KINGSTON, Jamaica : Finance Minister Audley Shaw has announced that an invitation has been extended to the Chinese to expand their investments in Jamaica.
He said the offer was given during his recent visit to China for a series of meetings with several government ministers and heads of statutory organizations.
Shaw said Chinese government officials informed him of money that was available to lend Jamaica at interest rates ranging between one and two per cent. However, he told them that the country did not have the fiscal space to borrow, but the funds could be accommodated through investments.
“I said we have the capacity for investments and to absorb investments and we have a private sector (in Jamaica) that is vibrant, that is growing,” said Shaw.
Noting that a significant number of China’s business entities are state-owned, Shaw pointed to a new government policy, which seeks to encourage more investments in the Caribbean region.
Jamaica is already benefitting from Chinese investments, as three of the nation’s government-run sugar factories – Bernard Lodge in St. Catherine, Monymusk in Clarendon and Frome in Westmoreland – were divested to state-owned investment company, Complant Sugar International Limited last year. Shaw said this transaction will yield investments amounting to approximately US$200 million.
Shaw said that in light of China’s interest in expanding investment in the Caribbean, the government has moved to take advantage of this development.
“I have already directed the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) and the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) to prepare a short list of projects that could lend themselves to private/public sector partnerships or private sector partnerships, where the government could divest whatever they own, by way of land or otherwise, into a good project, and the private sector in Jamaica could partner with Chinese interests that have money,” he said.
The finance minister pointed out that his invitation to invest was well received by the Chinese government officials.
Shaw encouraged members of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce to prepare a list of activities deemed feasible for investments and forward those to him.
“I will start by sending it to some of those people that I met with, because they are eager to invest. We have offered ourselves as a location that can be the focal point for them, a point of entry to North, Central and South America. I have also asked them to consider setting up a commercial bank here as well, so we can bring some more vitality and competition into the commercial banking system,” he said.
Stressing the need for the nation to reduce borrowing and focus more on earning its way out of debt, Shaw emphasized the importance of having a vision to this end and working towards realizing it.
“We can’t borrow our way anymore. I believe that there is so much capacity for invention, for hard work, for efficiency and for risk taking, that if we come together with a giant like China, then we can be a little China, right here in the Caribbean,” said Shaw.