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Investors courted for Caymanas economic zone

Investors from across the globe are being wooed to plough millions of dollars into the 650-acre Caymanas special economic zone (SEZ) that has been described by Gary Lawrence, senior vice-president of engineering at the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ), as the largest single project ever to be embarked on in Jamaica.

Following years of gestation, the project is being brought to life by the PAJ, whose principals told prospective investors Thursday that the Government was taking steps to put in utilities and other critical infrastructure in preparation for persons who are already knocking on the door.

The project is poised to be among the top-tier logistics free zones across the region.

Gordon Shirley, chairman of the PAJ, told The Gleaner Thursday while touring Caymanas that his agency has been tasked with getting the SEZ started. The authority will spend between $40 million and $60 million to install infrastructure at the property.

He said that multiple subdevelopers could take on some components of the project.

Shirley said that the authority was in discussions with a number of investors, including some from the United States.

“We are open for business, but we intend to proceed along the lines that the Government has outlined, so regardless of how quickly they come along, our mandate is to get this in a position to be operational as quickly as possible,” he added.

Aubyn Hill, minister of industry, investment and commerce, told prospective investors that the Government will be providing 50 years of tax-free benefits in a long-term lease arrangement.

“If you bring in stuff as you would have to (in order) to build it out, no taxes on it. You take it out, no taxes on it, but you can’t sell into Jamaica when you are in the special economic zone,” he said.

Hill said that the build-out of the SEZ would create jobs for Jamaicans.

The industry and investment minister, however, sounded a warning to those who might want to use dirty money to invest in the SEZ.

“If it is not clean, we don’t even have to find it. Other people will find it and tell us you are not clean,” he said.

The PAJ said it has already engaged other government departments that are part of the approval process such as the National Environment and Planning Agency in relation to the area to be developed.

The Port Authority of Jamaica owns five free zones that now employ close to 20,000 people.

The latest is the Kingston Logistics Park, which has more than 200 square feet of new facilities.

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