Clarendon residents have been urged by Earl Jarrett, General Manager of Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS), to lobby to ensure business facilities related to the global logistics hub are established in their parish, as a result of the country’s thrust to become the world’s fourth global logistics hub.
“As we understand it, the Logistics Hub will establish, if it happens, a link between the Goat Islands and one of the parishes, Clarendon or St. Catherine and there should be an economic zone within one of those parishes,” he told entrepreneurs and guests at the JN Small Business Loans Limited (JNSBL) Annual Board of Directors’ Tour, held at Hotel Versalles in the parish capital, recently.
Noting that Clarendon was the third largest parish in the island, Mr. Jarrett pointed out that the environment at both the parish and national levels favours Clarendon’s emergence as a dominant player in the country’s economic development. And he pointed out that the parish has vast acreage of land, and is already served by a modern road network and has a foundation for cargo facilities to play a major role in the logistics framework.
“Vernam Field is earmarked for establishing a cargo airstrip; there is great roadway infrastructure; the historic sites and tourist attractions are well known; and, of course, its relative proximity to the Goat Islands,” he explained, “It is possible that the parish could benefit significantly from the transport logistics hub, or any efforts to establish the country as a logistics hub.”
He said new laws and policies, particularly the MSME and Entrepreneurship policy document and the recently passed Security Interest in Personal Property Act, will position the micro and small business sector in a serious way, which should assist in catalysing the development of the sector in time for 2015, when the country hopes to achieve its objective.
“What this shows is that the SME sector is being more seriously regarded as a significant contributor in turning around the economy,” the JNBS General Manager stressed.
Pointing to a survey conducted recently by a student at the University College of the Caribbean among business people in the parish, he said that although Clarendonians were optimistic about the opportunities to emerge from the building of a transhipment port on the Goat Islands off the coast of Clarendon and St. Catherine, people lack the information needed for them to make decisions about how they will invest in these opportunities.
“What we learned from the small research is that people don’t know and they aren’t grabbing opportunities. I don’t see the people of Clarendon pushing out and saying: ‘Come we are ready for business,” Mr. Jarrett argued, noting that it is small and micro enterprises which are providing most of the jobs in the productive sector.
Highlighting JNSBL’s creation and maintenance of some 93,000 jobs since its establishment in the Year 2000 through its financing of micro and small entrepreneurs, Mr. Jarrett said the move to do away with the Money Lending Act will provide more opportunities for the emergence of microfinance institutions. And, consequently there will be more options for borrowing; however, he cautioned that these new opportunities must be gauged by responsible lending.
“We need to ensure that we have a playing field that is level and fair for consumers. We need to make sure that we don’t have loan sharks and that the best fiduciary practices are maintained,” the JN General Manager emphasised.
Within that same context, Philip Bernard, General Manager, JNSBL added that many institutions, which emerged in the past decade, have become more focused on profits and the bottom line in their approach to financing small businesses. He said what is needed are institutions that cater to the development of all aspects of the entrepreneur.
“Access to microfinance is not simply knowing that funds are available and knowing how quickly one can receive it; or, where and at what interest rate these funds can be had,” Mr. Bernard emphasised. “Entrepreneurs need institutions with personnel whom they can comfortably discuss their problems, explain their situations, and get advice and support about how to improve their business.”
Clarendon small business operators benefited from some 2,389 loans valued at approximately $216,264 from JNSBL up to November 30 and generated several jobs in the parish during the past year.
JNSBL board directors and guests toured several of the businesses which benefited from JNSBL loans in May Pen and its environs. The businesses operate in the retail and distribution sector, manufacturing and agriculture