don’t have enough size to compete with China, I say rubbish to that, and the reason I say that is because Singapore is the size of St Thomas. I want you envisage a country one-sixteenth the size of Jamaica. They have six million people living there – three million Singaporeans and three million people that they have had to import to work because they have full employment,” Seaga challenged his audience.
The JMEA president said former Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Anthony Hylton’s vision and concept of building Jamaica’s economy around a global logistics hub was a step in the right direction to achieve global competitiveness in manufacturing.
“Until we get major developments in that sector, what you are dreaming of (sustained economic growth) will never happen. ... The (only) way is if we become a logistics-centred economy and manufacturer and add value here. I think that we have got to the stage that we can’t turn back anymore; we are too far advanced.”