Doing Business in Jamaica: 2015 Country Commercial Guide for U.S. Companies
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For background information on the political and economic environment of the country, please review the U.S. Department of State Background Notes on Jamaica: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2032.htm
There are no laws in Jamaica that dictate contract terms for agents/ distributors. The parties involved formulate their own terms and conditions of agreement with or without the assistance of an attorney. However, regardless of contract terms, every supplier and agent/distributor must be aware of the Fair Competition Act (FCA), which is designed to foster competition. Under Jamaica's legal system, once an agreement is reached and signed, it becomes a binding document and breaches may be contested in a court of law.
Potential sources for business partner leads include the American Chamber of Commerce of Jamaica (AmCham), the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ), the Jamaican Manufacturers' Association (JMA), and the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC
The establishment of a local office is best approached with the assistance of Jamaica Trade and Invest (JAMPRO), the government’s trade and investment promotion agency. Potential investors can also present project proposals to JAMPRO for assessment and guidance. Registration or incorporation of the business should be made with the Office of the Registrar of Companies (ORC).
The new Companies Act 2004 came into effect on February 1, 2005. Under this legislation, a single person may form a company and be its sole director and shareholder. Public companies are required to have a minimum share capital of J$500,000.00 (the exchange rate was approximately J$116 to US$1 at end April 2015) and cannot borrow without first receiving certification from the Registrar. Although the head office of the company may be overseas, the company must now have a registered office in Jamaica.
To establish a franchise arrangement in Jamaica, the franchisee is expected to register a local company to assume the rights to operate the franchise. There are no specific laws that regulate the operation of franchises and there is a normal business relationship with the locally registered entity and the headquarters of the franchise. The locally registered company is responsible for managing the operation and ensuring conformity to the franchise requirements. Major U.S. food franchises in Jamaica include Kentucky Fried Chicken, Burger King, Wendy’s, Dairy Queen, Subway, Pizza Hut, Domino Pizza and TGI Friday’s. There are other types of franchises in areas such as accounting, automobile care and rental, and training services.
Mail order sales and catalogs have historically not been popular, though moves towards deregulation and liberalization in Jamaica have compelled persons in retailing to think of more creative ways of getting their message to customers and achieving sales growth. Some local firms have used direct mailings of promotional materials and telephone marketing. Local credit card companies sometimes target cardholders with direct mailing offering goods and services. Network marketing, for the promotion of products such as Herbalife and Amway, has been successful in Jamaica. Online direct marketing is becoming more popular, and social media is growing in popularity as a mean for businesses to connect directly with customers.
In a bid to stimulate economic activity, the Jamaican government has actively encouraged joint ventures and licensing. Major opportunities are publicized by the government agency or ministry involved. Nonresident partners are subject to Jamaican tax on their share of the partnership profits that accrue in or are derived from Jamaica. Nonresident foreign corporations pay tax on their share of profits at the same rates as resident corporations. Double taxation relief is available under the 1991 Convention for the Avoidance of Double Taxation.
Government procurement is generally done through open tenders, direct advertising, or by invitation to registered suppliers. The National Contracts Commission (NCC) is responsible for reviewing and endorsing recommendations for the award of Government contracts above approximately USD $100,000 in value. The NCC registers and classifies contractors who respond to Government contract tenders according to their size and capabilities. To respond to government office supplies tenders, companies must register with the Financial Management Division of the Ministry of Finance. Water supply and distribution equipment contracts require registration with the National Water Commission, and to supply medicines and medical supplies, potential bidders must contact the Pharmaceutical Division of the Ministry of Health and Health Corporation Limited. Jamaica does not have a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the U.S., but as a member of the WTO, adheres to the Government Procurement Agreement.
Distribution and sales of imported merchandise in Jamaica are done principally through importers, distributors, and agent representatives. A large share of materials and supplies including machinery and equipment is imported directly by end-user firms. Close contact with clients, delivery of quality products, after-sales service, and competitive prices are all useful business strategies to succeed in this market. Due to Jamaica’s proximity to the United States, many Jamaicans importing materials and products interface directly with U.S. exporters and manufacturers’ representatives, particularly in Florida. Most goods enter through the country’s major port in Kingston and are distributed in smaller quantities by road. This mode of distribution is becoming more efficient with the construction of highways across the country.
Three major U.S. based companies offer express delivery service to Jamaica. Deliveries from the U.S. take between one and four days for quantities ranging from 30 kilograms for documents to 300 kilograms for non-documents. A few local companies have entered the express delivery space, whereby small quantities ordered online are first delivered to a Miami address before being air freighted to Jamaica. Customs costs for goods valued below $50 tend to be insignificant, but rise dramatically as the value of shipments increase.
Carrying out due diligence on customers is advised before selling to Jamaican clients directly or through agents and distributors . Several large, established distribution companies in Jamaica import and distribute a range of products. Smaller companies may be suitable as agents for some products. Demand and markups for products vary. Some companies specialize in high volume and low markups while others only distribute goods that ensure a high markup. Due to Jamaica’s proximity and strong cultural affinity to North America, successful business strategies in North America are generally successful in Jamaica.
In 2007, the E-transaction Act came into effect, providing the legal framework for secured electronic commerce. Since then, e-commerce has grown in significance, with a growing number of businesses (particularly utilities) offering the option to pay bills online or via credit card using telephone. Jamaicans with U.S. dollar credit cards also make online purchases from U.S. based companies.
Jamaica enjoys relatively good telecommunications infrastructure and has one of the highest mobile phone penetrations in the world. Jamaica has become an attractive location for information and communications technology firms to set-up business process outsourcing operations. While internet access is increasing, a “digital divide” still exists.
Advertising is primarily done through radio, television, the press and billboards, including electronic billboards. A number of advertising agencies have national coverage, and Jamaica has a wide range of companies licensed to offer broadcast media services and Subscriber Television (STV or Cable), including a wireless, multi-point, multi-channel, licensee. There are also several Internet service providers.
Radio is the most wide-reaching mass communication medium. There are two major free-to-air local TV networks
(Television Jamaica (TVJ - http://www.televisionjamaica.com/ )and CVM - http://www.cvmtv.com/#clip=1286316) Several smaller networks also exist.
Jamaica has two morning dailies, one afternoon tabloid, and several periodicals and magazines. These include:
The Gleaner Newspaper (daily)
7 North St.
Tel: (876) 922-3400
The Jamaica Observer Newspaper (daily)
2 Fagan Ave.
Tel: (876) 931-7825/7832
The Star Newspaper (afternoon tabloid)
Prices are primarily market-based. The Fair Trading Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) monitor pricing of consumer items. The CAC plays a role in conducting research and informing the public of price variations. The National Consumer League, a local NGO, plays a watchdog role. Most goods and services attract a sales tax called the General Consumption Tax (GCT), while a few goods such as alcohol, cigarettes and fuel attract special consumption taxes (SCT). Utility services, such as electricity and water are regulated by the Office of Utilities Regulation, which must approve price increases.
After-sales service is an important competitive advantage in the Jamaican market and a requirement for an effective sales operator. If a U.S. firm has difficulty setting up its own distribution system, a local agent or distributor may be retained to maintain a trained service staff with a reasonable stock of spare parts. Alternatively, the supplier could offer the customer rapid service from the United States.
The Jamaican Constitution recognizes intellectual property rights and there are laws protecting intellectual property. The United States and Jamaica signed an Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (1994) and a Bilateral Investment Treaty (which came into force March 1997). In general, Jamaica has reasonably good copyright and trademark protection laws, but the country’s patent regime is outdated. A draft Patents and Design Act has been under parliamentary consideration, but has yet to be adopted. In June 2015, copyright protection was extended from 50 to 95 years under the Copyright (Amendment) Act.
U.S. companies planning to do business in Jamaica are advised to conduct thorough due diligence on potential business partners. This is particularly important as while the court system is fair, litigation can be expensive and the pace of resolution is slow.
It is advisable to retain professional advice at an early stage of a business venture to ensure a smooth start-up and compliance with local laws. The Jamaica Bar Association has a large list of members, which can be accessed at http://jambar.org/.. Other professional services include:
(1) The Jamaica Institute of Architects - http://jamaicanarchitects.com/about
(2) Institute of Chartered Accountants of Jamaica - http://www.icaj.org/
(3) Jamaica Institute of Engineers - http://www.jiejamaica.org/
(4) Jamaica Institute of Environmental Professionals - http://www.jiep.org/drupal/
(5) Jamaica Institute of Quantity Surveyors – http://www.jiqs.com/
The U.S. Embassy’s list of local attorneys is available online at:
American Chamber of Commerce of Jamaica - www.amchamjamaica.org – the largest gathering of U.S. companies, which promotes investment and trade between the U.S., Jamaica and the wider Caribbean region
Private Sector Organization of Jamaica - www.psoj.org – a grouping of private sector associations, companies and individuals. The organization influences national policy by promoting discussions with the country's political directorate.
Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association – www.jma.com.jm - represents manufacturers and organizations providing services to these sectors.
Jamaica Chamber of Commerce - www.jcc.org.jm – assists companies doing business in Jamaica and has influenced the passage of legislation and regulations .
There are no areas of the manufacturing or services sectors restricting ownership or business opportunities to locals.
Jamaica Trade and Invest (JAMPRO) - http://www.jamaicatradeandinvest.org/
National Contracts Commission - www.ncc.gov.jm
U.S. Commercial Service Caribbean - www.buyusa.gov/caribbean
The U.S provides Jamaica with almost 20% of its mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials. However, in 2014 there was a 42% spike in imports, fuelled by Automotive Diesel Oil (ADO). The increase was due to a temporary diversion of trade from Trinidad and Tobago due to upgrades at its refinery.
Mineral Fuels, Lubricants and Related Materials ($Million)
Imports from U.S.
Exports to U.S.
Source: Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN)
Best prospects in this category include lubricating oils and motor spirits (gasoline).
With the country signaling its attention to change its fuel source for generating electricity to gases, liquid natural gas (LNG) and related products could grow in importance in the next two to three years.
Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining – www.mstem.gov.jm
Petrojam – www.petrojam.com
U.S. brands enjoy significant goodwill in the Jamaican market, underpinned by a long tradition of safety and quality. However, Jamaicans are increasingly price sensitive, leading to a diversion of sales to cheaper competitors. Imports have declined by 8% during the last four years. Notwithstanding, machinery built in the U.S. remains visible at construction sites, large farms, and industrial facilities across Jamaica. There is still a strong market for telecommunications and data related products, batteries and electrical components. Right-handed vehicles out of Japan and Europe continue to dominate the market, but the U.S. remains a major source market for auto parts and accessories.
Machinery and Transportation Equipment
Imports from the U.S.
Best prospects include wheel rims, shock absorbers, clutch parts, brake parts, tires, and other general accessories.
Jamaican authorities monitor the quality of the imports and this scrutiny increases opportunities for new higher quality aftermarket auto parts.
Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce - www.mct.gov.jm
Trade Board - www.tradeboard.gov.jm
Jamaica Customs - www.jacustoms.gov.jm
Growth in the imports of chemicals from the U.S. has been driven by the increasing demand for ethanol to satisfy Jamaica’s E-10 program. However, Jamaica continues to be a strong market for sodium hydroxide for the bauxite industry, cosmetics, jewelry and pharmaceuticals. Demand for pharmaceuticals has been driven by the growing access to healthcare, an aging population and increased lifestyle diseases.
Chemicals and Related Materials
Exports to U.S.
Best prospects include medications for hypertension, respiratory diseases, sexually transmitted diseases and diabetes. Beauty products, jewelry, disinfectants and agricultural chemicals provide scope for growth
Exporters to Jamaica will find growing opportunities for pharmaceuticals as the population ages and lifestyle diseases become more prevalent. Demand for pharmaceuticals could also be driven by increased subscription to a National Health Fund. Health Corporation Limited, the government company responsible for the sourcing and distributing products to the public health sector, is a major importer of pharmaceuticals. There could also be increased demand for sodium hydroxide depending if the bauxite/alumina companies augment their operations.
Pharmaceutical Society of Jamaica - www.psj.org.jm
Ministry of Health - www.moh.gov.jm
Jamaica’s agriculture/food and beverage market represents good business opportunities for United States suppliers, particularly as the island’s tropical climate and difficult topography incentivize the production of crops that are largely different than those grown in the cooler climates of the United States.
During 2014, the total value of food imports to Jamaica was roughly USD 918 million, with approximately 40% of these imports supplied via sources in the United States. The majority of Jamaica’s total food imports are directed to the hotel, restaurant and institutional (HRI) sector. The remaining imports are channeled to consumers via retail outlets such as supermarkets, convenience stores, and small “mom-and-pop” shops.
According to estimates based on GCT data1, food, beverage and tobacco categories of goods accounted for 15.7% of total wholesale and retail sales in Jamaica during 2012, and 17.7% of such sales in 2011. The following charts provide estimates of the trade in food and agricultural products with Jamaica:
SITC Section “0”
Total Local Production
Imports from the U.S.3
1 Source: Planning Institute of Jamaica, Economic and Social Survey Jamaica, Table 19.4
2 Source: Planning Institute of Jamaica, Economic and Social Survey Jamaica, Table 6.2
3 Source: http://censtats.census.gov/cgi-bin/sitc/sitcCty.pl
SITC Section “1”
Imports from the U.S.2
1 Source: Planning Institute of Jamaica, Economic and Social Survey Jamaica, Table 6.2
2 Source: http://censtats.census.gov/cgi-bin/sitc/sitcCty.pl
General information on Jamaica’s retail and hotel sectors and the demand for U.S. food and beverages is available at: http://www.fas.usda.gov/scriptsw/attacherep/default.asp
Analysis of sub-sectors of Jamaica’s agriculture/food and beverage market:
Grains & Soybeans
Wheat flour is a major staple in Jamaica, with the country listed among the highest per capita consumers of flour and flour based products, providing an important market for U.S. suppliers. The sole mill in Jamaica is owned by U.S. company ADM Milling, giving U.S. wheat a possible advantage. However, wheat flour from Canada competes with U.S. imports in the fine bakery segment of the market.
The exposure to U.S. culture has created a demand for U.S. products, including breakfast cereal. This combined with the trend to a more healthy diet has led to increased consumption of breakfast cereals and non-dairy milk substitutes (such as soy milk). Higher priced U.S. cereals are positioned in the less price sensitive market segments on the basis of quality. Breakfast cereals from Trinidad and Tobago, a major supplier, are positioned in the lower priced category.
Demand for soybean and meal and coarse grains is largely driven by the livestock sub-sector, particularly the poultry industry. Imports of these products are expected to be strong as Jamaican demand for poultry is high, with chicken remaining a core Jamaican food.
Fruits & Vegetables
Importation of fruits and vegetables continues to be popular, as demand within the hotel/restaurant and retail sectors remain high. Some fruits (apples, pears, strawberries, plums, kiwis) and vegetables (broccoli, asparagus, spinach) will continue to growth as very small (or no) areas in Jamaica are suitable for producing these crops. However, products such as tomatoes, carrots, cabbages, melons, lettuce, and other fruits and vegetables that compete directly with local products are less competitive, and Jamaica’s Safeguard Act of 2001 further advantages local producers. Imports of these products, however, can increase during periods of shortages. Imported garlic and capsicums will remain competitive since local production is on a limited scale.
Demand for prime beef cuts comes primarily from the hotel industry since per capita beef consumption remains relatively low among Jamaicans. On the other hand, Jamaicans are one of the highest per capita consumers of chicken. Chicken is primarily produced locally due to high import duties, although lower quality cuts may enter duty-free. Goat meat is a principal component of local cuisine. Mutton and goat imports have been growing in importance among Jamaicans, but this market is generally price sensitive.
According to a statement from the Jamaica Pig Farmers Association in 2008, Jamaican pork consumption is roughly one-seventh of the global average per capita pork consumption. At present, the Government of Jamaica bans the importation of most pork from the United States, and cites concerns about pseudo-rabies as the reason for the ban. Commercial swine herds in the United States have been declared free of pseudorabies since 2004, but the Jamaican ban still remains in place. USTR and USDA view the ban as unjustified and have been encouraging its removal. Import of processed U.S. pork that has been “hermetically sealed” is permitted.
The demand for wines and spirits in Jamaica is driven by the hotel and restaurant sub-sector. The presence of all-inclusive hotels in Jamaica favors low cost producers, such as South American wines. In recent years, U.S. brands have made small gains in market share and their consumption can be expected to increase in the medium to long term. The United States competes with European producers in Jamaica’s sparkling wine market, and with producers from Australia, Europe and South America in the market for other wine products. Jamaica annually imports over one million liters of vodka, brandy, gin, and other spirits. The Jamaican consumer generally has shown a preference for local rum over imported spirits. Diageo, which owns locally-produced Red Stripe beer, is the dominant player in beer, offering Heineken and Guiness as well.
Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados are major suppliers of snack foods to the Jamaican market, protected by a 20 percent CET on all snack products originating outside of CARICOM. However, U.S. products do compete based on quality and strong brand identification. Grocery stores across Jamaica carry a wide range of U.S. brand foodstuffs, and hoteliers in Jamaica’s tourist centers routinely purchase U.S. food products to satisfy guests’ expectations.
Jamaica Trade and Invest (JAMPRO) – http://www.jamaicatradeandinvest.org
Jamaica Tourism Board - http://www.jtbonline.org
Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association - http://www.jhta.org/
Jamaica Customs Agency remains an important revenue-generating entity, accounting for nearly 40% of Government revenue. Still, the Government has committed to gradually reducing duties, some as high as 180%. As a CARICOM member state, Jamaica applies a Common External Tariff (CET) to imports from other countries. The CET typically ranges from 10 - 20%.
In order to protect local producers, significant import duties remain on certain agricultural products (such as chicken and vegetables) and consumer goods. Certain items such as beverages and tobacco, motor vehicles, and some agricultural products carry an additional stamp duty (ASD) and special consumption taxes (SCT). Most imported items are also subject to a 16.5% General Consumption Tax (GCT).
There is a Standards Compliance Fee (SCF) of 0.3%, collected by Jamaica Customs on behalf of the Jamaica Bureau of Standards. The Bureau verifies product requirements, including labeling standards. There is an Environmental Levy of 0.5% on the cost, insurance, freight (CIF) value on imports to Jamaica.
Strict regulations govern the importation of drugs and pharmaceuticals for safety, efficacy and quality. The Food and Drug Act requires all drugs distributed or sold in Jamaica to be assessed and registered. Clinical tests of drug uses and side effects are reviewed with special attention paid to stability under high temperatures and humidity typical of the tropics; Typically, a drug will not be admitted for use in Jamaica until it has been safely used in the country of origin for a period of more than one year.
The following items require an import license: milk powder, refined sugar, plants and parts of plants for perfume or pharmaceutical purposes, gum-resins, vegetable saps and extracts, certain chemicals, motor vehicles and parts, arms and ammunition, and certain toys, such as water pistols and gaming machines. The Trade Board, which falls under the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce (MIIC), is responsible for granting licenses, which must be obtained before an item can be sold. Permits required for importing agricultural goods are issued by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF).
The documents required for the importation of goods are: (1) a supplier invoice; (2) certificate of origin; (3) bill of lading; (4) airway bill; and, (5) other shipping documents to include a declaration of value and an import license, if necessary. Certain products may also require a phytosanitary certification.
Upon arrival of the goods in Jamaica, the documents are submitted to the Customs authorities and relevant duties must be paid before the goods are cleared. The importer may also be required to present a tax compliance certificate, a Business Enterprise Number (BENO), and a Taxpayer Registration Number (TRN).
U.S. Commerce Department Export Controls - www.bis.doc.gov
Importers may obtain authorization for temporary admission of products for a period of three or four months. To claim temporary admission of merchandise, regular import documentation and the C25 Form, with customs authorization, must be presented by the importer upon the arrival of the merchandise. In addition, the importer is required to deposit or place in bond up to one and a half times the applicable duty, which is refunded on exit of the merchandise.
The Jamaican Bureau of Standards administers the Standards, Processed Food and Weights and Measures Acts, to which products entering Jamaica are subjected. It is the responsibility of importers and distributors to ensure that goods sold in Jamaica are properly labeled as required by the labeling standards. The Jamaica Bureau of Standards stringently exercises its judicial authority and is known to block the entry and sale of goods that are improperly labeled. Improper labeling may occur in several ways such as incorrect date format, non-English language, and other impediments of clarity. A full description of labeling requirements is to be found in Labeling Standards JS1 Parts 1 to 29.
The smallest individual unit of a pre-packaged good should be labeled in English and should include the proper name of the product, an accurate declaration of the contents, an accurate description of the ingredients, a date mark or date of minimum durability, as well as the name and traceable business address of the processor, manufacturer, packer, importer or distributor and the country of origin. Manufactured, expiration, and other date marks must conform to the traditional European "dd/mm/yy" or ISO's "yy/mm/dd" date formats. The United States’ conventional “mm/dd/yy” or the five-digit Julian "day-of-year year", “year day-of-year”, or other such modifications of the Julian system, are not accepted for the purpose of trade and commerce in Jamaica. Jamaica has not developed a definitive standard for the labeling of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) and Living Modified Organisms, but present directions favor adopting language developed by the Codex Alimentarius Commission.
Jamaica prohibits the import of the following items:
Newport East, Kingston 15
The Jamaica Bureau of Standards (“The Bureau”) is a statutory body established by the Standards Act of 1968. The Bureau of Standards is controlled by a Standards Council, which is responsible for policymaking and general administration. Standards are developed by standing committees representing varied interests, such as consumer groups, the manufacturing sector and the public in general. The Bureau’s main functions are formulating, promoting, and implementing standards for goods, services and processes. It develops and enforces technical regulations for those commodities and practices which affect health and safety.
The Bureau also facilitates trade and protects Jamaican consumers with the timely development and promulgation of national standards. The Standards and Certification department seeks industry participation in allowing the development of new standards and new markets both locally and regionally. The Bureau’s mandate includes (i) preparing standards for particular products, practices and processes and (ii) checking products against claims of conformity to published standards.
The Jamaica Bureau of Standards is the main standards development organization in Jamaica. At the Bureau, the preparation of standards is authorized by the Standards Council following representations from national organizations or from committees and staff of the Bureau of Standards. When the final draft of the standard is ready, it is sent to the Minister of Industry and Investment for approval after which it is made available to the public for comment. After consideration of the comments, a final document is prepared and the Standards Council recommends the document to the Minister for approval. The declaration of the standard is published and copies are made available for sale. Standards are revised every five years, while the Catalogue of Jamaican Standards is updated every six months. It includes a listing of all standards published to date as well as those approved by the Minister awaiting publication. The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), the National Council on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (NCTVET), private companies and government agencies and ministries also have a limited role in standards development.
The Jamaica Bureau of Standards is responsible for issuing licenses to use the Bureau’s Certification Mark (Mark of Conformity). A number of laboratories carry out tests in such areas as food analysis, chemistry, metallurgy, microbiology, building materials, furniture, packaging, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, weights and measures. Private companies involved in conformity assessment are Technological Solutions Limited and SGS Limited.
The National Certification Mark issued by the Bureau is a mark of quality awarded to products, processes, and practices, which conform to relevant standards. Products, which are proven to be of consistent and reliable quality, are granted the National Certification Mark. The Bureau encourages consumers to purchase products which bear this mark, as it guarantees consistent product quality. All manufacturers have the right to apply for the mark. The Bureau’s team of analysts and specialists examines the manufacturers’ processes, equipment, records, raw material, quality control systems, and the finished product to ensure good quality.
The Product Certification offered by the Bureau is voluntary (and at a cost to the applicant). Plans are being developed for the establishment of a National Certification body. Also being planned is a Compliance Sticker Program, which will allow local products of a suitable standard to bear a Compliance Sticker. The program will also extend to compliant imported products.
There is a mutual recognition agreement between the Bureau and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).
The Bureau offers laboratory accreditation to Chemical and Microbiological Laboratories, which apply for this recognition. Accreditation services may also be obtained from International agencies. Plans are in place for the development of a National Accreditation Body (separate from the Bureau of Standards), which will take over this function.
The Bureau’s Technical Information Center is the only national standards library in Jamaica. It is the center of the international standards information network and serves as:
The Bureau has membership in the following regional and international organizations:
Additionally, the Bureau cooperates with several other regional and international standards and metrology institutions such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), National Center for Metrology-Mexico (CENAM), Physikalisch Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB), American Society for Mechanical Engineers (ASME), National Office of Standards-Cuba (NC), Columbian Institute of Certification and Technical Standards (ICONTEC), Barbados national Standards Institute (BNSI), Trinidad and Tobago Bureau of Standards (TTBS), and the Guyana National Bureau of Standards (GNBS).
Proposed Technical Regulations are made available to the public for comment. A 30-day period is allowed before publication. Any entity, including U.S. companies, may comment on the proposals before they are published. The Bureau has a Technical Information Center, which has information on standards being developed. Final Technical Regulations are published in the Jamaica Gazette Supplement - Proclamations, Rules and Regulations.
Product labeling is one of the more important and topical matters handled by the Jamaica Bureau of Standards. The Catalogue of Jamaican Standards lists requirements for over 30 different commodities. The list is wide and varied and includes items such as footwear, precious metals, household appliances, panty hose, thread, animal feeds, toys, furniture, and various packaged goods.
Labeling requirements are contained in a series of mandatory standards for the Labeling of Commodities (JS 1: Part 1 through to JS 1: Part 30). Adherence to these requirements is closely monitored by the Bureau. Monitoring entails verification of labels against the specifications outlined in the particular labeling standard.
It is critical for the Bureau to develop a system that will allow the organization to exercise its duty with increased efficiency and effectiveness with respect to compliance to compulsory standards (technical regulations). The Label Registration Program was therefore proposed. This program aims to prevent labeling violations both at the Ports of Entry and in the Domestic Marketplace. Labels of each product can therefore be registered with the Bureau under this program. This registration program is voluntary and will assist the speedy processing of goods through Customs (using a database) for importers who have their labels registered with the Bureau.
The steps required for this process are:
1. The completion of the Label Registration Form
2. Submitting the form along with the labels of the products to be registered (preferably on line) to the Bureau of Standards
3. Make payment using either the e-commerce facility or the other means available and showing proof of payment
4. The label is assessed and a report done
5. If the label is in conformance with the standards, the registration will be approved and a registration number assigned and added to list of compliant labels
6. Where a labeling non-conformance is identified, the report shall indicate the areas of non-conformance, and make recommendation to effect corrections
7. The applicant will be required to implement the recommendations and re-submit the corrected label and proceed again
8. Label registration number now used by Customs to process imports
9. Routine periodic verification conducted by Bureau Inspectors/Officers to identify continued compliance
10. If non-compliance is identified, registration is withdrawn and distributor advised to re-register the label(s).
Bureau of Standards Jamaica
6 Winchester Road
P.O Box 113
Tel: (876) 632-4275 or (876) 618-1534
Fax: (876) 929-4736
Preferential Tariff Arrangements: Jamaica has enjoyed preferential tariff arrangements with: the United States under the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) and the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA); the European Union under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA); with Canada under CARIBCAN (a new trade agreement is being negotiated); and with other English-speaking Caribbean states under CARICOM. CARICOM has bilateral trade agreements with Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Colombia, and Venezuela.
The CBI provides duty-free entry to the United States to qualifying products of Jamaican origin (except textiles, footwear, handbags, luggage, work gloves, leather apparel, tuna fish, petroleum and petroleum products, and watches and watch parts from countries that do not enjoy Most Favored Nation status). An amendment was made to CBI provisions in 1990 (CBI II) allowing additional duty reduction on certain leather-related products, including handbags, luggage, flat goods, work gloves, and wearing apparel. To meet CBI eligibility standards, products must contain at least 35 percent value added in Jamaica, of which U.S. materials must comprise 15 percent of the value of the finished product. Articles assembled in Jamaica from 100 percent U.S. components are also given duty-free treatment (with certain exceptions, including textiles/apparel for which the U.S. duty is levied only on the value-added in Jamaica).
In May 2000, the U.S. Senate passed the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA). The aim of this Act is an expansion of the benefits provided under the CBI to Caribbean firms that export to the United States. In effect, it will restore the margin of preferences CBI countries enjoyed prior to the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), as well as improve the range of economic opportunities available to the countries. The Jamaican garment industry has not expanded under CBTPA as predicted due to: (1) the removal of preferential access to key markets following the removal of the quota system; (2) competition from low cost producers; (3) a large untrained labor force; (4) small factories that inhibit the achievement of economies of scale; (5) dependence on a few markets and on imported inputs; and, high overhead costs.
Jamaica has also signed a Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) with the United States, allowing U.S. taxpayers to deduct legitimate business expenses incurred in attending business meetings and conventions in Jamaica.
CARICOM and Canada commenced negotiations for a free trade agreement in 2007 to replace the existing non-reciprocal Caribbean-Canada Trade Agrement known as CARIBCAN. However, after seven rounds of negotiations, both parties have not been able to reach an agreement and no further negotiations are planned. Jamaica has been exporting certain items duty-free to Canada once eligible items meet a national-origin standard of 60 percent of the factory price originating in Jamaica, Commonwealth Caribbean countries, or Canada. Textiles, garments, lubricating oils, clothing, footwear, luggage, handbags, and leather garments are excluded. Processed and fresh vegetables comprise most of the trade under CARIBCAN. Alumina, representing approximately 80 percent of all exports to Canada, was already admitted duty-free prior to the establishment of CARIBCAN.
The Economic Partnership Agreement or EPA, a trade partnership required by the Cotonou Agreement to replace the trade component of Lome IV, was signed in January 2008. The EPA is expected to help ACP countries, including CARIFORUM, reduce poverty and achieve economic growth through sustainable trade with Europe.
Jamaica has been a leading member of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) since 1973, when four countries signed the Treaty of Chaguaramas. Over the years membership has grown to 15. There are also five (5) associate members, and The Bahamas is a member of the community, but not the common market. In 1989 a decision was taken to further deepen the integration process by establishing the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). This was expected to pave the way for the creation of a single economic space, where people, goods, services, and capital could move freely. To effect the CSME, a Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas was signed in 2002. In January 2006, CARICOM Heads of Government met in Jamaica to sign the single market aspect of the CSME, although at the time only six member countries, including Jamaica, had completed the process to bring the CSM into being. Six other countries have subsequently joined the CSM and the economic integration aspect of the CSME commenced in 2008.
Customs Act - https://www.jacustoms.gov.jm/docs/The%20Customs%20Act.pdf Customs Regulations - http://www.jacustoms.gov.jm/docs/CustomsRegulations.pdf
Customs Duty - http://www.jacustoms.gov.jm/home_template.php?page=duties&group_id=1#elevy
Prohibited Items - http://www.jacustoms.gov.jm/home_template.php?page=prohibited&group_id=1
Restricted Items - http://www.jacustoms.gov.jm/docs/Notice/RESTRICTED_ITEM_1_2013.pdf
CARICOM Secretariat - http://www.caricom.org
Jamaica Bureau of Standards - www.jbs.org.jm
Economic Partnership Agreement - http://www.crnm.org/index.php?option=com_docman&Itemid=113&task=doc_download&gid=365
Caribbean Basin initiative - http://web.ita.doc.gov/tacgi/eamain.nsf/6e1600e39721316c852570ab0056f719/7c06ed73d7a2d9c585257394004a9a05?OpenDocument
Treaty of Chaguaramas (CARICOM) - http://www.caricom.org/jsp/community/revised_treaty-text.pdf
The Government of Jamaica (GoJ) sees foreign direct investment (FDI) as a key driver for economic growth and is currently undertaking significant structural reforms to improve its investment climate. Suffering from a stagnant economy for more than two decades and one of the highest debt-to-GDP ratios in the world, the government began a four-year International Monetary Fund (IMF) program in May 2013. With the IMF’s blessing, the GoJ replaced discretionary incentives with legislation that simplifies the income tax regime and codifies tax benefits for all investors. Despite the progress, bureaucracy remains problematic for businesses and investors, with delays and challenges particularly noteworthy when registering property, paying taxes and enforcing contracts.
Jamaica received $551 million in FDI in 2014, down from $593 million in 2013. Tourism and infrastructure remain key drivers, accounting for two-thirds of the 2014 outlay. Spanish and Chinese investors continue to dominate investment in these sectors. Business process outsourcing (BPO), including call center and other technical support, has become an emerging sector for local and overseas investment - most prominently from the U.S. - and the government recently approved a five-year plan to expand the sector. Jamaica features electricity costs 4-5 times higher than in the U.S. primarily due to expensive and inefficient petroleum-based power plants and outdated energy infrastructure. While this could be an impediment for investment in many fields, the energy sector itself has become increasingly attractive to U.S. investors.
Primary investment risks include crime - security is required to protect the physical infrastructure of most properties and Jamaica's murder rate remains one of the highest in the hemisphere - and dealings with the government bureaucracy. Smaller risks can be attributed to the stagnant economy, low labor productivity, and labor disputes – some of which have mushroomed into protests in the past. Legislation was recently enacted to allow for flexi-work arrangements intended to enhance productivity. While public perception of corruption is high and remains a consideration for potential investors, few U.S. firms have identified corruption as a significant obstacle to foreign investment. Successive administrations have attempted to address corruption by enacting legislation and have signed various international conventions. To date, there have been no high-level convictions. Jamaica ranks 85 out of the 175 countries surveyed globally on Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index.
Attitude Toward Foreign Direct Investment
The Government of Jamaica (GOJ) is open to foreign investment in all sectors of its economy. Both the governing People’s National Party (PNP) and the opposition Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) have committed themselves to attracting foreign direct investment (FDI). Measures that once inhibited foreign investment, such as the Foreign Exchange Control Act, were eliminated decades ago, and Jamaica applies the principle of national treatment to foreign investors.
The GoJ signed a four-year, $932 million Extended Fund Facility (EFF) with the IMF in May 2013. As part of the program, the GOJ enacted an ambitious legislative agenda to make significant structural reforms to its economy. Between May and December 2013, Jamaica’s Parliament passed 11 pieces of legislation to improve the business environment and support economic growth through a simplified tax system and broadened tax base. During 2014 the government continued its reform agenda with the passage of an Insolvency Act to make bankruptcy proceedings more efficient. The establishment of credit bureaus and a Collateral Registry under the Secured Interest in Personal Property (SIPP) legislation are improving access to credit. Jamaica made starting business easier by consolidating forms and made electricity less expensive by reducing the cost of external connection works. The government implemented an electronic platform for the payment of taxes and has established a 90 day window for development approvals. A new Electricity Act and a new Procurement Bill have been introduced in Parliament for consideration. Once fully enacted, all of these measures will positively impact the investment climate.
Jamaica's commitment to regulatory reform has been an intentional effort to become a more attractive destination for foreign investment. According to the World Bank’s "Doing Business 2015" report, these legislative and economic reforms have helped improve the country's investment climate ranking from 85 to 58 (out of 189). Jamaica now boasts the highest ranking in the Caribbean and sixth place in Latin America and the Caribbean. Jamaica implemented 16 regulatory reforms during the review period, the largest number in the Caribbean. Jamaica improved 8 spots on the Global Competitiveness Index and is ranked 86 out of 144 countries for 2014/15. The country is ranked the third best country to do business in Latin America and the Caribbean according to the 2014 Forbes Best Countries for Business Report. However, Jamaica was cited for making taxes more costly for companies by introducing a minimum business tax in the World Bank Report. Bureaucracy remains a major impediment, with the country continuing to underperform in the areas of registering property, paying taxes and enforcing contracts.
Jamaica has not undertaken any investment policy reviews within the last three years in conjunction with the World Trade Organization (WTO), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), or United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The government last conducted a WTO review in January 2011 and an OECD review in 2004. Jamaica's Trade and Investment entity (JAMPRO) published a summary of Jamaica's economic & political landscape for potential investors. It is available at: http://www.jamaicatradeandinvest.org/resources/investing-jamaica-2015.
With IDB funding, a Tholons Report published in July 2012 evaluates opportunities in Jamaica's Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector.
There are no specific laws/regulations specifically related to foreign investment. The Companies Act and the Securities Act govern acquisitions, mergers and takeovers for publicly traded companies. Purchases of securities are also covered under the Securities Act, but are further regulated by the Financial Services Commission under the Exempt Distribution Guidelines 2008 and the Guidelines for Issuers of Securities 2008 for public and private offerings, respectively. The Companies Act was amended in 2013 to prescribe a single form for business registration and to make amendments for related matters. In 1996, the Securities Act was revised to bring it in line with international regulations. The takeover code was redesigned to ensure the integrity of the securities market while protecting minority shareholders.
Jamaica’s legal system is based on English common law and the rules covering the enforceability of contracts are based thereupon. The Jamaican judicial system therefore recognizes and upholds the sanctity of contracts. The system has a long tradition of being fair, but court cases can take years to resolve. Foreign investors also reserve the right to take cases to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the United Kingdom, Jamaica's final appellate court. The Embassy is not aware of any economic or industrial policy that has discriminatory effects on foreign investors.
Jamaica’s promotion agency Jamaica Trade and Invest (JAMPRO) lists the following priority sectors for investment: Logistics; Knowledge Services; Tourism; Manufacturing; Agribusiness; Creative Industries; Mining; and Energy. However, sector-specific incentives have been phased out and replaced by the new omnibus fiscal incentives framework that provides varying levels of tax relief in respect of customs duties, stamp duties and corporate income tax (see Section 5 Investment Incentives). The GOJ has also prioritized a Global Logistics Hub initiative with aspirations of positioning the country as a significant player in the global shipping and logistics industry . According to a Green Paper tabled in Parliament, geographic areas to be called Special Economic Zones (SEZs) will be carved out for "high impact investors." The proposal calls for incentives such as low corporate tax rates to be offered to attract international investors.
Jamaica does not impose limits on foreign ownership or control, and local laws do not distinguish between local and foreign investors. Foreign investors are granted National or Most Favored Nation Treatment, subject to the rules of their Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs). There are no sector-specific restrictions that discriminate against market access. The country is party to both multilateral and bilateral treaties that ensure non-discrimination. The Embassy is not aware of any discrimination against foreign investors at the time of initial investment or after the investment is made. However, under the Jamaican Companies Act, investors are required either to establish a local company or to register a branch office of a foreign-owned enterprise. Branches of companies incorporated abroad must also register with the Registrar of Companies if they intend to operate in Jamaica. There are no laws or regulations requiring firms to adopt articles of incorporation or association that limit or prohibit foreign investment, participation or control.
Jamaica has actively courted foreign investors as part of its divestment strategy. In certain instances the government encourages local participation, and restrictions may be placed on certain assets due to national security concerns. Privatization can occur through sale, lease or concession. Transactions are generally executed through public tenders, but the government reserves the right to accept unsolicited proposals. The Development Bank of Jamaica, which oversees the privatization program, is mandated to ensure that the process is fair and transparent. When some entities are being privatized, advertisements are placed locally and through international publications, such as the Financial Times, New York Times and Wall Street Journal, to attract foreign investors. Requests for proposals normally include the specific requirements under which bidders are allowed to participate and the criteria by which proposals will be evaluated. Foreign investors have won most of the privatization bids in the last decade.
The Government has identified dozens of public assets to be privatized, drawing from various sectors. While the time taken to divest assets depends on state of readiness and complexity, on average, transactions take between 18 and 24 months. The process involves pre-feasibility and due diligence assessments; feasibility studies; pre-qualification of bidders; and a public tender. In April 2015, the government signed a 30-year concession agreement for operation of the Kingston Container Terminal port facility. The Urban Development Corporation manages many assets available for privatization. Other assets to be privatized include Norman Manley International Airport, Petroleum Company of Jamaica and Caymanas Track Limited.
List of current privatization transactions: http://www.dbankjm.com/privatisation/current-transactions
No formal screening mechanisms exist for foreign investments. If investors apply for government incentives or will operate in a regulated sector, they must meet basic prerequisites, and due diligence may be carried out by the approving or regulating authority. This process is not discriminatory and is not intended to impede investment. Jamaica has undertaken a comprehensive program of trade and financial liberalization and most sectors are open to foreign investment. The government reserves the right to approve or reject projects with national security implications or for environmental considerations. Sectors such as financial services, media, energy and mining are subject to regulatory approvals and regulation. The Public Health (Tobacco Control) Regulations, in effect since July 2013, provides guidance for the manufacture, distribution, marketing and use of tobacco and tobacco products. These regulations bring Jamaica into compliance with the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which the country ratified in July 2005.
See tobacco control at http://www.moh.gov.jm/
The Fair Trading Commission (FTC), an agency of the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce (MIIC), administers Jamaica's Fair Competition Act (FCA). The major objective of the FCA is to foster competitive behavior and provide consumer protection. The Act therefore forbids arrangements that substantially lessen competition or behavior that results in the abuse of a dominant position. The Act proscribes the following anti-competitive practices: resale price maintenance; tied selling; price fixing; collusion and cartels; and bid rigging. The act does not prohibit mergers or acquisitions that could lead to the creation of a monopoly. However, the government has raised the possibility of enacting antitrust legislation. The FTC is empowered to investigate breaches of the Act. Businesses or individuals in breach can be taken to court if they fail to take corrective measures outlined by the FTC.
Jamaica, the third highest recipient of FDI in the Caribbean, attracted almost $700 million in foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2014, up from $654 million in 2013, and approaching the annual average recorded prior to the global economic crisis. FDI hit a 15-year low of $218 million in 2011 that almost doubled to $413 million in 2012. The country anticipates additional increases in FDI partly due to legislative and economic reforms that are improving the country's investment climate.
Tourism has driven FDI recently, as Jamaica’s strong brand continues to attract investment. Notable tourism projects include the Marriott Courtyard ($130 million), Playa Hotel and Resorts ($85 million), and Moon Place Resort ($150 million). An additional $500 million in investments are in the pipeline, including the development of a hospital for medical tourism courtesy of Spanish investors. The government has also received five bids for Integrated Resort Development (IRD) projects. These mega-developments, regulated by the Casino Gaming Regulations 2012, require investors to invest at least $1.2 billion to develop 1,000 hotel rooms and demonstrate plans for another 1,000 in order to receive permission to establish gambling facilities.
Over the last five years, business process outsourcing (BPO), including call center and other technical support, has increasingly attracted local and overseas investment, and the government recently approved a five-year plan to expand the sector. North American businesses see the country's English speaking population, cultural affinity with and geographic proximity to the U.S. and Canada, and growing number of university graduates as strong reasons to relocate such operations to Jamaica’s shores. U.S. firms dominate the 40 BPO companies operating in the country and account for most of the 17,000 jobs.
In late 2013, China Harbor Engineering Company (CHEC) took over the $610 million construction of a highway connecting Kingston with the north coast town of Ocho Rios. The Chinese outfit is designing, building, operating and financing the 67 kilometer toll road and will receive 1,200 acres of lands along the toll road for housing, commercial development and hotels in return. Chinese company Gao Zhen Real Estate & Development Co. Ltd, in partnership with the Housing Agency of Jamaica, is planning to construct approximately 30,000 affordable housing units across the island.
Jamaica is courting international investors for its proposed Logistics Hub initiative to take advantage of an expanded Panama Canal. As one piece of the puzzle, the government signed a long-awaited $600 million concession agreement with a CMA CGM led consortium in April 2015 to upgrade, expand, and operate the Kingston Container Terminal for thirty years. The concessionaire is expected to spend an additional $130 million to dredge Kingston Harbor to accommodate post-Panamax vessels. Separately, a $1.5 billion harbor and port facility to be constructed by CHEC is currently under negotiations and is expected to compliment this broader hub initiative.
The energy sector is expected to attract additional FDI as the country seeks to diversify its energy supply and reduce the high cost of electricity frequently cited as a binding constraint to economic growth. One U.S. company broke ground on a $90 million wind project in February 2015, while another U.S. company is expected to follow in mid-2015 on a $60 million solar farm. Both are receiving financing through the U.S. Government’s Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). The monopoly electricity provider, Jamaica Public Service Company, intends to convert a heavy fuel oil (HFO) plant to gas and build a new 190 MW gas turbine plant. Two of the country's bauxite/alumina companies have also submitted proposals to construct new power plants.
There are no restrictions on holding funds or on converting, transferring, or repatriating funds associated with an investment. Jamaica repealed the Exchange Control (Removal of Restrictions) Order in 1991, allowing for the Jamaican Dollar to be determined in the domestic foreign exchange market. The central bank (Bank of Jamaica) manages a floating exchange rate with no pre-determined path. The BOJ may intervene with the sales and purchases of foreign currency to smooth out demand and supply. Investment-related funds are freely convertible to regularly traded currencies, particularly into United States and Canadian Dollars and the Great Britain Pound. However, foreign exchange transactions must be conducted through authorized foreign exchange dealers, cambios, and bureau de change. Foreign exchange is generally available and investors are free to remit their investment returns.
The country's financial system is fully liberalized and subject to market conditions. There is no required waiting period for the remittance of investment returns. Any person or company can purchase instruments denominated in foreign currency. There are no restrictions or limitations on the inflow or outflow of funds for the remittance of profits or revenue. While the central bank intervenes with the sale and purchase of foreign currency to smooth out demand and supply conditions, the country does not possess the financial muscle to engage in currency manipulation.
Expropriation is generally not an issue in Jamaica, and there are no outstanding cases. However, expropriation of land may take place for national development under the Land Acquisition Act, which provides for compensation on the basis of market value. The U.S. Embassy in Kingston is not aware of any expropriation-related litigation ongoing between the Jamaican government and any private individual or company. However, the U.S. Embassy has assisted investors who had property expropriated during the 1970’s socialist regime, with a payment in one such case received as recently as 2010.
Legal System, Specialized Courts, Judicial Independence, Judgments of Foreign Courts
Jamaica has a common law legal system and court decisions are generally based on past judicial declarations. The Jamaican Constitution provides for an independent judiciary with a three-tier court structure. A party seeking to enforce ownership or contractual rights can file a claim in the Resident Magistrate or Supreme Court. Appeals on decisions made in these courts can be taken before the Court of Appeal and then to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the United Kingdom. The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) hears appeals in civil and criminal matters from common law courts within CARICOM member states such as Jamaica.
Jamaica does not have a single written commercial or contractual law, and case law is therefore supplemented by the following pieces of legislation: (1) Arbitration (Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Awards) Act; (2) Companies Act; (3) Consumer Protection Act; (4) Fair Competition Act; (5) Investment Disputes Awards (Enforcement) Act; (6) Judgment (Foreign) (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act; (7) Law Reform (Frustrated Contracts) Act; (8) Loans (Equity Investment Bonds) Act; (9) Partnership (Limited) Act; (10) Registration of Business Names Act; (11) Sale of Goods Act; (12) Standards Act; and, (13) Trade Act. The commercial and civil divisions of the Supreme Court have jurisdiction to hear intellectual property claims.
Jamaica enforces the judgments of foreign courts through: (1) The Judgment and Awards (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act; (2) The Judgment (Foreign) (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act; and, (3) The Maintenance Orders (Facilities for Enforcement) Act. Under these acts, judgments of foreign courts are accepted where there is a reciprocal enforcement of judgment treaty with the relevant foreign state. International arbitration is also accepted as a means for settling investment disputes between private parties. Jamaica is a signatory to the New York Convention (the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards) which governs the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitration awards. The Jamaican Arbitration (Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Awards) Act enables foreign arbitral awards under the New York Convention to be enforced in Jamaica.
Jamaica enacted new insolvency legislation in 2014 that replaced the Bankruptcy Act of 1880 and seeks to make the insolvency process more efficient. The reform addresses bankruptcy; insolvency, receiverships; provisional supervision; and winding up proceedings. The law addresses corporate and individual insolvency and facilitates the rehabilitation of insolvent debtors, while removing the stigma formerly associated with either form of insolvency. Both insolvents and “looming insolvents” (persons who will become insolvent within twelve months of the filing of the proposal if corrective or preventative action is not taken) are addressed in the reforms. The act prescribes the circumstances under which bankruptcy is committed; the procedure for filing a bankruptcy petition; and the procedures to be followed in the administration of the estates of bankrupts.
The act contains provision for debtors to make proposal to their creditors for the restructuring of debts, subject to acceptance by the creditor. Creditors can also invoke bankruptcy proceedings against the debtor if the amount owed is not less than the prescribed threshold, or the debtor has committed an act of bankruptcy. The filing of a proposal or notice of intention to file a proposal creates a temporary stay of proceedings. During this period, the creditor is precluded from enforcing claims against the debtor. The stay does not apply to secured creditors who take possession of secured assets before the proposal is filed; gives notice of intention to enforce against a security at least 10 days before the notice of intention or actual proposal is filed; or, rejects the proposal. The 2014 legislation makes it a criminal offence if a bankrupt defaults on certain obligations set out in the legislation. Jamaica moved up two places to 57 on the resolving insolvency ranking of the Doing Business Report, with bankruptcy proceedings taking just over a year to resolve; costing about 18% of the estate value; and having a recovery rate about 64%.
http://www.japarliament.gov.jm/attachments/341_The%20Insolvency%20Act%202014%20No.14%20rotated.pdf - Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act
While not a formal investment dispute, in 2005 the government implemented a levy on incoming telephone calls from overseas to finance a Universal Access Fund for e-learning activities in Jamaican schools. U.S. telephone companies protested this levy and requested Federal Communications Commission backing to persuade the Jamaican government to either remove the fee or level the playing field by imposing a similar fee on local companies. This dispute remains unresolved.
Jamaica accepts international arbitration of investment disputes between foreign investors and the Government as well as with private parties. Local courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards. The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) serves as the international tribunal for disputes within the CARICOM Single Market and Economy. The Dispute Resolution Foundation and the Caribbean Branch of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators both facilitate arbitration. For countries such as the U.S. that have a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) with Jamaica, the rules of this treaty apply for qualifying investors. Other foreign investors are given national treatment and civil procedures apply.
Disputes between enterprises are handled in the local courts, but foreign investors can refer cases to International Center for Settlement of Disputes (ICSID). There have been cases of trademark infringements in which U.S. firms took action and were granted restitution in the local courts.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
Jamaica became a signatory to the International Center for Settlement of Disputes (ICSID) in 1965.
Jamaica is a signatory to the New York Convention (the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards), which governs the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitration awards. The Jamaican Arbitration (Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Awards) Act enables foreign arbitral awards under the New York Convention to be enforced in Jamaica. International arbitration is also accepted as a means for settling investment disputes between private parties.
Jamaica enforces the judgments of foreign courts through: (1) The Judgment and Awards (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act; (2) The Judgment (Foreign) (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act; and, (3) The Maintenance Orders (Facilities for Enforcement) Act. Under these acts, judgments of foreign courts are accepted where there is a reciprocal enforcement of judgment treaty with the relevant foreign state.
Duration of Dispute Resolution
The system has a long tradition of being fair, but court cases can take years or even decades to resolve. Challenges with dispute resolution usually reflect broader problems within the court system including long delays and resource constraints. Subsequent enforcement of court decisions or arbitration awards is usually adequate, and the local court will recognize the enforcement of an international arbitration award.
A specialized Commercial Court was established in 2001 to expedite the resolution of commercial cases. The rules do not make it mandatory for commercial cases to be filed in the Commercial Court and the Court has been largely underutilized by litigants. Subsequent enforcement of court decisions or arbitration awards are usually adequate, and the local court will recognize the enforcement of an international arbitration award.
Jamaica ranked 117 in the 2015 Doing Business Report for the length of time taken for the enforcement of contracts in the courts.
Jamaica is a signatory to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement and is in compliance with most Uruguay Round obligations, including TRIMS obligations. The GoJ passed a suite of legislation referred to as "the Omnibus legislation" that took effect on January 1, 2014, fulfilling its WTO mandate and replacing incentives that were non-compliant with the WTO Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures.
The Fiscal Incentives (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2013 repeals most of the legacy incentive legislation and provides flexibility for new tax incentives to only be granted in relation to the bauxite sector, export free zone activities, the relocation of corporate headquarters, and Junior Stock Exchange listings. The Act also outlines the arrangement for transitioning to the new regime. Continuing beneficiaries may elect to keep old incentives such as relief from income tax and customs duty as well as zero-rated GCT status for imports.
Below are short descriptions of notable investment incentives that were recently enacted or remain in place.
Omnibus legislation - Provides tax relief on customs duties, additional stamp duties and corporate income tax. These benefits are granted under the following four areas:
(1) The Fiscal Incentives Act: Targets small and medium size businesses and reduces the effective corporate income tax rate by applying: (a) an Employment Tax Credit (ETC) at a maximum value of 30%; and (b) a capital allowance applicable to a broadened definition of industrial buildings.
(2) The Income Tax Relief (Large-Scale Projects and Pioneer Industries) Act: Targets large-scale projects and/or pioneering projects and provides for an improved and more attractive rate for the ETC. Projects will be designated either as large-scale or pioneer, based on a decision by Parliament and subject to an Economic Impact Assessment.
(3) Revised Customs Tariff: Provides for the duty free importation of capital equipment and raw material for the productive sectors.
(4) Revised Stamp Duty Act: Provides exemption from additional stamp duty on raw materials and non-consumer goods for the manufacturing sectors.
Urban Renewal Act: Companies that undertake development within Special Development Areas can benefit from Urban Renewal Bonds, a 33.3% investment tax credit, tax free rental income and the exemption from transfer tax and stamp duties on the ‘improved’ value of the property.
Bauxite and Alumina Act: Under this act, bauxite/alumina producers are allowed to import all productive inputs free of import duties, VAT and other port related taxes and charges.
The Foreign Sales Corporation Act: This act provides exemption from income tax for five years for qualified income arising from foreign trade. U.S. law through the Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) reinforces this incentive.
The Jamaican EX-IM Bank provides concessionary interest rate loans for trade financing, while the Development Bank of Jamaica offers reduced lending rates to the productive sectors. Special tax incentives exist for companies that register on the junior stock market.
Jamaica Free Zone Act: Under this revised Act, companies granted free zone status are permitted to import items free of customs duty, value-added tax and other port related taxes and charges. Profits earned are also free from income tax. To become eligible for these benefits, firms must export at least 85% of the goods and services produced within the free zone. This Act is slated to be repealed in 2015 at which time a new arrangement will be put in place.
Income Tax Act (Junior Stock Exchange): As of January 1, 2014, companies listed on the Junior Stock Exchange are not required to pay income tax in the first five years. This benefit will expire altogether on December 31, 2016.
Research and Development
Foreign firms are allowed to participate in GOJ-financed or subsidized research and development programs on the basis of national treatment. However, few opportunities exist for such programs.
No performance requirements are generally imposed as a condition for investing in Jamaica, and government-imposed conditions to invest are not overly burdensome. However, companies with Free Zone status must export at least 85 percent of their output. The government does not mandate local employment, although the use of foreign workers to fill semi-skilled and unskilled jobs is generally frowned upon, especially by trade unions. When requesting work permits for foreign workers, local employers must describe efforts to recruit locally. Still, the requirements to recruit labor are not excessively onerous.
The Jamaican government does not follow “forced localization,” requiring domestic content in goods or technology. There are no requirements to provide the government access to surveillance of data, and there are no restrictions on maintaining certain amounts of data storage within the country.
Private entities, whether foreign or domestic, generally have the right to freely establish, own, acquire, and dispose of business enterprises and may engage in all forms of remunerative activity.
Property rights are guaranteed by the Constitution. Jamaica has a system of registered titles set out in the Registration of Titles Act, which recognizes and provides for the enforcement of secured interests in property by way of mortgage. It also facilitates and protects the acquisition and disposition of all property rights, though working through Jamaica’s bureaucracy can result in significant delays. In particular, it sometimes takes a long time for landowners to secure titles.
Approximately 55% of the land in Jamaica is registered, although a large percentage of those properties likely do not have current title, as many families who pass land ownership from parent to child often do not go through the proper legal channels due to the cost and time involved. The Government has made an effort to improve the percentage of land with clear title, but much work is left to be done.
Squatting is also a major challenge in Jamaica, where nearly 20% of the population lives on squatted land. Three-quarters of squatters reside on government lands. Under the Registration of Titles Act, a squatter can claim a property by adverse possession (without compensating the owner for the land) if a person can demonstrate that he has lived on government land for more than 60 years, or on private property for more than 12 years undisturbed (including without any payment to the land owner).
The country's Doing Business Report ranking for ease of “registering property” fell to 126 due largely to the high costs involved. However, the country continues to outperform its Latin America and Caribbean peers in the number of procedures and time required to close a property transaction.
Registration of Titles Act - http://moj.gov.jm/sites/default/files/laws/Registration%20of%20Titles.pdf
Intellectual Property Rights
Jamaica has one of the stronger IP protection regimes in the Caribbean, although legislative and enforcement gaps still exist. Jamaica is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and is a signatory of the Bern Convention. Jamaica and the U.S. have an Intellectual Property Rights Agreement and a BIT, which provide assurances to protect intellectual property. It is relatively easy to register IP, and The Jamaica Intellectual Property Office provides good assistance to parties interested in registering IP, and support investors’ efforts to enforce their rights. Overall, protections across all types of IP are improving.
Law enforcement efforts to combat counterfeit and pirated goods are adequate on the ground, but border enforcement remains a challenge. IP violations tend to be more in relation to physical goods, while electronic IP theft is less common. Jamaica, along with several other Caribbean countries, have been cited in the last several years’ Special 301 Report for the absence of compensation to performance rights organizations as well due to concerns regarding cable and satellite broadcasting of copyrighted network programming.
The country's trademark and copyright regimes already satisfy the WTO's Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), although the patent and design law is not yet TRIPS compliant. A new Patent & Designs Bill, including new rules and fee structures, has been drafted and is currently under review by the Chief Parliamentary Council of Jamaica. There is guarded optimism that Parliament will vote on the bill this year. The Geographical Indications Act (GI) of 2004 is now fully in force and TRIPS compliance, protecting products whose particular quality or reputation is attributable to its geographical origin. General law provides protection for trade secrets, and protection against unfair competition is guaranteed under the Fair Competition Act.
The Copyright Act complies with the TRIPS Agreement and adheres to the principles of the Bern Convention, and covers works ranging from books and music to computer programs. Amendments in June 1999 explicitly provide copyright protection on compilations of works such as databases and make it an offense for a person to manufacture or trade in decoders of encrypted transmissions. It also gives persons rights in encrypted transmissions or in broadcasting or cable program services a right of action against persons who infringe upon their rights. Draft amendments are currently being reviewed by the government to give effect to the provisions of the WIPO Copyright Treaty and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (the Internet Treaties) to which Jamaica acceded in 2002, and is expected to be passed in 2015.
A special unit of the police force tracks and reports the seizures of counterfeit goods, valued at $15 million between April 2013 and April 2014. The most commonly counterfeited goods include CDs/DVDs, alcohol, cigarettes, clothing, and lotions/creams. However, border enforcement remains a challenge, as customs officers do not exercise ex officio authority to seize and destroy counterfeit goods and rights holders must first inspect the goods and draft a declaration.
Customs seeks to ensure that the Government does not suffer revenue losses nor bear the financial burdens related to storage and disposal of suspected IPR-infringing goods. Presently the Commissioner may grant up to ten days for a right holder to produce the required evidence and commitments before releasing suspected counterfeit goods that are in transit.
For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/.
Resources for Rights Holders
Embassy point of contact:
American Chamber of Commerce - http://www.amchamjamaica.org/
List of local attorneys: http://kingston.usembassy.gov/attorney_services3.html
Jamaica Intellectual Property Office - https://www.jipo.gov.jm/
Jamaica’s legal, regulatory and accounting systems are transparent and consistent with international norms, and Jamaica has adopted the new International Financial Reporting System. Proposed legislation is available for public comment and submissions are generally invited from members of the public for items considered to be controversial. A Fair Competition Act (FCA) was implemented in 1993, administered by the Fair Trading Commission (FTC). The main objective of the FCA is to prevent business interests and government policies from hindering the efficiencies to be gained from a competitive system (See Section 1 Competition Law).
There are laws and policies covering taxation, labor, health and other issues to avoid distortions or impediments to the efficient mobilization and allocation of investment. However, investors argue that the Redundancy Act, which specifies terms regarding severance payment, is a disincentive to investment. In 2001, the mandate of the Anti-Dumping and Subsidies Commission was expanded through the implementation of a Safeguards Act, which protects producers from import surges. The GOJ also established the Office of Utilities Regulation to oversee and regulate of country's utilities.
The approval process for investment projects has improved but still take a minimum of three months for Free Zone projects and over a year for green-field projects. Plans to reduce bureaucracy and improve transparency and customer service levels within the public sector are in development with multilateral funding support, but meaningful reform has been minimal to date.
The U.S. Embassy is not aware of any informal regulatory processes managed by NGOs or private sector associations or of any private sector and/or GOJ effort to restrict foreign participation in industry standards-setting consortia or organizations. However, in December 2004, the FTC implemented a non-legislative code of conduct governing the petroleum industry. The mandates of this code place restrictions on property sales and contracts between marketing companies and retailers, and are enforceable through fines levied by the FTC.
Jamaica has taken concerted steps since the 1980s to foster private sector activity. These reforms intensified in the 1990s, resulting in trade, financial and capital account liberalization. Credit is now available on market terms, and foreigners are allowed to borrow freely on the local market at market-determined rates of interest. While some sophisticated financial products remain unavailable, the private sector still has access to a variety of credit instruments. A relatively effective regulatory system has been established to encourage and facilitate portfolio investment. The Financial Services Commission and the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) regulate these activities.
In 2014 the government passed a new Banking Services Act, under which the power to grant or revoke licenses for deposit-taking institutions is vested in the central bank, the Bank of Jamaica. The Act also contains provisions regarding the operation of financial holding companies. Jamaica has promulgated legislation to establish an international financial services center and be an offshore financial hub. The country is positioning itself as a mid-value competitor, concentrating on the provision of value-added services such as funds and trust administration.
Jamaica represents a relatively small portfolio investment market and as such there will be challenges for institutional investors who want to enter or exit large positions. The Jamaica Stock Exchange had an average daily trading value of about $600,000 in 2014 and market capitalization of almost $3 billion at the end of the year. The market for Jamaican global bonds is more liquid but increased demand could still have a major impact on price. Institutional investors therefore tend to be more active in the primary market. Trading in the foreign exchange market averages less than $50 million a day.
According to BOJ data, at the end of 2014 the country’s stock of net portfolio inflows was $1.8 billion, an increase of $248 million relative to 2013. Debt securities ($1.5 billion) made up largely of government issued securities accounted for the larger portion of portfolio inflow. Equity and investment funds shares of $300 million, in both publicly listed and private companies, accounted for the remaining inflows.
Money and Banking System, Hostile Takeovers
At the end of 2014, there were 11 supervised deposit-taking institutions consisting of 6 commercial banks, 2 merchant banks (Licensed under the Financial Institutions Act) and 3 building societies. The number of credit unions shrank from 47 at the end of 2009 to 38 at the end of 2014. However, credit union membership increased to over one million for the first time. At the end of 2014, commercial banks held assets of over $7 billion. Non-performing loans were just over $160 million, or 2.3% of total assets. Five of the country's six commercial banks, including the four largest, are foreign-owned. After a financial sector crisis in the mid-1990s that led to consolidations, the sector has performed better. The regulatory framework is now in line with international standards. Legislation passed in 2013 enhanced the BOJ's regulatory powers.
Based on the Rule 404 of the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE), fully paid shares shall be free from any restriction on the right of transfer and from all liens. Two listed companies have clauses within their memoranda and articles of association that restrict foreign investors, but these predate the JSE. JSE listing arrangements allow for 20 percent of issued share capital to be listed, but there is no requirement that stipulates that this threshold must be maintained after listing. The rules of the JSE and the Security Acts also have specific provisions relating to the process of takeover and mergers. There are no specific measures designed to protect against hostile foreign takeovers.
In 2009, Jamaica established a Junior Market for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) with capitalization of less than US$5 million as a sub-set of the Jamaica Stock Exchange. At the close of 2014, the Junior Market listed 21 companies. The Junior Market has provided a way to create equity investing opportunities for smaller businesses by offering tax incentives for listed companies. As of 2014, companies listed on the Junior Stock Exchange are not required to pay income tax in the first five years. This benefit will expire altogether on December 31, 2016.
Jamaican SOEs are most active in the agriculture, mining, energy and transport sectors of the economy. Of 190 public bodies, 82 are self-financing and therefore considered SOEs as either limited liability entities established under the Companies Act of Jamaica or statutory bodies created by individual enabling legislation. The Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica is one of the few public bodies allocating a portion of its budget to R&D, especially in the area of renewable energy.
Under Jamaica's procurement guidelines, SOEs must adhere to the provisions of the GOJ (Revised) Handbook of Public Sector Procurement Procedures and are expected to participate in a bidding process to provide goods and services to the government. SOEs also provide services to private sector firms. SOEs must report quarterly on all contracts above a prescribed limit to the Office of the Contractor General. SOEs generally do not receive preferential access to financing from state-owned investment vehicles with the exception of the PetroCaribe Deveopment Fund, which precludes private sector entities from accessing its funding. Since 2002, SOEs have been subject to the same tax requirements as private enterprises. SOEs are also required to purchase government-owned land and raw material and execute these transactions on similar terms as private entities would.
Jamaica's Public Bodies Management and Accountability Act (PBMA) requires SOEs to prepare annual corporate plans and budgets, which must be debated and approved by Parliament. As part of the government's economic reform agenda, SOE performance is monitored against agreed targets and goals, with oversight provided by stakeholders including representatives of civil society.
Fiscal reforms have prioritized divestment of SOEs, particularly the most inefficient. In recent years the GOJ sold three sugar factories to Chinese firm COMPLANT (incorporated in Jamaica as the Pan-Caribbean Sugar Company); Air Jamaica to Caribbean Airlines (which resulted in the GOJ owning 16% of Caribbean Airlines); the Pegasus Hotel to local hoteliers (Quivin Group); and Wallenford Coffee to AIC International Investments. The GOJ has substantial holdings in Jamaica’s oil refinery, some local tourist attractions and resorts, and a 19.9% stake in Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), the island’s sole electricity provider. Private firms compete with SOEs on fair terms and SOEs generally lack the same profitability motives as private enterprises, leading to the GOJ absorbing the debt of loss-making public sector enterprises.
OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance for SOEs
In 2012, the government approved a Corporate Governance Framework (CGF) to promote improved performance by SOEs. While Jamaican SOEs are not required to adhere to OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance, the CGF is based on international best practices and principles of corporate governance.
Jamaica public bodies report to a Board of Directors appointed by the responsible portfolio minister. No general rules guide the allocation of SOE board positions, but some entities may allocate seats to specific stakeholders. Under the CGF, persons appointed to boards should possess the skills and competencies required for the effective functioning of the entity. However, some board members are selected due to political considerations.
Sovereign Wealth Fund
Jamaica does not have a sovereign wealth fund or an asset management bureau.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) among many Jamaican companies remains a nascent concept. A 2007 ECLAC survey of four Caribbean countries, the most recent such survey for Jamaica, was coupled with a workshop that encouraged more companies to incorporate CSR practices into their business strategy. In 2013, the government provided additional financial incentives for corporations to support charity work through the Charities Act, under which corporations and individuals can claim a tax deduction on contributions made to registered charitable organizations.
Quite a few large publicly listed companies and multinational corporations in Jamaica maintain their own foundations that carry out social and community projects to support youth employment, reduce crime and fight corruption. The Private Sector Organization of Jamaica maintains a Corporate Governance Committee to promote best business practices to effectively compete in the global market. The Embassy is not aware of any independent NGO or business association whose primary mandate is to promote or monitor CSR.
A number of NGOs work on environmental education and advocacy as well as good governance initiatives and have achieved moderate success. There remain concerns among some in civil society that the lure of large foreign investment promising significant job creation trumps the government’s broader social and environmental responsibilities with few repercussions.
OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises
Jamaica is not an adhering government to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. However, the GoJ is in general agreement with such concepts and active civil society dialogue does occur when foreign interests operate in Jamaica.
Crime poses a greater threat to foreign investments in Jamaica than political violence. Violent crime, rooted in poverty, unemployment, and drug trafficking, is a serious problem in Jamaica, particularly in urban areas. Sporadic gang violence and shootings are concentrated in specific inner city neighborhoods, but can occur elsewhere. Extortion is a serious problem in certain urban commercial areas, and although rare, has also been known to occur on large construction project sites. In 2014, four employees of China Harbor Engineering Company (CHEC) were killed while transporting a $20,000 payroll for workers. In April 2009 small sporadic disturbances occurred in response to a new gasoline tax.
Many Jamaicans believe that corruption is one of the root causes of Jamaica’s high crime rate and economic stagnation. In 2014, Transparency International gave Jamaica a score of 38 out of a possible 100 on the Corruption Perception Index (CPI), one of the lowest scores in the Caribbean. According to the CPI, 85% of respondents in Jamaica felt that political parties were corrupt/extremely corrupt. That figure was 74% for parliament and 86% for the police force.
The Corruption Prevention Act defines a range of common law bribery offenses and acts of corruption that apply to all civil servants, including those not required to file declarations. Public servants can be imprisoned for up to ten years and fined as much as $100,000 if found guilty of engaging in acts of bribery, including bribes to foreign public officials. The legislation covers senior public officials and those working in sensitive positions, such as police and military officers. The legislation also contains provisions for the extradition of Jamaican citizens for crimes of corruption. The Proceeds of Crime Act allows for criminal and civil forfeiture and criminalizes money laundering related to corruption offenses. However, successful prosecutions for corruption are rare and the compliance rate for mandatory financial reports is around 52%.
Several government agencies seek to promote transparency in the public sector. The Major Organized Crime and Anticorruption Agency (MOCA), formed in August 2014, has the mandate to independently investigate official corruption and organized crime and report to the National Security Council through the Minister of National Security on matters of policy and performance. The Corruption Prevention Commission (CPC) oversees statutory financial declarations of public sector workers and investigates alleged acts of corruption. The Integrity Commission investigates corruption allegations for members of Parliament, and the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) seeks to ensure transparency and efficiency in government procurement. A new bill proposes to merge these latter three agencies into a single entity called the Integrity Commission, which is now under review by a joint select committee of Parliament. The bill’s architects hope the new agency will marshal scarce resources more effectively by combining the investigative and prosecutorial functions in-house. However, more successful prosecutions would send a stronger signal to investors that the country is serious about illicit activity.
A key area of concern for corruption is in government procurement, on which the OCG serves as a watchdog. In 2014 after the OCG criticized the bidding process for a new power plant, the Inter-American Development Bank withdrew its financing support, effectively ending the project. A 2011 report written by the Contractor General about corruption in the Jamaican Development Infrastructure Program led to the resignation of Mike Henry, then-Minister of Transportation & Works. Draft procurement legislation expected to be debated in 2015 intends to expand the role of a new Public Procurement Commission, aimed at promoting efficiency in public procurement proceedings and the implementation of procurement contracts while promoting transparency and equity in the award of contracts.
There has been criticism that Jamaica’s laws to combat corruption of public officials are not applied in an even-handed way. Still, in 2014, four prominent individuals, including a former senator, a businessman, a government projects manager, and a member of the National Executive Council of the governing political party were arrested and charged for fraud and corruption-related activities. During the same period, a senior superintendent of police was tried and convicted of corruption for attempting to use his office to influence a case before the court.
There are anecdotal reports that bribery is on the decline in many government service offices, including at the Registrar General’s office, which issues marriage and birth certificates, as well as for the issuance of motor vehicle fitness certificates. According to a recent survey, bribe solicitation rates by the police have also decreased steadily between 2006 and 2012, pushing back upward slightly to 6% in 2014. Approximately 5% of Jamaica’s total police force has been expelled for corruption and ethics-related concerns since 2008.
There appears to be bipartisan support for anti-corruption measures. At a recent conference organized by the Contractor General, the Attorney General Patrick Atkinson (on behalf of Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller) and Governor General Sir Patrick Allen affirmed their commitment to combating corruption. Other “watchdog” organizations operating in Jamaica include Transparency International, Jamaicans for Justice, Families Against State Terrorism and the Farquharson Institute of Public Affairs.
U.S. firms do not tend to cite corruption as an obstacle to foreign investment, nor has the Embassy seen evidence of disproportionate application of corruption measures against foreign investors.
UN Anticorruption Convention, OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery
Jamaica has ratified major international corruption instruments, including the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption and the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. Jamaica is not party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.
Resources to Report Corruption
Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA)
National Commercial Bank Building
Seventh & Eighth (7th & 8th) Floors, South Tower
2 Oxford Road
Phone: +1 (876) 754-3435 / +1 (876) 906-6318
24hr Hotline: 1-800-CORRUPT (1-800-267-7878)
National Integrity Action
Physical Address: 6a Oxford Rd. Kingston 5
Mailing Address: PO Box 112 Kingston 7
Phone: +1 876 906 4371/ Fax: 876-754-7951
Bilateral Taxation Treaties
Jamaica has an Bilateral Investment Treaty with the United States. According to the OAS Foreign Trade Information System, Jamaica has also signed bilateral investment treaties with Argentina, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Netherlands, Nigeria, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingston, and Zimbabwe.
Jamaica signed a bilateral Income Tax Convention with the U.S. in 1981, which seeks to avoid double taxation while preventing income tax evasion. Jamaica also has double taxation agreements with Canada, CARICOM, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
Jamaica has not signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the U.S., but CARICOM signed a Trade and Investment Framework (TIFA) with the U.S. in 2013. In 2014 Jamaica and the U.S. signed an inter-government agreement for reciprocal information sharing as part of the implementation of the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).
The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) has targeted infrastructure, telecommunications, construction, tourism and renewable energy as priority sectors to support in Jamaica. OPIC provides medium to long-term financing to ventures with significant U.S. participation with guarantees or loans between US$100,000 and $250 million per project. OPIC political risk insurance can insure projects up to US$40 million. Historically, OPIC has financed many projects in Jamaica. Currently, the energy sector is receiving particular attention as part of the Vice President-led Caribbean Energy Security Initiative, and OPIC is currently providing financing and political risk insurance for two large clean energy projects. Jamaica is a member of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA).
Jamaica had an estimated labor force of 1.3 million as of October 2014 with 14.2% unemployment. Women make up a slightly larger proportion of the labor force and account for 19.4% of the unemployed. Unemployment levels for 14-19 year olds (49%) and 20-24 year olds (33%) are significant. Most Jamaicans are employed in services including retail and tourism sectors, followed by construction, transport and communications. Since 1999 more Jamaicans have become trained in information technology, and the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry currently employs about 17,000 people. According to a World Bank study, migration to North America and the United Kingdom has led to a shortage of highly educated and experienced labor, including nurses, teachers. The education committee of the public/private Logistics Task Force is spearheading efforts to increase training to prepare the country’s workforce in relevant technical fields as Jamaica looks to establish itself as a regional logistics hub. While there are no official statistics on the informal economy, anecdotal evidence suggest large and growing informality, with some estimates as large as 40% of the formal economy.
The law provides for the rights of workers to form or join unions and to bargain collectively, but it does not protect the right to strike. Jamaica has an active and relatively strong trade union movement with membership equal to an estimated 20% of the labor force, although the movement has weakened in recent years. Some unions are affiliated with the country's two main political parties while others remain relatively independent. Labor relations between workers and management have traditionally been adversarial, although both political parties have attempted to improve that relationship more recently. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination, although it is not uncommon for private sector employers to lay off union workers and rehire them as contractors. Labor law entitles protections to all persons categorized as workers, although it denies contract workers coverage under certain statutory provisions, such as redundancy benefits.
The Employment (Termination and Redundancy Payments) Act provides redundancy pay to employees who are let go with at least two years of continuous employment. Workers with up to ten years of employment are entitled to two weeks payment for every year worked, while workers with over ten years employment are entitled to three weeks payment except in cases such as firing for cause. There are no unemployment benefits in Jamaica.
Jamaica has an Industrial Disputes Tribunal (IDT) to which the Minister of Labor may refer disputes that cannot otherwise be settled, and arbitrators’ decisions are final. The law denies collective bargaining if no single union represents at least 40% of the workers in the unit. Little unionized labor exists in Jamaica’s free zones.
Unionized workers in the sugar cane industry protested in 2013 against planned redundancies at three sugar factories after a private Chinese company took over the former government-owned operations. In 2014, low levels of violence occurred when local workers on a hotel construction site protested an influx of foreign workers. The government did not intervene directly in each case but encouraged dialogue and negotiations to run their course.
Jamaica has ratified most International Labor Organization (ILO) Conventions and international labor rights are recognized within domestic law. The government is committed to enforcing its child labor laws, although a lack of resources remains a challenge. Work is ongoing with ILO support to collect data on incidents of child labor, the majority of which occur in the informal sector. The government is under-resourced for investigations on worker abuse as well as on occupational safety and health checks. Still, incidents of these labor-related issues are not considered to be at alarming levels.
The government is currently adopting the ILO policy on HIV/AIDS in the workplace. In conjunction with the ILO and local stakeholders, the Government recently passed legislation guiding flexible working arrangements. Under the Work Permit Act, a foreign national who wishes to work in Jamaica must first apply for a permit issued by the Ministry of Labor. The law, which seeks to give first preference to Jamaicans, requires organizations planning to employ foreign nationals to prove that attempts were made to employ a Jamaican national.
The Export Free Zones Act allows investors to operate solely with foreign exchange in activities such as warehousing, refining, manufacturing, redistribution, processing, assembling, packaging, and services, including insurance and banking. Incentives offered include a 100 percent tax holiday in perpetuity, no import licensing requirements, and exemption from customs duties on construction and raw materials, capital goods, and office equipment. Manufacturing companies operating in the Free Zones are allowed to sell 15 percent of their production on the local market with the approval of the responsible minister.
Duty-free zones are primarily found in airports, hotels, and tourist centers and do not discriminate on the basis of nationality. The Kingston and Montego Bay Free Zones provide factory space for the above listed activities. Amendments to the Export Free Zones Act allow for the establishment of Single Entity Free Zones, with individual companies now designated as free zones. The Kingston Free Zone has an Informatics Park. Free trade zone contact information is available to potential investors upon request.
The government intends to transition the operation of free zones to special economic zones (SEZs) by the end of 2015 to comply with WTO rules for middle-income countries under the WTO Agreement on Export Subsidies and Countervailing Measures by the end of 2015. A proposed model is outlined in a Green Paper on Special Economic Zones but is still subject to legislative review.
Letters of credit are a common method of payment in Jamaica. Prior to the establishment of a solid business relationship, upfront payment should be requested, although many Jamaican companies dislike this approach. . Once a good business relationship has been formed, companies in good standing may move towards trading on an open account. In 2010 the Parliament of Jamaica approved the Credit Reporting Act and in March 2012, the government approved and granted a license to Creditinfo Jamaica, the country’s first credit bureau. A second credit reporting agency, Crif NM Credit Assure has also received a license. There is also a regional entity, Caribbean Information and Credit Ratings Services Limited (CariCRIS), formed in 2004. Occasionally, U.S. firms register trade complaints for non-payment by local buyers.
Financial Institutions in Jamaica provide a range of services for individual and business/corporate banking. These include current accounts, savings accounts, loans, credit cards and internet banking. Most credit cards issued by local banks are for use in Jamaica only, but international credit cards have grown in importance.
The Bank of Jamaica regulates deposit-taking institutions, money services businesses (e.g., cambios and remittance companies), and credit reporting agencies. According to the Bank of Jamaica, credit unions are designated by the Ministry of Finance as “specified financial institutions” under the Bank of Jamaica Act, enabling the Bank of Jamaica to obtain information on their operations. Regulations to establish a formal supervisory framework for these entities are being finalized. The Financial Services Commission regulates insurance companies, securities firms/dealers, unit trusts, private pension funds and mutual funds. At the end of 2013, there were seven commercial banks, two merchant banks and three building societies in Jamaica. There were also 38 credit unions with just over 1 million members.
Following a crisis in the financial sector in the 1990s, the GOJ increased the prudential and supervisory powers of the BOJ by passing the Financial Institutions Act and the Banking Act. Amendments were also made to the regulations governing Building Societies. The Banking Services Act passed in 2013 aimed to consolidate regulations. Credit Unions are now designated as ‘specified financial institutions’ under the Bank of Jamaica Act, bringing them under the supervision of the central bank. The Jamaica Deposit Insurance Corporation (JDIC) and a FSC were introduced to protect depositors and regulate institutions and brokers outside the scope of the Central Bank’s oversight. These adjustments have brought the regulatory standards governing the financial sector up to international standards and should therefore aid, rather than impede, businesses.
Since liberalization of the financial and capital accounts in the 1990s, foreign exchange controls have been removed, but the BOJ still regulates activities in the foreign exchange market. Foreign currency can be accessed through a network of authorized foreign exchange dealers, cambios, and bureaux de change at market-determined rates.
Canadian banks are the dominant players in the banking sector. Citigroup currently operates in Jamaica, but it does not offer retail-banking services. The Jamaica National Building Society and Victoria Mutual Building Society are Jamaican financial institutions with offices in the U.S. All Jamaican commercial banks have correspondent U.S. banking arrangements.
Major projects are financed by one or a combination of the following methods: private and debt equity; bank loans; retained earnings; development bank financing; international private capital; bonds; and bilateral and multilateral loans and grants. The U.S. Embassy has received reports from U.S. businesspeople noting difficulties in securing domestic financing in Jamaica. Local banks will often request several years of financial statements audited by Jamaican auditors, which newcomers to Jamaica are generally unable to provide.
The Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the U.S. Government’s Development Finance Institution, currently finances projects in Jamaica.
Multilateral Development Banks (World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, International Finance Corporation)
The U.S. Commercial Service maintains Commercial Liaison Offices in each of the main Multilateral Development Banks, including the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. These institutions lend billions of dollars in developing countries on projects aimed at accelerating economic growth and social development by reducing poverty and inequality, improving health and education, and advancing infrastructure development. The Commercial Liaison Offices help American businesses learn how to get involved in bank-funded projects, and advocate on behalf of American bidders. Learn more by contacting the Commercial Liaison Offices to the World Bank (http://export.gov/worldbank) and to the Inter-American Development Bank (http://export.gov/idb).
The World Bank and the IDB have committed a combined $1 billion in development financing over a four year period to 2017 to stimulate growth, increase fiscal stability and protect the vulnerable. A U.S. based company won the bid in 2013 to implement a new tax platform being financed by an IDB loan.
The International Finance Corporation (IFC), which operates an office in Jamaica, has helped fill the financing gap, providing over $240 million in syndications since 2013. The entity has also been providing investment and advisory services in energy, transport and logistics infrastructure.
Agencies of the United States Government:
Export-Import Bank (ExIm Bank) of the United States - http://www.exim.gov
Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) - http://www.opic.gov
SBA's Office of International Trade - http://www.sba.gov/oit/
USDA Commodity Credit Corporation - http://www.fsa.usda.gov/ccc/default.htm
U.S. Agency for International Development - http://www.usaid.gov
U.S. Trade and Development Agency - http://www.ustda.gov/
U.S. Commercial Service - http://export.gov/
Commercial Liaison Office to the IADB - http://export.gov/idb
Commercial Liaison Office to the World Bank - http://export.gov/worldbank
Development Bank of Jamaica - http://www.dbankjm.com/
Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) - www.iadb.org
World Bank - http://www.worldbank.org/
International Finance Corporation - http://www.ifc.org/
Jamaica, a former British colony, gained independence in 1962. U.S. visitors will notice British business practices, traditions, and customs. In Kingston, a business suit or blazer may be advisable – especially for the first engagement. Dress tends to be less formal in resort areas such as Montego Bay and Ocho Rios.
Please use the link below for Embassy notices to U.S. citizens in Jamaica:
All U.S. citizens traveling by air outside of the United States are required to present a passport or other valid travel document to exit or enter the United States. U.S. citizens traveling by sea must present a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) compliant document such as a passport or a passport card for entry to the United States. Passport cards are an acceptable travel document for entry into Jamaica for sea travelers only.
Visitors to Jamaica must have a return ticket and be able to show sufficient funds for their visit. U.S. citizens traveling to Jamaica for work or extended stays are required to have a current U.S. passport and a visa issued by the Jamaican Embassy or a Jamaican Consulate. There is a departure tax for travelers, which is generally included in the airfare.
Effective 2005, foreign nationals who are conducting business on short-term basis will not require a business visa once they will be in Jamaica for a period not exceeding thirty days. However, foreign nationals will need a business visa to enter Jamaica if they are conducting business for periods exceeding thirty days. Foreign nationals who need visas for entry to Jamaica will require a business visa to conduct business. Affidavits will not be accepted by the immigration office.
The Bank of Jamaica has the sole authority to issue notes and coins in Jamaica. Jamaican dollars are issued in denominations of $50, $100, $500 and $1000. While the Jamaican dollar is the official currency, the United States dollar is generally accepted as a form of payment, particularly in tourist resorts, where prices are sometimes quoted in both currencies. In 2014, approximately 800 ATMs were available across the country. There were also approximately 30,000 point-of-sale terminals of which over 10,000 were deployed. This network allows for the use of a wide variety of debit and credit cards, including international cards. These transactions generally attract a fee. Travelers checks are accepted by financial entities, most hotels and larger commercial entities.
Jamaica has a modern and fully liberalized telecommunications system, which has seen significant expansion since 2001. There are two mobile providers, former monopoly full-service provider, Cable and Wireless Jamaica Ltd. (CWJ) and Digicel. The latter has become the largest provider of cellular telecommunications in Jamaica and the Caribbean. Jamaica’s tele-density now exceeds 100%, with many subscribers maintaining accounts with both providers. CWJ and FLOW Jamaica also operate fixed line systems. In 2015, CWJ acquired FLOW, but they continue to operate independent fixed line and internet systems. While Jamaica continues to lag in broadband mobile and fixed internet penetration, Wi-Fi technology is prevalent in hotels. Jamaica has submarine communications cables with the United States, Cayman Islands, Colombia, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. The Jamaican country code is 1-876. Electrical equipment in Jamaica operates on 110-120 volts at 50 Hertz (Hz), while in the U.S. the standard is 60 Hz. However, most small electrical appliances, such as mobile phones, battery chargers and hairdryers will work. Jamaica and the U.S. use types A and B receptacles.
Jamaica has two major international airports. Kingston’s Norman Manley International Airport receives flights from Air Canada, American Airlines, British Airways, Caribbean Airlines, Cayman Airways, Copa, Delta, Fly Jamaica, JetBlue, Spirit, and WestJet. Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, is served by almost 30 airlines.
Major cruise ship terminals in Jamaica are located in Falmouth, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios.
Ground transportation options include taxis, car rental, and luxury coach services. Allowance should be made for possible delay arising from traffic congestion, particularly in the capital city, Kingston. Public transportation is not recommended, as public buses can be overcrowded and can be susceptible to crime. Travelers who use taxicabs should take only licensed operators or those recommended by their hotels.
The A1, A2 and A3 highways are the primary links between the most important cities and tourist destinations on the island. Most of these roads are not comparable to American highways, and road conditions can be hazardous due to disrepair, inadequate signage and poor traffic control markings. The B highways and rural roads are often very narrow and frequented by large trucks, buses, pedestrians, cyclists and open range livestock. Highways are traveled at high speeds, but are not limited-access. Nighttime driving is especially dangerous and should be avoided whenever possible. U.S. Embassy personnel are prohibited from driving at night outside of the cities of Kingston, Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, and Negril.
The language spoken is English. (There is also a Jamaican dialect known as patois.)
Jamaica has a number of public and private hospitals. Most public hospitals have deteriorated over time due to underinvestment. One major public hospital operates a private wing, which provides more personalized service and a Spanish chain is currently operates a hospital in Montego Bay. While there is significant room for improvement in sanitation standards, the existing state of the health sector compares favorably with other developing countries. The Embassy is not aware of any potential health risks of which businesspersons should be notified.
The normal working day for government offices and factories is 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Fridays. Government offices are generally closed on Saturday and Sunday. Almost all commercial businesses are open on Saturday, but only few open on Sunday. Jamaica is on Eastern Standard Time (EST) year round and does not observe daylight savings time.
Holidays observed in Jamaica are the following:
New Year's Day January 1
Ash Wednesday Variable
Good Friday Variable
Easter Monday Variable
National Labor Day May 23
Emancipation Day August 1
Independence Day August 6
National Heroes Day October (Variable)
Christmas Day December 25
Boxing Day December 26
Those who wish to bring in items temporarily such as software, exhibit material, etc., are required to identify the items at Customs, pay the required duty and General Consumption Tax (as security), and collect a refundable revenue deposit receipt. On exit from the country, the Customs authority refunds the entire amount paid as security. In the case of importing machinery for just three to six months, the above procedure applies in addition to completed Customs Form C25. Laptop computers can be brought in duty free.
Jamaican Diplomatic Posts in the United States:
Jamaican Embassy, Washington, D.C. - http://www.embassyofjamaica.org/
Jamaican Consulate, Miami - http://www.jamaicacgmiami.org/
Jamaican Consulate, New York - http://www.congenjamaica-ny.org/redirect.php
Jamaica Passport, Immigration, and Citizenship Agency - http://www.pica.gov.jm/
Embassy of the United States, Kingston - http://kingston.usembassy.gov/
Jamaica Promotions Corp. (JAMPRO) - www.investjamaica.com
Local Business Organizations in Jamaica:
American Chamber of Commerce of Jamaica - www.amchamjamaica.org
Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association - www.jma.com.jm
Jamaica Chamber of Commerce - www.jcc.org.jm
Private Sector Organization of Jamaica - www.psoj.org
Ministries of the Government of Jamaica:
Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries - www.moa.gov.jm
Ministry of Education - www.moec.gov.jm
Ministry of Finance and Planning - www.mof.gov.jm
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade - www.mfaft.gov.jm
Ministry of Health - www.moh.gov.jm
Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce - http://www.miic.gov.jm/
Ministry of Justice - www.moj.gov.jm
Ministry of Labor and Social Security - http://www.mlss.gov.jm/pub/index.php
Ministry of Local Government - http://www.localgovjamaica.gov.jm/
Ministry of National Security - www.mns.gov.jm
Ministry of Transport Works and Housing - www.mtw.gov.jm
U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service - www.buyusa.gov/caribbean
To view market research reports produced by the U.S. Commercial Service please go to the following website: http://www.export.gov/marketresearch.html and click on Country and Industry Market Reports.
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U.S. exporters seeking general export information/assistance or country-specific commercial information should consult with their nearest Export Assistance Center or the U.S. Department of Commerce's Trade Information Center at (800) USA-TRADE, or go to the following website: http://www.export.gov
To the best of our knowledge, the information contained in this report is accurate as of the date published. However, The Department of Commerce does not take responsibility for actions readers may take based on the information contained herein. Readers should always conduct their own due diligence before entering into business ventures or other commercial arrangements. The Department of Commerce can assist companies in these endeavors.
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