Mon | Jun 17, 2019

OPIC touts renewed focus on development financing

Published:Wednesday | May 22, 2019 | 12:26 AM
OPIC acting President and CEO David Bohigian.
OPIC acting President and CEO David Bohigian.

A new push by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) to issue development loans to businesses in Jamaica will focus on energy, water and construction.

The American agency is looking to rekindle its relationships with Jamaican business after a three-year gap in engagement.

“What is propelling us right now in the US government is this newly redoubled authority to help countries like Jamaica,” said OPIC’s Acting President and CEO David Bohigian, who travelled to Kingston on Monday.

He was also due to visit The Bahamas, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and St Lucia this week – a move geared at developing a potential pipeline of investments, he told the Financial Gleaner.

He added that over the life of OPIC, the development financing agency has issued more than US$1 billion to Jamaica and that the country’s loan balance stands at about US$200 million.

“We are here to support Jamaica’s needs,” Bohigian said.

OPIC’s last listed project for Jamaica was back in 2016 when power utility JPS received a US$100-million loan to implement smart streetlights, implement anti-theft measures and refinance debt. The majority Asian-owned JPS was expected to procure goods and services from US companies under the loan terms.

Bohigian and his team met with Jamaican government and private sector officials to discuss areas of interest that is expected to lead to the creation of a funding pipeline for the country and the region.

“We talked about a triangle of water, construction and energy and being able to pull all those together to propel this country,” Bohigian said in a meeting with members of the press.

His visit follows the meeting of Caribbean leaders with US President Donald Trump in March, including Prime Minister Andrew Holness, but it also comes amid a new policy direction regarding development financing for the US.

“This is the follow-on to that meeting and the desire to deepen economic ties with the Caribbean,” said Eric Khant, chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Kingston.

Bohigian said that in 2018, the US passed a new law, the Better Utilisation of Investment Leading to Development Act, or BUILD Act, that sets up a new agency called the International Development Finance Corporation. The new agency will merge OPIC and the credit arm of the US Agency for International Development.

In 2019, OPIC also funded the company Deetken Impact Investments for its Latin America and Caribbean initiative. The financing from that entity will go to financial institutions and social enterprises, which will make downstream loans primarily to women borrowers in the region.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com