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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About Ainsley Brown

Ainsley Brown is currently working as the Director of Trade, Regulatory, Analysis & Policy for the Jamaica Special Economic Zone Authority (JSEZA) and is called to the Bar of Upper Canada (Ontario), Canada. His primary role is to provide technical advice on regulatory matters and trade matters to the CEO and team at JSEZA. He holds a LLM in International Commercial Law (with Merit) from the University of Westminster, having earned a diploma in law from London Metropolitan University and a BA (Hons) in Political Science from the University of Western Ontario. Ainsley is the Administrator of Commercial Law International and has an avid interest in logistics, global value chains; economic development; trade; commercial awareness; green energy; rugby; etc.
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