By Andrea Braham
KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) -- Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister, Anthony Hylton, says the global logistics hub planned for Jamaica could add 17 percent growth to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) over six to eight years.
The figures, Hylton said, were baseline estimates provided by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ).
The minister was briefing senior journalists on the global logistics hub, at a breakfast meeting on Tuesday.
Chairman of the Logistics and Investment Task Force, Dr Eric Deans, said that with Cabinet approving the logistics hub, which has been highlighted in Vision 2030 and in the 2009-2012 Medium Term Socio-economic Framework, "we now have a clear strategic direction in which to transform the economy."
Vision 2030 Jamaica is the country’s first long-term national development plan, which aims at enabling Jamaica to achieve developed country status by 2030. It is based on a comprehensive vision: "Jamaica, the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business."
The task force will be required to implement the government's logistics hub policy and guide the project's development.
Emphasising the potential of the logistics hub, Deans pointed out that Jamaica sits in the middle of an 800-million person market, including the United States and Brazil, which can be accessed easily from the island.
"The trade opportunities are about to expand exponentially with the expansion of the Panama Canal, and also with the 2014 (FIFA) World Cup being held in Brazil and the Summer Olympics in 2016. There is a stimulus package of $880 billion by the Brazilian government to improve their infrastructure, which will result in quite a lot of movement of goods which we can tap into," he noted.
He explained that even without this stimulus, there is some $26 billion worth of logistics related activity that flows by Jamaica.
Deans added that Jamaica's geographic location means that it can reach anywhere in Latin America and North America within 4-6 hours, which is important for perishable goods and high value cargo relying on air transport.
"From a maritime perspective, we can reach all the destinations in two to three days. What that does is, it opens up the 600,000 manufacturers in China and the others in the Asia Pacific region to the Jamaican market in a very short and efficient way," he said.
He noted that a critical aspect of implementing the logistics hub is broadening the public-private partnership, especially in investment and financing.
"What this project is about is creating economic prosperity and using the logistics hub as the driver. But, this will require quite a lot of co-ordination because our existing facilities need some amount of upgrading to improve their performance and it will also require, very critically, broadening the private sector participation," Deans said.
"Our objective is not just to stimulate growth in the economy but to totally transform the Jamaican economy," he said.
Deans noted that currently, the country's logistics capabilities are below par, as Jamaica ranks 124 out of 155 on the Logistics Performance Index.
He outlined a number of tasks which needed to be done to address this, including the urgent upgrade of the island's logistics capabilities and rehabilitation of existing facilities, which represent phases one and two of the project; enticing transnational corporations needing seamless supply chain integration to base their Latin American and Caribbean logistics centres in Jamaica; and developing new infrastructure.