How do you promote Montego Bay as a tourist destination while also ensuring that there are linkages with the local business community?
Montego Bay by itself is a product in the tourism industry. When people speak about tourism in Jamaica, the first place that comes to mind is Montego Bay, and we cherish that Montego Bay is a tourism capital of the Caribbean. The tourism industry in Montego Bay is still the largest employer in St. James. We have over 20,000 hotel rooms, and by 2021 we should have about 26,000-27,000 rooms in Montego Bay. Tourism also supports the agricultural sector, which contributes greatly to feeding tourists. We still have to import some agricultural items; however, with the government's trust in agriculture, we seek to reduce our imports going forward.
How do you ensure there is diversification in the economy of Montego Bay?
Business process outsourcing (BPO) is a welcome industry because Montego Bay is truly known for tourism. The BPO industry employs over 22,000 people, and based on what we see on the ground, by the end of 2018 we should see close to 30,000 people. There is a projection that it might rival the tourist industry as the government seeks to grow the industry to employ some 250,000 people. In tourism, there are about 102,000-105,000 direct jobs in the formal sector. We also have significant employment through the airport, the port, the banking system, health industry, and the power plant operated by the Jamaica Public Service.
Is infrastructure investment one of your priorities?
Infrastructure investment is extremely critical. Our infrastructure has outgrown its capacity, and as a result, we tend to have heavy traffic jams, flooding, and a buildup of trash at times. My vision for Montego Bay is to have a cleaner, more orderly, and organized city. I recently returned from China and have learned a lot about smart cities. Thus far, I am pleased with the progress we are making. Our major challenge at this time is our market district, and we will implement measures come December 1, 2017.
What would you say to investors looking at Montego Bay?
Montego Bay welcomes investors, and the municipality is here to cooperate in whatever way we can. We are here to drive the process and encourage investors because it is the only way that we can achieve our growth agenda. We recently launched a database-driven system whereby applications can be submitted and processed online. However, as a city, we have our own challenges. It will take some time to achieve what we seek to achieve—a peaceful and family-oriented country of which we can be proud. I am just a part of a relay race and the baton is now in my hand. I have to ensure that when I pass on that baton it is done well so that the next holder can continue the relay. We have had some bad times in Jamaica where the baton was dropped, and as a result of that, it took us years to get back on track. There is now greater discipline in the government, including fiscal discipline. As a country, we cannot afford to slip back to where we were five or 10 years ago. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Andrew Holness, the country is in great shape. I lead a team here, and we have 17 councilors, including myself, in the municipality. We are all on the same page; we must do better than those before us. Montego Bay is a great city. I know that when I leave my position, I will leave behind a Montego Bay that is better, nicer, cleaner, and more positive.