MASTER PLANS FOR GROWTH

Jamaica 2019 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

The goal is to focus on improving Jamaica's key port and airport infrastructure, as well as developing its special economic zones.

Dr. Eric Deans
BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Eric Deans has over 30 years’ of professional experience in port, shipping, and logistics in North America, Europe, Asia, and the Caribbean. He currently serves as CEO for JSEZA and Chairman of the Logistics Hub Initiative Task Force. Previously, he was Director of Shipping and Policy Research at the Maritime Authority of Jamaica. He was an adjunct lecturer in logistics and supply chain sustainability at the Caribbean Maritime Institute and holds a PhD in Marine Policy from the University of Delaware, a MSc in maritime studies from the University of Wales, and a BSc in chemistry from the University of the West Indies. He is a member of the Trade Facilitation Task Force (Jamaica), the Chartered Institute of Transport in the UK, Connecticut Maritime Association, and American Association of Port Authorities.

What type of investor interest has the new SEZ regime generated?

It has generated considerable interest from investors around the world. When we were putting together the SEZ regime, we studied other jurisdictions to come up with an attractive set of incentives that would entice investors to locate in Jamaica. One of the constraints we found was a shortage of world-class industrial and commercial space. To change that, there is now zero income tax on rental income for developers who seek to build, which is highly encouraging for developers as it inspires them to create the world-class commercial space that we need.

How does this system compare to other incentives in the region?

When we looked at the different tax regimes offered across the region, there were many different models: some countries offer zero tax policy or tax holidays. What separates Jamaica from the rest of the competition are its transparent policies and the fact that there are no hidden taxes.

What are the main challenges you face in forming PPPs in Jamaica for this purpose?

We have to create the financial structure and appetite to encourage private players to pursue viable means of investing. However, as identified in the Logistics Hub Initiative Market Analysis and Master Plan, there are USD28 billion worth of projects to be completed, including SEZs, ports, airports, utilities, and logistics. Each one represents opportunities that can be PPPs. It is not just any typical public or private investment, but rather an opportunity to forge partnerships.
How would you assess the current role that JSEZA is playing in attracting FDI?
JSEZA plays a critical role in Jamaica's growth strategy. In terms of attracting FDI, we see it as a critical component. Traditionally, and over the last 10 years, we have averaged between USD400 million and USD600 million in annual FDI. Moving forward, we are looking at FDI between USD1 billion and USD2 billion, or even more. The USD28 billion in future projects falls under one framework of the logistics hub. In addition to that, the tourism and agriculture sectors will play their role in solidifying the economy, registering substantial economic growth and FDI triggered by what we call a logistics-centered economy, which the master plan outlines the road map for.

Could you tell us more about the significance of Jamaica-Gansu International Industrial Park project?

In 2016, the Alumina Partners of Jamaica (ALPART) refinery, which was owned by Rusal, the largest bauxite alumina company in the world, was sold to Chinese industrial giant JISCO. In looking at the opportunities brought on by the rising price of alumina and Jamaica's stated position of becoming a logistics hub, the two countries saw huge potential beyond bauxite and alumina. It focused on a comprehensive industrial development platform and the Jamaica-Gansu International Industrial Park, intended for the Americas and the Caribbean market related to processing and manufacturing of exported goods. With our diversification of energy sources to LNG and Jamaica's geostrategic position, it became an increasingly viable project. With low-cost energy, a great deal of resources in terms of raw materials, an influx of technology, and industrial capabilities that investors bring to the table, this will have a transformative effect, especially for the western part of Jamaica.

What are your ambitions for the future of JSEZA, and Jamaica at large?

Our dream is to see Jamaica's economy grow; our vision has always been for Jamaica to become as well known as Singapore, Dubai, or Rotterdam in terms of using logistics as a major part of their economic strategy. As relatively smaller places, they play vital roles in global trade. In comparison, Jamaica sits right in the middle of the Americas, and boasts an extremely strategic position—one that we want to use to grow and benefit not just Jamaica, but the entire region. JSEZA has a critical role in achieving that.