The Jamaica Special Economic Zone Authority (JSEZA) is reporting heightening investor/stakeholder interest in operating in the country’s Special Economic Zones (SEZs), which are key components of the Government’s Logistics Hub Initiative (LHI).
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the JSEZA, which is spearheading the Initiative’s development, Dr. Eric Deans, tells JIS News that the Authority has 31 SEZ applications for established activities such as business process outsourcing, manufacturing and logistics, pointing out that a significant number of the applicants are micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).
“We are also seeing interest from a wide cross section of industries in new and emerging industries, particularly in the logistics and maritime sectors, which are deemed attractive to operate in Jamaica,” Dr. Dean notes.
Dr. Deans points out that a JSEZA market analysis identifies pharmaceuticals; higher-end agro-processing; electronics; medical device; auto parts; and motor vehicle assembly among the diverse set of additional activities for consideration.
Noting that there is local and foreign interest in pursuing activities in these new industries, he attributes this to new incentives being offered under the SEZ Act that “investors are taking advantage of”, coupled with Jamaica’s strategic location in the Caribbean.
The JSEZA’s Director of Investor Relations and Communications, Kelli-Dawn Hamilton, tells JIS News that the SEZ incentive regime includes an attractive corporate income tax rate of 12.5 per cent, which she says can be further reduced to 7.75 per cent with the application of various promotional tax credits, compared to 25 per cent in the regular domestic economy.
Additionally, she says SEZ companies are able to import items at the duty-free rate.
Mrs. Hamilton also emphasises the importance of the Authority’s inclusion of the general economy in the engagements embarked on.
“So through the regime, we have created an incentive framework that allows persons who purchase goods and services in the domestic economy to pay zero per cent general consumption tax, which is a huge win for the investor and for the local economy because it now means that it is more attractive to purchase goods locally,” she states.
The Director also points out that the Authority is keen on creating linkages with domestic suppliers. As such, she says they have been advancing work to create a policy that facilitates a linkage programme, “which sees us connecting local suppliers with investors”.
She further tells JIS News that the Authority is developing an MSME Policy, pointing out that the Special Economic Zone Act stipulates the development of such an instrument.
“We recognise that our MSMEs are central to moving our economy… and so we must carve out a special regime for these players… and it is something that we are actively working on with a number of stakeholders,” Mrs. Hamilton says.
She emphasises that the Authority is implementing a regime that is adaptable and responsive to the market, “while maintaining our role as regulators of the free zone/SEZ space”.
“Our processes continue to be consultative (because) we believe that we must be listening to our clients. But we take our role as regulators very seriously, because there are certain rules that entities must adhere to. We see our SEZ brands as being flag-bearers for the country and for business in Jamaica, and we, therefore, expect that they must be operating at a certain level,” Mrs. Hamilton states.
In emphasising the importance of protecting brand Jamaica, if the country’s development is to be further advanced, she says the Authority “will continue to push that and work with our stakeholders to ensure that the regime achieves its intended purpose”.