Jamaica’s special economic zone framework designed to support private sector SEZ development

Its always a good idea to review your past work and accomplishments from time to time, you just never know what you will find.  Such a review brings to mind the old adage what is old, is new; reviewing after some time gives you perspective and at times new insights. Conducting such an exercise led me to remember my participation as a panelist in 2014 on a Government of Jamaica policy dialogue: Jamaica’s Growth & Special Economic Zones Policy Dialogue. Some how I posted an article on my LinkedIn but not on Commercial Law International. What an oversight!

This oversight on my part has come to be a blessing in disguise as it allows me an opportunity to put out an article on Jamaica’s special economic zone (SEZ) policy and legislative framework, with particular focus on attracting private sector investment. This is especially timely given the continued roll out of Jamaica Special Economic Zone Authority, the Government of Jamaica’s, agency charged with regulating and attracting investments to zones in Jamaica.  While this piece is a bit dated it never the less provides in brief some useful insights, in particular for the private sector, into the policy and legal framework of SEZs in Jamaica.

Enjoy.

I was honored to be siting on the Private Zone Development, Joint Ventures and PPP Panel discussion today. Maybe its the nerd, sorry, I mean lawyer in me that gets so excited to talk about Special Economic Zone development models….its all about structuring the deal.

Me (Ainsley Brown) deep in preparation before the panel discussion

Me (Ainsley Brown) deep in preparation before the panel discussion

Please see the session brief below:

The Government of Jamaica (GOJ), in an effort to preposition itself in the world as a Global Logistics Hub, has identified Special Economic Zones (SEZs) as a key policy tool in achieving this objective. The main focus of SEZs is to attract foreign direct investment, diversification of the Jamaican economy, job creation and the increase in value-added exports. Policymakers are aware of the fact while economic zones bring about economic growth; they are not limited within themselves. The real value of economic zones depends on their ability to stimulate widespread growth through linkages with the domestic economy and to catalyze nationwide reforms by serving as pilots.

Drawing from numerous examples of successful SEZs around the world as well as Jamaica’s own experience with its existing Free Zone regime, the GOJ, is acutely aware of the potential direct and indirect impacts that could be realized by developing a modern SEZ regime as a tool for sustainable and globally competitive economic development. The GOJ, in order to realize the SEZ potential, has launched an effort to develop a new SEZ policy regime for Jamaica based on good economic and social practices in their operation and commercial principals in their development and management. Considering the vast investment potential of SEZ’s in Jamaica, the GOJ appreciates the importance of understanding the relevant economics, structures and processes that drive the successful implementation of SEZs. In this regard, the GOJ places great significance on the role of the private sector in SEZ development.

Given GOJ’s funding constraints, namely under the current IMF Loan Programme, the SEZ Policy encourages the private sector to play an active role in the Jamaican Special Economic Zones. The Policy envisages public private partnerships (PPP), joint ventures (JV) and private zone development in the development and operation of SEZs. This offers the potential for a number of different models. However, developing SEZ under PPP and or JV model has several commercial complexities as both the public and private sector need to bear some roles and obligations.

Greater involvement of the private sector in the development of zones reduces the burden placed on public resources and increases the efficiency of zones by allowing them to operate under market mechanisms. International experience reveals that a significant number of governments developed and managed zones have been less effective than their private counterparts. In order to facilitate private development of zones, an appropriate legal, regulatory and institutional framework should be in place. The Government’s main role would be to regulate economic zone activities, promote the zone regime, and aggressively identify, assemble, and make available land suitable for development through PPPs or JVs or private development.

Purpose of the session

Panelists will discuss the mechanisms to encourage and facilitate SEZ development in Jamaica (PPP, JV or private). The viability of any SEZ due to the highly capital intensive nature of their development, is dependent on finding adequate and appropriate types of financing to support a deal structure; panelists will discuss structuring and financing deals in PPP, JV or private infrastructure development.

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Top 10 best reads to understanding Jamaica’s SEZ Regime

Here are the top ten best reads to understanding Jamaica’s Special Economic Zone Regime and the mandate of the Jamaica Special Economic Zone Authority.

Top 10 best reads to understanding Jamaica's SEZ Regime

 

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How G20 nations can help young entrepreneurs with their businesses

Looking at the latest media coverage, one comes to the conclusion that it is “en vogue” to be an entrepreneur as a young person. In fact, digitization offers young people as many opportunities as ever to start a business and to do business, even across borders. Governments and organizations are also happy to make contact with young entrepreneurs and meet with them in order to appear as “hip” as possible. In reality, however, entrepreneurs, and young entrepreneurs in particular, often face great challenges. After all, economic and entrepreneurial activitie are often conducted any more only on a global level, that means across borders, and the same applies to competition: young entrepreneurs are increasingly focusing their business and its growth on the opportunities that arise not only in their own country — “go global” is today’s claim! However, this creates new obstacles which cannot be eliminated by one state alone.

The voice of this new generation of young entrepreneurs has been since 2010 the G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance (G20 YEA), whose members are the most important young entrepreneur organisations in the G20 countries. Once a year, their representatives meet in order to discuss problems, obstacles and success factors — also from their own experience — and to develop demands that are presented to the governments of the G20 countries as to how international young entrepreneurship can be better supported.

But what are the central demands of the G20 YEA to the governments of the G20 countries to support young entrepreneurs?

Enable Early education in entrepreneurial skills

Support for young entrepreneurs should be launched at an early stage. The necessary skills such as digital competence, quality of management, handling of financial resources or communication should already have a prominent place in education, and should in particular focus on school and university education. This is why the G20 YEA calls for both academic and secondary (university) education to be expanded by means of focus on the skills required for entrepreneurs. And through support by means of a “learning by doing” system, for example by means of practical entrepreneurial activities such as school or university start-ups or at least business games, the students could already work on and try out their future (theoretical or practical) company during their education and training.

Provide financial support

Of course, financial resources are required. For this reason, another priority of the G20 YEA is to enhance the financial support for partnerships between university incubators and accelerators and the private sector. In this way, university resources can be used by and, at the same time, innovations from university development can be introduced to existing companies.

Allow making connections and provide information

After the foundation, one of the most important phases for a company is the expansion and the scaling. In this phase, a platform for establishing contacts, fostering cultural exchange and creating opportunities for cooperations would be very helpful in order to access customers and employees worldwide. To capture the most important economic regions in the world, it makes sense if such a platform is provided and supported by the G20 countries and the relevant information and contacts (for example on the prerequisites for company foundations, on taxation, on important regulations or on the use of employees) is made available here.

Provide digital infrastructure

Since young entrepreneurs are constantly online and many business models require mobile accessibility, a functioning digital infrastructure is essential. This must be available without interference by means of high-speed Internet lines and at the same time it must be cost-effective. The G20 YEA therefore calls on the G20 countries to develop a 5G network in all G20 countries by 2022 to enable an uninterrupted participation in global digital networking.

Create a visa program for entrepreneurs

As described above, it is particularly important for young entrepreneurs to be in contact with customers, investors and potential employees worldwide. For this reason, strengthening the access and the presence for young entrepreneurs in their identified target markets is a particular concern of the G20 YEA. It therefore calls for a special visa program for entrepreneurs in the G20 countries, which allows a (young) entrepreneur not to enter a G20 country with as little difficulties as possible, but also lets him set up and develop its company there.

Reduce bureaucracy

In this context, the sometimes lengthy prerequisites for setting up a company or its continuation in some countries pose challenges for young entrepreneurs. The G20 YEA therefore calls for the implementation of structural and legal reforms with the aim of simplifying entrepreneurship through simplified bureaucracy and concomitant cost reductions. Overriding bureaucracy is the greatest obstacle to cross-border activities. The G20 YEA therefore specifically calls on the governments of the G20 countries to set themselves the goal of enabling the citizens of a G20 country to establish and register a company in another G20 country within 5 days, and if possible without the help of consultants or special professions.

Provide tax incentives

And since the creation of a company is often associated with the creation of new jobs, tax incentives should be created for young entrepreneurs, not only to start a business and generate profits, but also to create jobs as quickly as possible.

Strengthen the protection of intellectual property

Last but not least, it should not be forgotten that there are still different legal configurations in the individual G20 countries with regards to the protection of intellectual property. Often, however, the potential of a company lies in its initial idea, so that the protection of intellectual property is of particular importance. Here, the G20 YEA calls for the closure of existing gaps in the individual G20 countries with regards to IP protection in order to ensure a G20-wide uniform protection level.

Young entrepreneurship is global!

Young entrepreneurs are innovative, have the willingness to take calculated risks and will not stop the implementation of their business ideas because of national borders. They also create jobs that are urgently required because they use the opportunities of a globally connected world. However, they are faced with a variety of obstacles to their entrepreneurial ambitions, often resulting from “thinking in national borders”. However, what is needed is a viewpoint that goes away from “it is enough for our country” to a “how could we do better to respond to global competition”. The G20 YEA is ready to tackle the issue of how cross-border entrepreneurship can be strengthened and propose solutions to the G20 governments and leaders.

 

Carsten Lexa is the President of G20 Young Entrepreneurs´ Alliance Germany and the host of the German G20 YEA 2017 Berlin Summit (link to the Summit website). A corporate lawyer by profession and equipped with his own law firm (link to the law firm website), he advises international clients, who want to do business in Germany, in corporate and commercial legal matters. He is, by invitation of the European Commission, a participant in the annual SME Assembly. He is also a member of the B20 Task Forces and since 2014 a member of the national board of JCI Germany (WJD — Wirtschaftsjunioren Deutschland), the biggest organization for young leaders and entrepreneurs in Germany.

Interested in more information? Follow on Twitter (kanzlei_lexa), “like” the Facebook fan page (kanzlei.lexa) or visit the blog (Link).

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A business component roadmap to Jamaica’s logistics centered economy

How is the Hub being implemented? What are the timelines? What is the economic value proposition? How is Jamaica positioned relative to other major hubs? What’s the difference between a transshipment hub and a logistics hub? What is the role of emerging markets such as China? What type of industries will be attracted to the hub? What strategy will be used to attract the leading global companies in the field of logistics? How will the hub be financed? What are the opportunities for local businesses? Answers to these and other questions will lead to a better understanding of the transformational nature of the initiative.

The document below is a bit dated however it still provides a comprehensive overview of Jamaica’s global logistics hub thrust.

lhi-business-component-roadmap
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International Financial Services: Dubai and Abu Dhabi authorities collaborate

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The Exit in Brexit

Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty might be short but it is a very powerful clause that determines how a country leaves the European Union (EU). This in effect is how make the exit in Brexit work.

The BBC  has done nice graphic of the steps the UK will have to take under Article 50.

Brexit steps

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Jamaica’s Cannabis Industry: Sustainable Supply Chain Management Storymap

This StoryMap is by one of my students,Charmaine Pettigrew, from the Excelsior Community College in Kingston, Jamaica. It is his project submission for the Sustainable Supply Chain Management course.

Here she tells a sustainability story about the emerging ‘legal’ cannabis industry.

The views expressed are those of the student and not of this author this blog.

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When a veto is not just a veto – Is the US undermining the WTO?

Last week the headline of a story in the Financial Times that immediately caught attention: US accused of undermining WTO. As interesting as I found the headline, I filed it away as a should read, a story for a later date. Well, it was almost a week later but I finally read the story. I just figured it was just a bit of hyperbole from some country feeling the sting of countervailing duties or some other trade remedy levied on its goods. Truth be told I thought it was China responding to the US in their latest trade skirmish where the US has imposed a 265.79% anti-dumping duty on Chinese made steel.

Boy was I very WRONG!

What exactly am I talking about?

The article was in fact about the USA vetoing the reappointment of a member of the seven-person World Trade Organization‘s (WTO) Appellate Body. For an outside observer not familiar with the WTO, this is a seemly innocuous act at worst and at best the Americans simply seem to be exercising a right that it holds. So what is the big deal?

From the article’s opening sentence I was gripped. I could not believe what I was reading. Why would the USA do this? Why would they oppose the reappointment of South Korea’s Seung Wha Chang, a well-respected and renowned international trade law expert?

When a veto is not just a veto

What the USA has done is not simply to break from tradition – Appellate Body members customarily serve two four year terms – but if WTO members including the European Union, Japan and Brazil are to be believed is to undermine the independence of a key, if not the key WTO organ. The importance of the Appellate Body to the WTO and the whole global trading system cannot be over stated. It is the ability, and one could argue a key distinguishing feature, of the WTO as the successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), to effectively resolve trade disputes between its members that underpin the global trading system.

There are three interconnected and interdependent reasons in my opinion that explain this feather ruffling move by the USA. And they are:

  1. Appellate Body has allegedly overreached: The Americans have expressed the opinion that the Appellate Body has in at least three cases involving the US overreached and delivered decisions in the’abstract.’
  2. US politics: This decision, I believe has been greatly influenced by US politics, especially the Presidential race. This is time to act tough especially when it comes to trade matters.
  3.  China to attain market economy status: China holds the position that it will attain market economy status automatically in December which is 15 years after its accession in 2001. However, the US holds that China’s accession documents are more ambiguous. Market economy status is important because it allows China to put up a better fight against anti-dumping duties (note the steel situation mentioned above). The Appellate Body will eventually have to settle the matter.

So is the US undermining the WTO?

The fact several WTO members believes this to be true is of real concern.

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Multilateral Tax Convention Becomes Law In Singapore

As of May 1, 2016 the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters  took effect  and  became the law of the land in Singapore. The Convention, developed jointly by the  Organization of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Council of Europe in 1988. It was amended in 2010 to respond to a call by the Group of Twenty (G-20) nations that it be aligned to the new international standard on the automatic exchange of information and that it be opened up to all countries. And according to the OECD it “is the most comprehensive multilateral instrument available for all forms of tax co-operation to tackle tax evasion and avoidance, a top priority for all countries.”

The May 1 effective date comes some four months after Singapore ratified the Convention January 2016 and is part of effort to increase tax transparency and combating cross-border tax evasion in Asia’s top financial and business hub. The Convention will allow Singapore’s Inland Revenue Authority the ability to request information from other tax authorities, and seek assistance in collecting outstanding tax debts.

This move by the The Little Red Dot, as  Singapore is affectionately called, in my opinion has further strengthen its position as a global financial hub.

 

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Special Economic Zones: a tool for economic development

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