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Jamaica 2019 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

A strong advocate for the country's business community, JCC seeks to lobby for the simplification of business processes and facilitate cross-border trade.

Lloyd W. Distant Jr.
BIOGRAPHY
Lloyd W. Distant Jr. is an accomplished business leader, with a strong finance and technology background, coupled with almost 30 years of demonstrated leadership in driving sales and profits for industry leading companies. One of the longest serving members of the JCC’s Board of Directors, he has been actively involved in the chamber since 2004. As an entrepreneur, he has been involved in several local start-ups and has a reputation for turning around flat performances and mentoring top talent. He is also an active community leader, having held high-impact roles in a number of civic organizations, and has the distinction of being a Justice of the Peace for the parish of St. Andrew, Jamaica.

What are the main benefits of being a member of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce?

From its formation in 1779, the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce has been a strong advocate for the country's business community. Today, it continues on that path, as a network of like-minded firms and individuals who share the common objective of advancing the country's growth. As an institution, it functions as an effective lobbyist and advocate for sustainable and business-supportive legislation and regulations and for the simplification of business processes through the removal of disincentives; it supports the facilitation of trade and commerce both in the domestic market and in cross-border transactions; and it champions the establishment and growth of businesses of all sizes and across the widest spectrum of industries. As a proud member of the International Chamber of Commerce, our members benefit directly from an ease in developing potentially rewarding linkages with a worldwide network of businesses as well having access to the ICC's outstanding thought leadership in such areas as arbitration, training, corporate governance, and on many others.

What can be done to bring more investment to Jamaica?

We need to move more quickly to improve our ease of doing business. We still have some way to go—even though useful interventions have been made in recent years—to create an efficient and business-friendly environment. Access to capital is also important. The stock market has done well, though small businesses, which are an engine of growth, need better access to capital.

What are the most promising sectors?

Growth has been pronounced in recent years in both tourism and BPO. However, the objective indicators suggest that there is considerable room for growth in agro-processing (including marijuana-based products) and ICT, to name a few. I would also suggest that the stock market, which has been one of the world's best performing in recent years, should also be seriously considered.

What about traditional investors looking at Africa and Latin America?

We have seen some interest in both directions, vis-à-vis a number of the entities that, when they think developing markets, are now realizing that perhaps the Caribbean should be in their investment mix. This is one of the reasons why there has been so much focus here on positioning ourselves as a logistics hub and are now developing Special Economic Zones, as we are well-placed to be just such a processing and distribution center. At the same time, we are also encouraging our Jamaican firms to reach further afield, beyond our traditional comfort zones of the North America and the UK, to strengthen trade with Latin America and Africa. At present such trade is small, but we think there is enormous scope for growth.

What are your goals for 2019?

We will continue to work alongside the government in a number of different private-public partnerships to address trade facilitation, taxation, exports, and greater participation of the MSMEs in infrastructure development and the re-vitalization of downtown Kingston. The chamber has always been focused on growth and will continue to prioritize working with the government and private entities to spur growth, whether that export- or infrastructure-led growth. We are also focused on revamping the income tax structure for Jamaica, so it encourages increasing investment towards growth. The development of downtown Kingston is also important to the JCC. We consider Downtown Kingston one of those rare gems that the government and the private sector should be investing in.

What are the two top benefits and two top challenges of investing Jamaica?

The two main benefits would be our advantageous location vis-à-vis the north-south and east-west—via the Panama Canal—shipping routes followed by the significant investment that we've made in our infrastructure. Which respect to challenges, we still have too unwieldy a bureaucracy that impacts the ease of doing business and an uncompetitive corporate tax structure. JCC has prioritized both of these in our lobbying and advocacy agenda.