EYES ON THE PRIZE

Jamaica 2019 | ENERGY | INTERVIEW

HMF law firm has stayed afloat through the multi-year downtrend of the Jamaican economy, but as the country grows into a healthy growth trend, HMF's belief in Jamaica's potential has further strengthened.

Hugh C. E. Hart
BIOGRAPHY
Hugh C. E. Hart is a graduate of Munro College, Jamaica and the Queen’s College, Oxford University. After completing his studies, he was admitted to the Bar at Grays Inn, England in 1953 and admitted as a Solicitor in Jamaica in April 1956. He also served as a member of the Jamaican Senate, and as the Minister of Mining, Energy, and Tourism. Hart also has vast experience in the private sector, as current Chairman of Proven Investments Limited and as former Chairman of Jamaica Flour Mills Limited, Carreras Group Limited, Jamaica Bauxite Institute, and Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica, among others. Currently, he is a senior partner in the Hart Muirhead Fatta law firm and practises commercial law, particularly taxation, real estate development, mining, and corporate restructuring.

How does HMF help various businesses to soft land in Jamaica?

We cover all areas of law, specializing in commercial work and various aspects of law that are part and parcel of a developing economy. Companies need people who can properly advise on the local law and how it works between the different jurisdictions, which is becoming more important as the world becomes more globalized. Modern technology has increased the ease of communication and bolstered Caribbean's status as a great regional destination. Jamaica is well poised for that, with a government looking for growth, progress, and investment. We want to be at the forefront of our profession by facilitating businesses to come here and providing them guidance, understanding, and confidence. This is not only locally, but also with the intercommunication of their own jurisdiction, economic and tax requirements, and their own financial movement. It is our duty, therefore, to protect them and make them feel at home.

Which sector is in most need of foreign direct investment?

Tourism is an extremely important sector for us, and it is doing fairly well on its own. Jamaica needs to dramatically develop its agriculture sector so we can retain more of the dollars that we earn. This translates into fewer imports of food and services. Additionally, we have a large and capable labor force, which we should be able to use to venture further into light industry, such as assembling parts for televisions. Nevertheless, we have the benefits of exporting to the US as well as to the Caribbean islands with CARICOM. One thing leads to another, and as we develop agriculture, tourism will create more value, at the same time generating more employment and spreading across other industries, which will contribute to a stronger economy. In addition, the mining and energy sectors have tremendous capacity for more investments.

How important is diversifying the portfolio throughout Jamaica?

It is vital that we create an economic and social atmosphere in the country to attract overseas capital. As for diversification, first we start with the concept of being competitive by thriving on tourism and agriculture. In the past, we used to produce 0.5million tons of bananas and sugar, but at present, we produce around 200,000tons, leaving all the previously occupied lands idle. The country has the ability to produce more but diversification is needed, as putting all eggs in one basket is not a good strategy. With our current labor force and our geographical location, we are in perfectly located to import goods from the south and assemble white goods for export onward to the eastern seaboard of the US. Jamaica has a long way to go; however, we are starting a GDP growth line, which was previously stagnant for 20 years. I like the way the future looks at the moment.

What are HMF's goals for 2019?

We want to continue to provide the professional, insightful, efficient, and quality legal services in Jamaica that add value to our clients and their mandates. People put their trust in us, and we have to reciprocate that. Furthermore, there has to be growth and production to utilize them to our benefit. Excellence is the key word; we want to continue to be a reputable and experienced law firm in Jamaica. Our team is also poised to guide clients in new sectors and initiatives in Jamaica such as Special Economic Zones, cannabis licensing, privatization, complex mergers and acquisitions, securities and financing, infrastructural development, blockchain technology, mobile banking, cryptocurrency, yacht registration, business process outsourcing, resort development, and dealing with modern regulatory and licensing regimes in all sectors of business.