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Jamaica 2019 | EXECUTIVE GUIDE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to John G. Leiba, Managing Partner of DunnCox, on medical marijuana, a diversified portfolio, and plans for the coming year.

John G. Leiba
BIOGRAPHY
John G. Leiba is the Managing Partner of DunnCox, one of the oldest and largest full-service firms in Jamaica. A graduate of the College of Law, London and qualified as a solicitor since 1973, Leiba provides sophisticated and meticulous counsel to clients in a variety of matters including real estate, mortgage financing, and security documentation for banks and building societies. He has wide-ranging legal experience having done mergers of insurance companies and public issues of major corporations. He has served as the President of the Jamaican Bar Association, Chairman of the Legal Committee of the Real Estate Board and Strata Corporation, and is a member of the Jamaica Developers Association. He has also served as chairman of Legal Compliance in the General Legal Counsel and is the present Chairman of the Scouts Association of Jamaica.

DunnCoxWhich sector is most in need of FDI in Jamaica?

Medicinal marijuana with the support of the CLA (Cannabis Licensing Authority) is a sector with an enormous potential in the export market. There are two additional sectors which have been growing as well, they are the business process outsourcing (BPO) and the trans-shipment sector. With the widening of the Panama Canal, there are several opportunities for Jamaica to act as a sorter or assembler of goods for the north American market.

What are the most promising sectors for growth in the country?

Infrastructure is very important, especially the road network, sewage and water systems. These are mainly in the corporate area and are called our heritage project, as they are supposed to last us for the next 40 years. This goes along with solving the traffic situation and improve the services which would result in an increased density in housing. These improvements will allow the city planners to be able to approve high rise buildings beyond that which was available in the past such as 10 and 20 story buildings. In the case of tourism, which in percentage terms may not grow as much as the other sectors, but the potential remains to create the greatest increase in the number of jobs. Now, there are also expansion plans for Jamaica's two major highways, north-south and east-west, and also the proposed improvement in the highway to St Thomas. These improvements would result in a highway ring around the island. A likely benefit from the improvement could be the greater utilization of our land for agriculture.

How important is it to invest and diversify your portfolio in Jamaica?

The macro developments have been vital when it comes to reducing debt to GDP ratio, interest rates low and stable currency. It is to be noted that in the last 5 years, the Jamaican stock exchange has been the highest performing stock exchange in the world. For years Banks, pension schemes and a number of financial institutions depended on the high interest rate regime to guarantee returns on their investments. As returns on deposits are now very low, in some instances less than 2% it cannot be over emphasized how important it is to diversify in to stocks, manufacturing, tourism and other areas of investment. It is important to mention that, we also have a strong and reliable court system, as Jamaica has been increasing the number of judges and introducing new technologies to the system. Also, arbitration is a growing area and we have trained arbitrators in recent years, with an increasing number of arbitrators entering the job market.

How is DunnCox committed to local and international companies doing business in Jamaica?

As one of the leading Law Firms in Jamaica we've been around for more than 75 years and we are proud of our record of service both to our local and international companies. In a number of the major transactions taking place in the island, we have acted in the divestment of a major port, in the conversion from oil to solar energy by the largest supplier of electricity in the island. Also, we have participated in the restoration of a number of our bauxite and alumina producing companies to name a few. Additionally, we have also been active in the divestment and raising of funds for local companies on the stock exchange. This is by no means an exhaustive list of our services as we continue to serve our local and foreign clients.

What is the role of DunnCox to help companies succeed in Jamaica's business environment?

Every country is unique in its requirements for doing business. Jamaica has been trying for a number of years to reduce the red tape in doing business and to improve its ranking in the global index of doing business. What we do at DunnCox is to try explain the difficulties the clients will encounter and try to guide them in the most efficient way to approach their objective. In a number of instances this involves interfacing and intervening on behalf of clients with representatives of the Government on a timely basis. In all instances the objective is to achieve what is best for the client in the shortest possible time.

How is DunnCox prepared for new digital companies?

DunnCox has embarked on a multi-million-dollar project this year to change to fiber optic cables and move all emails to the cloud. We are introducing new and improved technologies to be able to offer our clients greater transparency in the billing process and in our recording systems. There are many software and hardware upgrades going on, at enormous costs, and we believe it is going to push us ahead of the competition by five-10 years.

What are your goals for 2019?

Fundamentally, our goal is to give greater service to our clients at a lower cost, and to be a part of facilitating the legal and economic upgrades in our legal system. We want to participate in a number of outreach programs to alleviate poverty and to facilitate greater transparency in our political system. Finally, we want to grow our firm, which has been growing at a reasonably strong rate. The attorneys in the firm serve a number of legal and civic bodies working towards greater efficiency and accountability in improving our democracy and transparency in the business world.