Caribbean inefficiencies seen as fertile environment for serious investors

Dear Editor,

Jamaican entrepreneur Michael Lee Chin, Founder and Chairman of Portland Holdings, Inc. Wednesday outlined a menu of incentives which provide for successful foreign investment in the Caribbean region (CARICOM) but also warned of a menu of shortcomings with which investors must be prepared to deal. Many of these shortcomings however, he said, are being addressed in several countries in the region.

Delivering the keynote address at the opening of the 41st annual Conference on the Caribbean and Central America, the businessman identified as among the major attractions for investing in the region “a treasure trove of inefficiencies” which he explained provided a fertile environment for serious investors “to come in and help raise the levels of efficiency”. He said that there are lucrative investment and joint venture opportunities available particularly in the area of import substitution.

Lee Chin also identified the natural resources to be found in the Caribbean, medical tourism, high end information and communication technology including digitization, privatization of government assets coupled with close proximity to the US and convenient time zones as a combination which makes the Caribbean a great location for investment.

But he also presented a menu of shortcomings- corruption, lawlessness, political interference, among others, which he said were not necessarily deterrents to successfully investing, but which investors needed to be aware of. He said many of the shortcomings are being addressed and would be eventually brought under control, particularly if investors are not party to the corruption and lawlessness.

Lee Chin said that like in many other regions, Caribbean politicians do not know how to create wealth nor do they have a merit-based way of distributing wealth. Hence he pointed to the need for every country in the Caribbean to have in place a national economic council made up exclusively of private sector and civil society representatives that would meet at least quarterly with the highest functionaries in government and the political opposition to analyze and chart a course for the development of the country. Lee Chin heads the national economic council in Jamaica which he says has served as a buffer zone in which the politicians on both sides agree not to fight on partisan political issues but rather agree on a blueprint for national development. These councils are necessary he said since “for the most part politicians are not fit and proper for creating wealth and therefore these buffer zones are necessary. They can take their political fights outside this buffer zone so as not to negatively impact their economies.”

He also pointed to the need for foreign investors to ensure that they contribute to wealth creation in the region by reinvesting most of their profits in their business operations through expansion, diversification and value added.

Yours faithfully,

Wesley Kirton

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