23 Mar Jamaica adds value in mining and transportation
Robert Montague, Minister of Transport and Mining, provides an insight into two important economic sectors
The mining of bauxite and its conversion into alumina have long played an important role in the Jamaican economy. In 2018, the mining sector made the biggest contribution to the country’s gross domestic product growth of 1.8 percent. Have international partnerships supported the growth in mining and what new projects are on the horizon?We have always had partnerships with international companies in our bauxite sector. Today, these include the U.S.’s New Day, Russia’s UC Rusal, China’s JISCO and Hong Kong’s Noble Group. The plan is to move up from alumina production into the production of aluminum and its end products, such as foils and engines. We are also seeing significant growth and interest in non-traditional mining. For example, the mining of medical-grade limestone is expanding, there is renewed interest from housing developers in our marble and a local firm has been doing a lot of prospecting for gold, silver, copper, zinc and other minerals. Further up the value chain and in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme, we have run a program and workshop for ornamental crafts and jewelry making from semi-precious stones.
Jamaica is a regional transshipment leader. What are the key reasons for its competitive edge in this sector?We are uniquely placed along the main sea lanes between North and South America, and directly north of the Panama Canal—we have exploited that. We have been able to show that we will utilize that position not only for our benefit, but for others, which has enhanced our reputation. In addition, we have been open for business in the bunkering of fuel for vessels. In light of today’s concerns about terrorism and keeping costs low, we have to guarantee the quality of oil going into a ship and keep our standards very high, so that ships have confidence when they order fuel from a Jamaican entity. Overall, what our country offers is the full value chain: a full-service one-stop shop for the shipping industry. We even put food and water on ships and remove waste to treat it. People are confident that, once we start offering a service, it is of an international standard. We also offer backroom operations and security is another area that we are strong in.
From March, there will be more flights between the U.S. and Jamaica. Air transportation to and from places such as the U.K., France, Russia and South Africa is also growing. What are your hopes for the aviation sector?
We are currently being bombarded by airlines wanting to sign new air service agreements with us. We don’t have a national airline and, therefore, are one of the few countries that are willing to offer seventh-freedom rights, which permit flights between countries that don’t touch an airline’s home territory. This gives an opportunity to enhance our logistics operations, helps with tourism and, by having linkages across so many countries, it develops our aviation industry. We already have a reputation for our high-quality pilots and air traffic controllers, and we want to expand that to cover mechanics, instrument officers and all other services linked to aviation. One of my pet objectives is to increase general aviation: our focus over the years was to transport vehicles, now we are changing that to transport people.
Can you describe the current investment climate in Jamaica?
Our prime minister has been very clear in telling the world that Jamaica is open for business and is a country of laws. We speak English, which is the language of business. We are on the doorstep of the largest and wealthiest commercial and consumer market in the world: the U.S., have very strong relations with the U.K. and Europe, and we are non-aligned in international politics. Our judiciary is independent, respected and has a long history of making good judgments, especially for commercial business. Our banking system is tied into all other banking systems and is manned by people that have been trained to international standards. Within our financial system, there have been no threats, and no issues with money laundering or funding terrorism. Our universities are accredited and produce graduates that are respected across the world. We are also very strong on cybersecurity. We respect people’s privacy and, whatever the level of your investment, you can and will be accommodated here in Jamaica. We love innovators, because we are a nation of innovators.