At the recently concluded 2015 Jamaica Diaspora Conference in Montego Bay, Jamaica, one of the most exciting initiatives that struck me as having huge potential for Jamaica’s economic growth is the ‘Jamaica Logistics Hub Initiative.’ Those of us who are new to the concept might rightly ask, what is a ‘logistics hub?’ To paraphrase Jamaica Logistics, it is the movement of goods from point of origin to its final end user, and every step in between – manufacturing, assembling, warehousing, training, transportation and final delivery. By building and improving internal infrastructure, the government aims to position Jamaica as the fourth global logistics connecting point, comparable to Singapore, Dubai and Rotterdam. This may sound like a lofty goal for a cash-strapped island that is a mere 4,240 square miles, but it is not without realistic basis. For its relatively small size, Jamaica enjoys a high level of positive international visibility with luminaries such as Bob Marley, Usain Bolt, Colin Powell and others, across multiple sectors. Jamaica is also fortunate to be positioned ‘at the doorway’ of the Panama Canal, which gives it an advantage over regional competitors because it is at the junction of global trade routes in and out of the region. With the expansion of the Panama Canal scheduled to open in 2015, Jamaica’s geographic position gives it a clear advantage in capitalizing on emerging global markets being serviced by the so-called BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China) as well as South Africa. So with Jamaica’s forward facing outlook, what are some of the potential challenges that may derail this grand plan?
Although Jamaica is undergoing massive infrastructure development, there are just as many massive areas of concern. The perceived corruption in some areas of government is huge, and the nation’s relationship with Chinese investors, which often has Jamaicans on edge, may well be a sort of double-edged sword. For instance, the first class Montego Bay Conference Center, which hosted the 2015 Jamaica Diaspora Conference with an impressive showing of first class service and amenities, is rumored to have been built by the Chinese at a cost of some sixty million dollars. Other potential problem areas include many of Jamaica’s educational and technological institutions that still lag behind international standards, especially in rural outlying communities. Some key roadways and sea-ports for delivery of goods and services are still in developing mode, while the increasing effects of global warming and sometimes even the attitudes of the Jamaican people can all pose significant challenges for global success. And what of the environmental impact and effective oversight? But notwithstanding these potential challenges, I must applaud Jamaica’s bold initiative and paraphrase an anecdote used by a speaker at the Diaspora Conference. Two shoe salesmen were sent to a new territory to open new shoe stores. The first one sent back a message saying the people don’t wear shoes so he’s coming home. The second one sent a message saying, “no one here has shoes, send me everything you’ve got!” So only time will tell if Jamaica’s bold new initiative will be perceived by the Jamaican and international communities as fraught with challenges, or full of opportunities for unparalleled business success.
By Marie Kellier