PANAMA - Diplomacy
Prime Minister, Jamaica
The Most Honourable Andrew Holness has been the Prime Minister of Jamaica since March 2016. He also served as PM from October 2011 to January 2012. His political career began in 1997 when he became an MP for West Central St. Andrew and went on to serve as Opposition Spokesperson on Land and Development from 1999 to 2002. He became Minister of Education in 2007.
Jamaica and Panama have a long history of cooperation. Many Jamaicans left here to build the Panama Canal and have formed a strong Jamaican community in Panama, so there is a historical basis for us to continue cooperating. The flight from Panama to Jamaica on Copa Airlines is significant as well; it is probably the main connection to the South American continent from the Caribbean. That needs to be explored because Central and South America offer a great tourism market. Many people in South and Central America who take vacations end up in North America; however, the Caribbean is right here. It is closer, involves less hassle, and there are many interesting things to see and do. There is a great potential to develop a product between Jamaica and the South American region. More flights are critical because much of South America could come through Panama to get to the Caribbean region.
Determination gets it done. The Panamanian government made it a priority to expand the Panama Canal and it became an entire government and bipartisan approach. Jamaica is taking the same approach with logistics and the divestment of our port. We have diversity in our port and that crossed several administrations. Our port is now developed and there are plans for expansion. That will enable and facilitate more shipping between our port and the Panama Canal. However, I believe logistics around the port could give Jamaica a boost and the lesson is that it requires determination across government administrations to get it done; that is the approach I am taking. We are engaging both the government and the private sector and driving the entire government to develop logistics in Jamaica.
Jamaica is probably the most advanced company in CARICOM in terms of the diversification of its energy mix. The other countries in the Caribbean region are doing well in terms of the efficiency of their refinery and the integration and expansion of renewables in their energy mix. We have benefited from the energy initiative launched under the previous US administration, which facilitated the development of an LNG terminal. In addition, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) from the US has also invested in renewables as well in Jamaica. We are doing very well in diversifying our energy mix here in Jamaica. Our intention is to become the hub since we have had the jumpstart.
Business process outsourcing is indeed a major growth area for Jamaica. An entire government effort is being made to facilitate the development of that industry. It is an industry that can reap quick results in terms of employment; however, we have to plan for this industry in the long term because it changes rapidly in line with technology. On the horizon is technology that could make redundant some of the functions that are not being performed in call centers and other such operations. It means we have to rapidly upscale our workforce. While we try to get in that industry in a large way, we also plan how to upscale rapidly so that as the industry changes we are still leaders in the industry in the region.
In the medium term, we want to get Jamaica up to full employment as quickly as possible. We want to be at 5% growth sustained in the middle term. We want to have a diversified economy in terms of energy, tourism, agriculture, business processing, and logistics. We also want to have a country that is at peace with itself, where crime is under control and our natural creativity can be expressed.
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