By DERRICK A. SCOTT
Founder and Chairman of regional telecommunications giant Digicel, Denis O’Brien, is speaking glowingly about Jamaica’s investment climate and inviting international investors and financiers to look to the island.
“If you are an investor contemplating coming to Jamaica, you have a very friendly government,” he told a group of potential investors in Washington at the launch of the Embassy of Jamaica’s ‘Jamaica Rising’ investment campaign last week.
The Digicel chairman lauded the “first class” opportunities and the ability to get things done, as well as the open-door policy with politicians and decision makers.
“Jamaica is an open economy, open to outside investment in an amazingly welcome way,” he added. He noted that Digicel has been “very, very fortunate to build a relationship to become a Jamaican company and we now see ourselves as a Jamaican multinational.”
O’Brien, who said this was the first time he was speaking so positively about a country, also stressed the admiration he had for Jamaican workers and highlighted especially the calibre of Jamaican managers.
The launch of the ‘Jamaica Rising’ campaign brought together some 20 potential investors from Washington D.C., Maryland and Virgina, to look at opportunities available in Jamaica.
Representatives from the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) attended the event, which attracted the interest of chairmen and executives of major corporations and entities such as Marriott/Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Viacom, Carlyle Group, Clark Construction and Spectrum Group.
Touting the benefits Jamaica offers as a destination for investment, Jamaican Ambassador to the U.S., Audrey Marks, highlighted the economic stability, against the backdrop of a game-changing strategy to “fix the things that have humbugged investment and growth.” She noted that the government has introduced some 14 bills in Parliament to encourage more efficient and transparent government and has implemented strategies to become a more investment-friendly destination.
Marks told the group of potential investors that for the first time in 40 years, the macro-economic environment is characterized by “low inflation, low interest rates, stable exchange rates and high reserves – all at the same time.”
She said that the government of Jamaica has started the process of moving from stability to growth by incentivising major investments, among them the recently-opened Falmouth cruise ship terminal.
She also pointed to the re-development of downtown Kingston; billion-dollar casino and hotel projects; expansion of the Port of Kingston trans-shipment terminal; creation of an aerotropolis (airport city) concept for the Norman Manley International Airport; development of a modern multi-modal transport system; and projects in alternative energy and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) power plants.
“We are looking for partners,” she said, noting that the projects offer exciting opportunity for private sector investment.
Marriott/Ritz Carlton’s Chief Development Officer for the Caribbean and Latin America, Laurent De Kousemaeker, said he was pleased at what Jamaica has to offer.
He further declared an interest in looking at putting a Marriott hotel not only in New Kingston but also downtown Kingston.
Chairman of the largest minority-owned accounting firm in the United States, Jeff Thompson, who migrated from Jamaica at age 16, said he was very pleased with the outreach to Jamaican businesses in the Diaspora.
He said that there are many Diaspora leaders and business persons, who have a strong interest in the country’s development.
Thompson also lauded the presence and the partnership of the international financial institutions in a proposed Diaspora development bond the ambassador highlighted in her presentation, and expressed confidence that such a financial instrument could raise the US$2.5 billion, as an initial target, to fund the infrastructure re-development of downtown Kingston.