Jamaica Gleaner / Fritz Pinnock, president of the Caribbean Maritime University, is urging the Ministry of Education to move quickly to revise the education system in order to take advantage of Jamaica’s deepening involvement in world trade as a logistics hub.
Pinnock, who was guest speaker at a recent Jamaica-China Friendship Association banquet, held at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston to celebrate the 68th anniversary of the founding of People’s Republic of China, noted that the Asian nation’s tremendous economic growth spurt has direct links to decisions taken to establish special economic zones.
“Jamaica has two main issues; a mindset and a skill set problem, which, if left unattended, could signal the death of Jamaica’s development goal of being a strong logistics hub,” said Pinnock.
“That’s our problem; but it’s mainly the mindset that is troubling because this affects our leaders and, as the word says, a nation without vision perishes,” he added.
Jamaica, he said, must learn from the Chinese, whose heavy investments in port infrastructure have catapulted them up the economic ladder to rival the United States as a superpower.
He noted, however, that the rate of development of Jamaica’s logistic sector is highly dependent on the integration and efficiency of network services, making the point that the logistics hub is already established.
“It is not a physical place; it’s a concept of development. What it is about is using the economy to service the global supply chain.
“That means, to make Jamaica a part of the global value chain. It means being efficient enough that some companies would want to set up here to cluster; where a group of companies would come together to provide service to international trade,” said Pinnock.
Major port investments
He said a lot has been happening at the country’s two main container shipment ports – Kingston Wharves Limited and Kingston Freeport Terminal.
“Both companies are making major investment outlay so things are happening, with dredging of the Kingston Harbour already being done. In addition, the port has invested over US$60 million to procure new port equipment such as cranes. So things are happening,” stressed Pinnock in a subsequent interview with The Gleaner .
“The port operators are looking now to attract companies to start doing value-added logistics services here. So, again, things are happening. We are not waiting on the logistics hub; it’s already here, but we are now looking to expand the rate at which we can add value to the world economy,” Pinnock stated.
He said Jamaica must move with the changing times to fast-track immediate logistics infrastructure development if it is to make gains in the sector and compete with its neighbours, including the Dominican Republic, Colombia and Cuba, which have advanced infrastructural plans to leverage their countries as ports of choice.
“We are situated at the mouth of the Panama Canal, so we can either be a major obstruction or a major facilitator of global trade. And being there makes us, geostrategically, the ideal trans-shipment hub serving the Americas.
… Chinese gov’t urges businesses to spend big on friendly partners like Ja
Niu Qingbao, China’s ambassador to Jamaica, says his country’s Belt and Road Initiative places a strong emphasis on infrastructure and connectivity, which precipitated the Asian nation’s growth rate of approximately 10 per cent over the past 40 years.
“Even in the last five years, the average growth in China was 7.2 per cent and China’s contribution to accounts for 30 per cent of total world growth, more than the United States and Europe,” Niu said.
He added that China wants to share this know-how with the world, “especially with developing countries; especially with friendly partners like Jamaica.
“That is why Chinese companies are encouraged by the Chinese government to spend big on infrastructure development in Jamaica, such as the investment projects like the North-South Highway, and other projects, such as bauxite mining at Alpart,” the ambassador stated.
China accounts for seven of the top 10 container ports in the world and 14 out of the top 20.