Wed | Jun 19, 2024

Julian Reynolds | Develop Jamaica Initiative strives for first world status for Jamaica

Published:Friday | April 26, 2024 | 1:38 PM
This 2022 photo shows an aerial view of Parade Gardens,Tel Aviv  and the Southside communities in downtown Kingston.
This 2022 photo shows an aerial view of Parade Gardens,Tel Aviv and the Southside communities in downtown Kingston.
Julian Reynolds
Julian Reynolds
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The Develop Jamaica Initiative (DJI) mentioned in my articles in The Gleaner last year call for a number of enactments to advance Jamaica to ‘First-World’ status. Many of us with vision have long paid attention to the socio-economic weaknesses that have led to increasing high crime rates, increasing poverty, although the employment rate is “improving”, have been calling for emphasis on development, specifically in the cultural/creative industries. Now that the IDB and World Bank, the disciples of Jamaica’s economic path, are now attesting to this we are hopeful that some progressive steps will be taken.

The DJI calls for financing of US$300 million raised through bonds issue inclusive of diaspora bonds, international grant-aid financing, and soft loans from the multilateral institutions inclusive of Afrexim Bank, and a consortium of commercial banks. The capital raised is to be used only for financing targeted developmental projects presented by entrepreneurs, established businesses, and new businesses that have convincing business plans showing development in the Jamaican economy. Provide an operating budget not exceeding US$5 million per annum to administer the Initiative. Investments and loans should not exceed US$6 million to any company, applying innovative financing techniques that will be employed in structuring an operating programme.

Establish an executive committee to set policy and oversee the DJI, chaired by the prime minister and/or minister of development, with one representative from each government ministry, and one representative each from the Opposition, key industry players and associations, academia comprising of tertiary institutions, artists and musicians. The proposed committee should meet once per month. Projects to be undertaken by the DJI must have a two-thirds majority vote of the committee. Establish an international board of advisers comprising Jamaican diaspora intellectuals.

We are recommending to establish a management/administrative body headed by an executive director/development czar, and no more than nine managers, supported by a staff. This position should be held by someone with vast business/industrial experience working with the political system, commitment and passion to transform Jamaica. The responsibilities for this body will be to vet the companies and projects to be funded by the DJI, recommend their selections to the DJI executive committee for final approval, and then guide the management of those chosen, towards profitability and productivity.

Collate a database of managers, marketing executives, lawyers, accountants, engineers, technicians, and executive assistants to be placed when required, as consultants or temporary staff in companies provided with financing by the DJI. This expertise to be drawn heavily from the Caribbean diaspora. The Jamaican and other Caribbean diaspora are very passionate about their homelands, and possess outstanding talent prepared to make significant contributions to the country’s growth and development.

INVITE ENTREPRENEURS

The DJI would invite entrepreneurs and companies to present projects financed primarily, but not exclusive to targeted industries; agriculture/agro-industry (fishing, food processing, nutraceuticals, essential oils,) the creative industries (music, film and television, live performances, tourism (emphasis on attractions and the rebirth of Kingston as a prime destination,) alternative energy, information and communication technology, mining, fashion, furniture, craft, healthcare, childcare, sports, and affordable housing. Emphasis to be placed on research and development.

Financing allocated through equity available via DJI facility established on the Jamaica Stock Exchange, and a venture capital facility. Financing also be allocated through low interest loans, not exceeding interest rate of six percent, accessed through the Development Bank of Jamaica, the Export-Import Bank of Jamaica, and commercial banks. The Prime Minister or Minister of Development, in the capacity of chairman of the DJI, and the executive director/development czar will appear before Parliament twice per year when so requested, to make a report on the operations of the DJI.

We must acknowledge that Jamaicans are First World calibre people. They have proven this through music, sports, and their performances in many aspects in their adopted countries. So why not at home in Jamaica under their elected and business leadership? Ask yourself the question, if Jamaica’s economic and social performance was matching their performances in athletics what would be the country’s status in the world?

My suggestion for Jamaica’s development comes from over five decades as a journalist covering sports, culture, news, and features in Jamaica and the United States. As an entrepreneur making investments in the agricultural, and cultural industries, and as a member and consultant to the National Minority Business Council in America, I have helped in organising several investment missions globally and in the Caribbean, with four being to Jamaica.

I have worked with major US private and public sector companies in setting up these missions, and for 15 years have been working through the Sounds & Pressure Foundation in Kingston, with the support of the Jamaican government, and most recently with the NMBC and Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce into transforming a section of downtown Kingston into a cultural tourism destination. With assistance from The Tourism Enhancement Fund will soon commence branding, landscaping and beautification work on the 18 music heritage sites in the Beat Street/Music Heritage Zone of downtown Kingston from North Parade to North Street, and Luke Lane to Church Street. The sites include Big Yard, Randy’s Records, Beverly’s Records, and Prince Buster’s Record Shack.

Julian ‘Jingles’ Reynolds is a writer, filmmaker and social entrepreneur. He is president of Fiwi Productions and chairman and co-founder of the Sounds & Pressure Foundation in Jamaica. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com