At the risk of engaging in juvenile simplicity, it is clear to me that if we, collectively, can get more Jamaican companies, whether large, medium or small, to become more profitable, to employ more persons , to become more efficient, and generally to become more successful and sustainable, then the country, generally speaking, will be better off. A part of the challenge facing the country is to find markets and opportunities for all of the potential goods and services which it has the capacity to produce.
Although it is often stated, I do not believe that it has permeated the consciousness of our business and agricultural sectors that the only path to truly substantial business growth is by the development of markets in countries outside of Jamaica. One method of doing so is by the traditional route of attempting to export goods and services to other countries. Another is to establish businesses in other countries, and to grow the business from within the other countries. The latter path is a route less travelled but one which your columnist recommends.
It is my view; the barriers to the movement of capital are less than the barriers to the movement of goods and services. The movement of goods and services are in your face. The movement of capital is not seen until it is manifested by the establishment of productive enterprises generating employment in the “host” country. It is generally seen as a win: win scenario as the “host” country gets jobs, payroll and other taxes and goods and services and the exporting company earns profits.
Sandals Resorts International (SRI) is perhaps the poster child for this type of growth and development. A casual observation reveals that it has more hotels and rooms outside of Jamaica, charges higher average room rates outside of Jamaica and, I daresay, earns more from non-Jamaican countries. It is in fact worthy of a case study.
GraceKennedy, through its Bill Express & Western Union divisions, has done so. National Commercial Bank, through its acquisitions in the region and Insurance Company of the West Indies through its presence in almost a dozen countries in the region have also done so. Supreme Ventures, through its foray into Guyana has just joined the party.
The Caribbean is ripe for this type of growth. Last year Grenada had GDP growth of 5.2%. This reality is still only a dream for Jamaica. Antigua had GDP growth of 3.5%, Guyana had GDP growth of 3.4%, and the Cayman Islands had GDP growth of 3.2%. In fact, according to the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), of its 19 member borrowing countries only Barbados & Anguilla recorded growth.
Jamaica and Jamaican businesses are the holders of an awful lot of capital that could be put to far greater efficient use than the construction of apartments and townhouses.
South to South growth is the future. To the region and then the world.