Monday, 4 May 2015

Could Tonfang's Possible Jamaican Entry Spur The Development Of The Assembly Industry?

In my blog post entitled  JUTC Testing  Chinese Made Bus In The Hills Of St Andrew; Is Automotive Assembly On The Horizon?, I spoke about the possibility of having Chinese automotive assembly lines in Jamaica.

However, the assembly of consumer electronics and electrical equipment seem probable. This, as Tsinghua Tongfang Company, is seeking to raise US $60 million on the Jamaica stock exchange (JSE) to aid with the build out of the assembly plant. Tongfang envisage, all things being equal, that they'll have their Jamaican plant up and running by September of this year.

Electronics assembly line in China. Source of image: TechCrunch

The aforementioned Jamaican assembly plant would operate under the moniker, Tongfang Global (Ja) company limited, with the aim of earning US $300 million in exports. Tongfang evinced that the importation of various components would be necessary, with the aim of assembling televisions and kitchen appliances under the Seiki brand.

Tsinghua Tongfang Company

Tongfang was founded in 1997, it focuses on the manufacturing of consumer electronics, information appliances, energy equipment, etc. Tongfang's Seiki branded products are relatively popular, especially their digital televisions.

Information sourced from Tongfang's website, suggests they able to produce Televisions ranging from 19"-80", with average of 10 million units being produced. The units are available in approximately 20 countries. Tongfang is seeking to export televisions to the US, Europe and south America, when/if their Jamaican assembly plant comes to fruition.

Tongfang's Possible Entry Has The Potential To Stimulate Jamaica's Nascent Assembly Industry

Jamaica once had a vibrant garment assembly industry, however, due high labour and energy costs, most of these companies relocated to Asia. The garment industry predominated much of Jamaica's assembly industry between the 80s and early 90s.

However, in recent times, goods assembly has languishing, except for Von's motor and company's motorcycle production. Von's assemblies motorcycles under a joint venture between Loncin group out of China, operations began in 2004. An investment by Tongfang would provide the fillip to boost the assembly and overall manufacturing industry.

Using available data on financial times' website, Tongfang has total assets in excess of US $7 billion, suggesting that they're more than capable of implementing this venture. Additionally, Tongfang supplies major retailers in the US; notably, Target and Walmart.

Tongfang entry into Jamaica is not yet certain, as Tongfang is seeking to raise US $60 million on the JSE, in addition to the demand of government concession/s. Will the government provide the concession/s being sought? Time shall tell all.

Thanks for stopping by!


About Tongfang Global, Tongfang Global.

Von's Starts Bike Production, Jamaica Gleaner.

Tsinghua Tongfang Global Company LTD, Financial Times.

Tongfang seeks location for Jamaican assembly plant -- wants to raise US 60 million on JSE, Jamaica Observer.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Divestment Of The Kingston Container Terminal

Government of Jamaica's push to divest the port of Kingston (Kingston container terminal) by way of concession is now complete. In a deal worth US $510 million, France-based CMA CGM shall operate the KCT for 30 years.

Kingston container terminal. Source of image: Timeforfamily

The divestment process was not all smooth sailing, initially, three bidders expressed interest in the port; PSA international out of Singapore, DP world out of the United Arab Emirates and CMA CGM out of France. However, DP world and PSA international pulled out, citing concerns regarding a possible rival container port to be built at the Goat Islands in St Catherine. This meant that CMA CGM was the lone bidder, and eventually got the go-ahead to operate the KCT on April 7, 2015.


CMA CGM was founded in Marseille, France in 1978. Internationally, CMA CGM is rated as the world's third largest shipping company, MSC and Maersk are ranked second and first respectively.

CMA CGM has in excess of 440 ships in operations, serving 400 of 521 global container ports. Additionally, CMA CGM handles 12.1 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), employing approximately 20 000 individuals. Furthermore, latest revenue data are relatively impressive; US $16.7 billion at the end of 2014. In June 2013, China merchants holding international (CMHI) acquired a 49 percent stake in the company. The figures and the ownership structure, suggests that CMA CGM has the financial capability and know how to operate the port of Kingston.

Kingston Container Terminal (KCT)

Located in the world's 7th largest natural harbour, KCT commenced operations in 1975 at port Bustamante. KCT has grown markedly in size over the years. It has a rated capacity of 2.8 million TEUs, making KCT among the largest regional port, and the largest container port in the Caribbean.

Under the concession agreement, It's envisaged that annual capacity of KCT shall increase to 3.6 million TEUs. Additionally, KCT shall become CMA CGM's regional hub, and foresees the aforementioned KCT becoming a top five port in the region.

To achieve their dreams, CMA CGM seeks to increase the draught at the terminal to 15.5m prior to the opening of the new locks at the expanded Panama canal. The Panama canal shall allow the passage of post-panamax ships to transit the canal, KCT and Caribbean ports are positioning themselves to become major beneficiaries of the expanded Panama canal.


Major ports, Port Authority of Jamaica.

General overview, KCT services LTD.

The CMA CGM Group obtains the Kingston Containers Terminal concession and makes Jamaica its hub in the Caribbean, CMA CGM.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

President Obama's Visit Bode Well For Energy Security In Jamaica

Following significant beautification and road repairs across the city of Kingston to welcome president Obama on April 8, 2015, It is safe to say the visit went remarkably well. On his visit to Jamaica, president Obama had bilateral talks with the prime minister of Jamaica, the honorable Portia Simpson Miller.

President during a recent visit to the Bob Marley museum in Kingston, Jamaica. Source of image:

In addition, the president met with various Caribbean heads; discussions focused on security, trade and energy. Not to forget, president Obama wow the crowd at a university of the West Indies (UWI).

On January 18, 2015, I wrote an article entitled Could The US Help To Solve Jamaica's Energy Woes?, it spoke to possible benefits of the ongoing shale boom in the US. This, in turn, may help to diversify Jamaica's energy mix, thereby reducing the rate of electricity.

This is a necessary step, as Jamaica seeks to replace up to 300 megawatts of antiquated power plants. These plants have significantly burdened Jamaicans with electricity rates hovering in the region of 40 US cents/kWhr four times the figure in the US, and up to eight times the figure in Trinidad and Tobago. 

Efforts to secure lower energy costs have long eluded Jamaica; from a failed push to secure liquefied natural gas out of Trinidad and Tobago, to the EWI debacle. Likely spurring the creation of the electricity sector enterprise team (ESET), the team includes public and private sector individuals, with the aim of securing up to 360 megawatts of new capacity. 

It is important to note that commitment was given by two entities to construct 330 megawatts of the aforementioned 360 megawatts of new capacity; Jamaica public service (JPS) has been given the go-ahead to construct a natural gas powered 190 megawatts plant in St Catherine, and 140 megawatts by Aluminum partners of Jamaica (ALPART) in south east St Elizabeth. It's envisioned that both plants should be completed by 2017 or 2018.

A statement of intent was signed on the 8th of April with the US (same time as the presidential visit), the statement of intent is intended to facilitate energy cooperation between the US and Jamaica. The statement of intent can be seen as an overture to something of greater significance. If all goes well, Jamaica should eventually source the long elusive LNG, a commodity (natural gas) that US has in abundance. Plus, the US is said to have the cheapest available natural gas. However, petroleum exports out of north America is restricted by the US, but energy experts foresee a lifting of the restriction  by the time aforementioned power plants are completed.

It will be interesting to see what pans out.


ESET approves 330 megawatts of additional power for Jamaica. RJR News

Jamaica, US sign energy cooperation agreement. Jamaica Observer.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

ISSA Boys And Girls Championship; Is It Time To Increase The Seating Capacity Of The National Stadium?

The annually sought after inter-secondary school sports association (ISSA) boys and girls championship has once again delivered scintillating performances, suggesting that Jamaica has a bright track and field future. Many Jamaican youths see track and field as the way out of poverty; where young individuals are provided a medium to access higher education by way of full scholarships, and or pursuing a career as a professional track and field athlete.

National Stadium; Independence Park. Source of image: Trackandfieldja

Edwin Allen and Calabar were the respective girls and boys champions, beating longtime rivals Holmwood Technical and Kingston College. The ISSA boys and girls championship started on Tuesday, March 24th of the past week, and culminated on Saturday, March 28th (yesterday).

This year's championship marked the 105th anniversary of the event. Boys and girls "champs" is also rated as the greatest age group championship of Its kind globally; many opine that champs is similar to a mini-olympics, Jamaicans can be proud be proud of the boys and girls championship.

Is It Time To Increase The Seating Capacity Of The National Stadium?

Jamaica's Premier sports complex; Independence Park, encompasses a swimming pool, arena, national stadium, etc. The national stadium is home to Boys And Girls Championship, as well as Fifa friendlies and qualifiers. The Seating capacity of the national stadium is somewhat uncertain, however, the stadium seats between 30, 000 and 35, 000 individuals.

Never mind Its capacity, demand for tickets significantly outweigh what's available on the final day of champs. Plus, the stadium is sold out annually on the final day of champs. Incidentally, a week before champs, grandstand tickets were sold out virtually instantaneously. The grandstand seats approximately 5000 individuals, with 2500 seats available to the public.

In this regards, cries have grown louder to build a new stadium or expand the existing facility. However, building a new stadium is out of the question for the time being; a new stadium could easily cost in excess US$ 300 million. Expanding the seating capacity is likely to be more feasible. Though, it is posited that champs occurs once a year, and football games seldom have capacity crowds. However, the stadium was inaugurated in 1962, making the stadium 53 years old.

I would suggest adding 5000 to 10, 000 seats in the medium to long term. In the short term, we should consider expanding the grandstand, helping to reduce shortage of the aforementioned tickets.

Thanks for stopping!


World Stadiums, Jamaica.

We are ready, says Forbes, Jamaica Star.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Riverton City Dump Is On Fire...Once More

A perennial problem has once again raised Its ugly head; the Riverton city dump is on fire for the umpteenth time. Additionally, approximately half of the 120 acres property is said be on fire. This was conveyed by Jennifer Edwards, executive director of the national solid waste management authority (NSWA) in a 3:30 P.M. press briefing on Friday. Furthermore, Jennifer Edwards surmise this is the worst Riverton city fire.

Hell-like inferno at the Riverton city dump. Source of image: loopJamaica

The fire at the dump has been raging since Wednesday, March 11th; and a definitive timeline hasn't been given to extinguish the fire, though it is anticipated that 6 days should be adequate. The fire has been exacerbated by relatively strong winds (gusting to in excess of 25mph), attributable to an high pressure ridge. The wind has brought hazy conditions to Portmore and much of Kingston city.

Furthermore, noxious fumes associated with the Riverton fire, led to respiratory problems within the Kingston metropolitan area (KMA). Numerous individuals, including children were taken to health centers and hospitals across the KMA. Thereby leading to a closure of in excess of 40 schools on Friday.

Possible Solutions To The Riverton City Debacle

Residents within Kingston and Its ambient environment has lost count of the numerous fires at the Riverton disposal site. However, a solution is yet to be determined and implemented. As I've stated earlier, Jennifer Edwards opines that the current fire is the largest fire at the dump, suggesting that a solution should be sought with alacrity.

Relocation of the dump should be considered, as Riverton's location in Jamaica's largest metropolitan area is untenable. However, relocation may prove to be cumbersome; especially if a new dump/landfill was sited in the parish of St Catherine. As commercial and residential towns are aplenty. Namely, Spanish town, Old Harbour and Portmore. Additionally, the state should consider divesting the dump.

However, a more feasible and short term measure is to simply increase NSWMA's budget. The entity has been operating on a string-like budget for many years. I have no doubt with an adequate budget should limit or eliminate possibility of future fires at the problem plagued Riverton dump.

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, 6 March 2015

Jamaica's Relatively High Road Fatality Rate...Revisited!

Just over a month ago, I wrote an article entitled Jamaica's Relatively High Road Fatality Rate, And Preventive Measures; the estimated road fatalities in 2014 were approximately 330. The officials aim to have this figure at 240 or fewer in 2015 and beyond. However, the officials may have difficulties achieving this target.

To see why, at least 56 individuals have been killed on our roads since January 1st. If we continue at this pace, the dreaded 300+ figure may be on the cards. March is not looking good either. On Sunday March 1st, 2015, four foreign nationals were along the Braco section of the north coast highway in Trelawny. Subsequently, two young females were killed in the parish of Clarendon.

Mangled car along the Braco main road in Trelawny. Source of image: OTGNR

Braco Crash And Ensuing Debate

As stated above, four foreign nationals were killed along the Braco section of the north coast highway, three Dominican nationals and a Spanish national. They were employed at the Gran Bahia Principe hotel in St Ann.

Following the tragic accident, concerns have been raised about the aforementioned stretch of road. Carvel Stewart, president of the incorporated masterbuilders association of Jamaica (IMAJ), evinces that polishing of the Braco road surface is taking place. Mr. Stewart surmise friction of the road surface has been reduced (making the road prone to skidding), largely attributable to inferior material and prolong wearing of the surface.

In light of the tragedy, a meeting involving stakeholders is planned for Monday March 1, 2015, as expressed in an article entitled Meeting planned after horrifying Trelawny crash. However, not discounting the surface of the road, it seem as if speeding played a significant role in the crash.

The Role Of Speeding In Crashes

It is generally accepted that speeding plays a major role in road crashes, add to that improper overtaking. Jamaica is often given the moniker "land of speed", unfortunately, excessive speeding has taken numerous lives on our roads.

Juxtaposed to a car travelling at 50kmph (31mph), a car travelling at 100kmph (62mph) has four times more energy; this can be seen using the formula of motion, Kinetic energy = 1/2MV^2; mass remains constant, however, the velocity is squared, I will give examples with a car of mass 1500kg; Ke = 1/2*1500*50^2; Ke =  1.875*10^6N (for a car traveling at 50kmph); Ke = 1/2*1500*100^2; Ke = 7.5*10^6N (for a car traveling at 100kmph).

Essentially, a car traveling at 100kmph has an exponential probability to do work/result in damage, vis a vis a car travelling at 50kmph.

Seat Belts And Airbags

A chronic problem in Jamaica is not wearing of seatbelts. It is often seen as a toy, especially in public passenger vehicles. Sometimes seat belts are faulty, or non-existent. However, seatbelts and airbags are often the difference between life and death during a collision. These devices keep an individual from being thrown from a vehicle, and gradually dissipates energy.


Various studies suggest that Jamaica has a behavioral problem when it comes to road usage; excessive speeding, not wearing of seatbelts, etc. These behavioral problems may take a generation to fix. But in the short term, greater enforcement of traffic laws are needed. Additionally, the new road traffic bill should be promulgated in parliament with alacrity. Plus, I want to urge motorists and pedestrians to use roads with caution.

It likely that I will revisit topic going forward. Thanks for stopping by!


Seat Belts And Airbags, Advice on safety, Safe ride.

Road surface retexturing processes, Idiots' guide to highways maintenance

Bahia mourns as 4 staffers perish in Trelawny crash, Jamaica Gleaner.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Marijuana Has Been Decriminalized, Now What?

Historic, momentous and groundbreaking, these are some of the adjectives used to describe the move to decriminalize small quantities of marijuana. Marijuana is widely known as Ganja in Jamaica and the Caribbean, largely attributable to east Indian influences.

Marijuana plants. Source of image: Voice Chronicle

Senate Passes Ganja Law, this was an headline in a Jamaica Gleaner article on February 7, 2015. Following the aforementioned move in Jamaica's upper house, the lower house followed suit, by enacting the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act.

The Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act makes possession of two ounces of marijuana a ticket-able offense, without the fear of being apprehended. Moreover, individuals convicted of pass offences correlating to Ganja shall have their records expunged. A Jamaica Observer article entitled Ganja Law Gets Green Light made mention of further amendments:

Additionally, the bill prohibits the smoking of ganja in public places, and makes provisions for the granting of licences, permits and other authorizations to enable the establishment of a regulated industry for ganja for medical, scientific, and therapeutic uses.

Now What?

The amended Dangerous Act removes criminal punishment with possession of two ounces of ganja or less. However, trafficking of large quantities of ganja remains illegal. This was seemingly missed an individual, who went to a police station seeking directions, with in excess of 90 pounds of ganja in his possession. Is he naive or misinformed?

Additionally, importation of ganja into the US is prohibited. This was affirmed by assistant secretary of the bureau of international narcotics and law enforcement affairs (INL), William R. Brownfield. Essentially, extensive export of ganja is not permitted.

However, opportunities exists to develop a nascent medical marijuana industry. Local scientist, Dr Henry Lowe, is poised to be a beneficiary of medical marijuana and hemp industries. Dr Lowe, through Medicanja limited, opines that Jamaica stands to accrue significant benefits from a US $ 2.5 billion industry. Additionally, Dr Lowe is seeking to launch an initial public offering (IPO), as expressed in an article entitled Lowe Launches Jamaica's First Medical Marijuana Company.  Medicanja IPO By Early 2015.

Many Jamaicans foresee an increase in tourist arrivals from recent amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act. Furthermore, ganja is being touted as a solution to Jamaica's economic problems. Though, this is an overly optimistic expectation. However, if managed properly, Jamaica should stand to attain numerous benefits by decriminalizing ganja.

Thanks for stopping by!


US official cautions Jamaica on ganja legalization, Jamaica Observer.

Ganja, Urban Dictionary

Saturday, 21 February 2015

JUTC Testing Chinese Made Bus In The Hills of St Andrew; Is Automotive Assembly On The Horizon?

News came mid-week, of a pilot project to test Chinese buses on hill routes of St Andrew. The Golden Dragon made buses are variant to Jamaica urban transit company's (JUTC's) main fleet, that includes the Swedish made Volvo buses and Belgian made VDL Jonckheere buses. The Golden Dragon buses are said to be smaller to their main counterparts, with 39 seats, as was stated in a Jamaica Observer article entitled JUTC testing Chinese-made smaller bus for hill routes.

Golden Dragon buses, not unlike the one being tested by the JUTC. Source of image: Hotel Shodlik Palace

The aforementioned bus shall undergo an eight week pilot on JUTC's number 53 route, stopping at above rocks in St Andrew. The pilot seeks to determine the suitability of the Chinese made bus on St Andrew's challenging hill terrain. Successful completion of the pilot should see these buses being deployed on routes 53, 54, 97 and 61. Possibly beckoning the start of a rural bus system.

Fear Of Chinese Products And Golden Dragon Buses

The words "Made In China" often begets reponses such as inferior, no good, spurious/counterfeit, etc. Though not completely false, these responses should not be taken in totality, as numerous good to high quality products are made in China. Especially true in the manufacturing of consumer electronics; top manufacturers include Lenovo, TCL Corporation, Huawei, ZTE and the rapidly growing Xiaomi.

Additionally, progress has been made to popularize Chinese brands in the auto industry. However, the Chinese automotive industry is dominated by European and east Asian manufacturers. a Bloomberg article entitled How China Protects Its Auto Industry, suggests that Chinese brands account for 34.5 per cent passenger cars.

This leads us to the Chinese bus being tested by the JUTC, made by Xiamen Golden Dragon Bus Co., Ltd. The firm was established in 1992, employing 4000 individuals and has an output of 40 000 buses annually. Subsequent to the announcement made by the JUTC of the possibility of the Golden Dragon buses being added to their fleet, Jamaicans sounded the alarm bells, questioning their build quality.

However, the buses are built to ISO 9001:2000 standards. Golden Dragon's website suggests that their buses are also sold in 80 countries. This may come as a surprise to many Jamaicans, Golden Dragon's parent is the more popular KingLong. Kinglong made buses are included in Knutsford Express's fleet. I should also add that the bus is using an American made engine. :)

Is Automotive Assembly On The Horizon?

Von's motor and company, local distributors of Golden Dragon buses, are known to assemble bikes in Jamaica. In fact, the venture commenced operations in 2004, assembling bikes made by Loncin Group. This may bode well for more large scale assembly, especially with the Chinese showing great interest in Jamaica. Additionally, with the recent tabling of a special economic zone act in parliament, auto assembly should become more attractive.

Thanks for stopping by


200 more buses for the JUTC, JIS.

Finance Ministry Waffles On Incentives For SEZ, Jamaica Gleaner.

Von's Starts Bike Production, Jamaica Gleaner.

About Us, Golden Dragon.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Should A Rapid Transit System Be Implemented In The Kingston Metropolitan Area?

My first visit to Kingston, Jamaica's Capital and largest town/city was back in 2003. I was markedly surprised by the difference in day to day living, especially coming from the relatively quiet commercial town of Mandeville, Manchester.

Kingston is largely dissimilar to Mandeville and other towns in Jamaica; with numerous high rise structures and major factories. Plus, life is rather fast; individuals are constantly moving in the ever bustling city of Kingston.

View of new Kingston. Source of image: Romance Journeys.

The 2011 population and housing census, undertaken by the statistical institute of Jamaica (STATIN), revealed that Kingston had a population of 584 627. Additionally, the Kingston metropolitan area (KMA) had 1 041 084 individuals, in excess of a third of Jamaica's population.

The KMA is served by public taxis and buses. However, the primary source of transportation is the Jamaica urban transit company (JUTC), a state owned and operated bus company. The company commenced operations in 1998, with the aim of creating a modern transportation system in the KMA.

JUTC fleet of buses. Source of image: JIS

The total daily ridership to the enity is not certain. However, a Jamaica information service (JIS) news piece entitled  JUTC Sets March 2014 deadline For All Passengers To Access Smarter Cards, suggests that the JUTC moved 110 000 concession passengers daily. Indicating that total daily ridership should exceed the aforementioned figure.

Rapid Transit

Miriam Webster defines rapid transit as "the system that is used in cities for quickly bringing people to and from places on trains, buses, etc."

However, the quasi-bus rapid transit system operated by the JUTC is not a true rapid transit system. In other words, dedicated bus lanes are lacking in the KMA; The buses have to contend with daily traffic. Additionally, it is becoming increasingly difficult to expand the roadways in the KMA.

This is compounded by several vehicles on our roads. Estimates are sketchy, however, approximately 500 000 vehicles were said to be on our roads in 2008. Plus, rough estimates evince that approximately 10 000 cars are sold annually.

Moreover, unless import restrictions are implemented, car ownership should increase with an increase in income. A breakdown of registered cars by parish is not available to the public. However, if we are to judge by traffic on Mandela highway and the Portmore toll, then roads in the KMA are overburdened by traffic.

A possible solution to the KMA's congestion problem, can be found by instituting a metro-rail, thereby bypassing traffic laden routes. Such a system should augment the quasi-bus rapid transit system; and regain productivity, lost in traffic. The state may have difficulty implementing a metro-rail, however, it is something to think about.

Thanks for stopping by!


Population and housing census, STATIN.

About JUTC/History, JUTC

Motor insurance tracking system coming, 30 % of vehicles uninsured - IAJ survey, Jamaica Gleaner

Friday, 13 February 2015

Jamaica's Fledgling ICT Sector

Information Communication Technology - or Technologies, It is commonly known as ICT. The initials are often thought to encompass computers and technology. However, in simple terms, ICT facilitates access to information using various communication technologies.

Technopedia, defines ICT - "refers to all the technology used to handle telecommunications, broadcast media, intelligent business management systems, audiovisual processing and transmission systems, and network-based control and monitoring functions."

Visual representation of ICT. Source of image: newtelegraghonline

ICT adoption has significantly grown over the years, with little signs of slowing abating. In fact, Ericsson mobility report is predicting a 12-fold growth between 2012 and 2018. The article entitled Trends in the ICT sector, went on to state, and I quote " This ICT expansion helps economic growth and development, and makes the world a more accessible, open and democratic place."

The expression by Ericsson is not dissimilar to World Bank's take on the ICT Sector. The World Bank suggests that ICT is changing the makeup of the world economy, governments and the society at large. Additionally, the World Bank evince that for every 10 per cent increase in high speed Internet connections, a 1.4 per cent increase in economic growth follows on average.

Jamaica's Emerging ICT Sector

Following the phased liberalization of the telecommunications sector in Jamaica, as expressed in my blog post entitled The Liberalization Of Jamaica's Telecommunications Industry; Impact On The Jamaican Economy And Communications, mobile penetration grew exponentially. The aforementioned rate is estimated to exceed 100 per cent, coming from a low of under 10 per cent before liberalization. However, this rate of growth was not replicated with Internet penetration. A 2013 estimate by the World Bank, suggests that just over a third of Jamaica's population has accessible Internet. Indicating that significant room for growth remains.

However, significant smart phone take up has transformed the means of communications to the Jamaican public. This was evident by Digicel Jamaica's November smart phone sales, available in the news release entitled Digicel Has Sold 60, 000 Smartphones Since November. With greater smart phone adoption, communicating via social media has become effortless and affordable. Additionally, businesses may easily access customer demands through social media platforms.

A commendable step taken by the government of Jamaica, is the recent launch of the tablet in schools program. It is a joint program by the ministry of education, and ministry of science, technology, energy and mining. The aim of the program is to facilitate robust ICT, and greater levels of economic growth. Under the tablet in schools program, approximately 25 000 tablets should be deployed at an estimated cost of J $1.4 billion.

Additionally, the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector has grown markedly since liberalization. Furthermore, Jamaica's Relatively low labour cost and high unemployment rate, makes Jamaica an attractive BPO destination. This is borne out by the approximately 40 BPO firms, employing in excess of 14 000 Jamaicans.

Buoyed by signicant investments in telecommunications and BPO, ICT should continue to facilitate existing and new means of communication by the public. This should allow for greater tech startups, and higher, more equitable GDP growth.

Thanks for stopping by!


Information & Communication Technologies Overview, World Bank.

Jamaica Tablet Program For Schools, Addictootech.

BPO Offers Good Jobs, Jamaica Trade and Invest.

Internet Users, World Bank.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Precipitous Crude Oil Decline Should Benefit Jamaica...

Crude oil, a naturally occurring hydrocarbon, has been a major source of energy for over a century. By products of crude oil are used in the transport sector, power generation, cooking, etc. In Jamaica, crude oil accounts for close to 90 per cent of our energy demands.

Crude oil barrels. Source of image: Presstv

Data available on the petroleum corporation of Jamaica's (PCJ) website, suggests that 46 per cent of Jamaica's petroleum consumption is used in the transport sector, 33 per cent in electricity generation, 14 per cent in the bauxite/alumina sector, etc. Additionally, it is said that crude oil accounts for approximately 40 per cent of local imports; estimated to be in excess of US $2 billion. A figure comparable to earnings from the hospitality and tourism sector.

However, as we've seen over the years, the price of crude oil has been quite volatile. Placing Jamaica in a vulnerable position whenever a global oil spike occurs. Conversely, a precipitous decline in crude oil prices should benefit Jamaica. This scenario is playing out at the moment. The precipitous decline began in July 2014, largely attributable to excess crude oil supply, and weak global demand.

Chart showing a precipitous fall in Crude oil prices. Source of image: Financial Times

Additionally, as stated in my blog post entitled Could The US Help To Solve Jamaica's Energy Woes?, technological developments in hydraulic fracturing has led to a shale oil boom in the US. Moreover, America's demand for foreign oil has decreased significantly. In addition to the shale oil boom, organization of petroleum producing countries (OPEC) is insistent on maintaining current production levels. Combined with an increase in more efficient cars, this has led to an oil glut.

Should We Hedge?

For the first time in years, motorists are enjoying the benefits of lower oil prices. Not to forget lower Chicken, Bread and electricity prices. On the government side, lower crude oil prices has resulted in a moderation of the inflation rate. This bodes well for consumer spending, and should allow for greater general consumption tax (GCT) intake. Additionally, a shrinking import bill should follow the lower oil prices.

However, crude oil prices are unlikely be suppressed indefinitely. In fact, signs are emerging that the sharp fall in oil prices has abated, with crude oil prices ending the week above US $50 per barrel. It is in this regard, suggestions have been made by the private sector organization of Jamaica (PSOJ), that Jamaica should consider hedging. Hedging is done to limit price volatility of investments, oil typifies volatility.

In this instance, hedging should provide Jamaica sufficient time to correct perennial problems with electricity generation, thereby lowering the cost of electricity. Seemingly, this is the expectation. Word coming from the electricity sector enterprise team (ESET), implies that 330 megawatts of power should come on stream by 2018. 190 megawatts in Old Harbour by the Jamaica public service company (JPS), and 140 megawatts by Aluminum partners of Jamaica (ALPART).

If prudent steps are taken by the government, Jamaica should be well on its way to energy security.

I will certainly revisit the aforementioned topic in the near-term.


Consumption statistics by activity, petroleum corporation of Jamaica.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Jamaica's Relatively High Road Fatality Rate, And Preventive Measures

Road accidents and road fatalities, these are perennial issues that we encounter. Here in Jamaica, the perception often exists, that traversing our roads maybe unsafe. In other words, the probability of being involved in a serious road accident, or fatal collision is relatively high. If we are to go by last year's (2014) figures, you may see the reason for this perception.

Road accident in Jamaica. Source of image: Jamaica Observer

A breakdown of 2014 statistics can be found the Jamaica Observer article entitled December 2014 deadliest month on Ja's roads in 3 years. Quoting from the aforementioned article "according to the most recent fugures released by the National Road Safety Council (NRCS), the number of fatal crashes and fatalities across the island in 2014 exceeded the number recorded in 2013.The statistics show that from January 1 to December 31 last year there were 299 fatal crashes and 330 fatalities. 

The figures are worrying, seeing that 256 road fatalities were recorded in 2012, this was the lowest in over decade. A quick calculation using the 2014 figure, gives a road fatality rate of approximately 12.2 per 100 000 inhabitants. Data on Wikipedia places the world average at 18 per 100 000 inhabitants, this suggests that the fatality rate in Jamaica is lower than the world average. However, the rate in the developed world is below 10 per 100 000 inhabitants.

Preventive Measures

Research shows that 80 per cent of accidents are caused by human error; namely speeding, drunk driving, non-wearing of seat belts or helmets and improper use of our roads by pedestrians. Individuals often argue that the speed limit our roads are too low. However, anecdotal evidence implies that many Jamaicans ignore them anyway. This is seemingly an unknown danger. 

Using an example, a car travelling at 100km/h has 4 times more energy, as per if a car is travelling at 50km/h. In other words, an individual travelling at twice the speed has an exponential chance of being injured or killed, if involved in a collision. Additionally, knowing that many Jamaicans are non-seat belt users, the likelihood of being in an high speed collision is further compounded. Energy cannot be created or destroyed. I say this to state the purpose of a seat belt, and that is to prevent an individual from being thrown from an automobile, or gradually reduce built up energy of an individual in a moving vehicle. In this regards, I will make a list of possible preventative measures.

Significantly reducing road accidents and fatalities requires a multifaceted approach, including but not limited to:

  1. Public education of individuals, starting from the early childhood level.
  2. Enforcing existing and future road traffic laws.
  3. Build out of adequate sidewalks, this should prevent tragedies such as the one close to University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI).
  4. Improving vehicle safety. 

These are tangible steps that should be implemented in the shortest possible, at least the first three steps. Road accidents are unpreventable, attributable to human error and mechanical failure. However, measures should be implemented to reduce violent and fatal road accidents.

Let's hope for sanity on our roads in 2015.


List of countries by traffic related road death rate, Wikipedia

Causes of collisions, Mayo road safety

256 traffic fatalities in 2012, Jamaica Observer

Monday, 26 January 2015

Jamaica Has Copious Water Resources, But....

Jamaica often has pervasive water issues. Additionally, announcements by the national water commission (NWC) of impending/ongoing water restrictions are not surprising. In fact, the aforementioned step may be seen as prudent, seeing that we are now in our primary dry season. Jamaica's primary dry season generally spans the period, December through April.

Mona dam, St Andrew, Jamaica's largest water storage facility. Source of image: Owensoft

However, despite perennial problems with water supply and distribution, Jamaica is not short of water. This may seem paradoxical, but Jamaica has copious water resources, enough to supply present and future demands. You need not take my word for it. The water resources authority (WRA), in news covered by the Jamaica Observer, entitled We Have Enough Water, suggests that Jamaica uses fewer than 25 per cent of Its annual water reserves. Providing meaning to the term "land of wood and water"

The article went on to state, and I quote "We are only using 22-24 per cent of our available water resources. Roughly 90 per cent of our reserves are tied up in grounwater,". The former figure may be shocking, as many Jamaicans are living without a reliable water supply. In fact, data from the water commission evince that, 30 per cent of Jamaicans receive water from standpipes, water trucks, community catchment tanks, etc.

Additionally, Jamaicans with house connections are not unfamiliar with ad hoc water supply. To give an example, I will quote from a Jamaica Observer article entitled, Manchester Councillors Scold NWC "the parish needs 22 million gallons of water per day, with the capital Mandeville requiring six million gallons. However, on average in 2006, the parish is receiving only eight million gallons of water daily, two million of which goes to Mandeville."

What Can, Or Is Being Implemented To Alleviate Some Of The Problems?

Dripping tap. Source of image: GFjamesplumbing

Leaks may seem innocuous. However, 34 per cent of piped water is lost, attributable to leaks. The declaration was made during a Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) sitting in 2012. The leaks are exacerbated by theft. This was also revealed in the PAAC sitting, approximately 68 per cent of NWC's water is considered non revenue water. In this regards, the K-Factor programme is being implemented to reduce non revenue water, and increase accessibility to reliable water resources.

However, the programme shall not solve all the inefficiencies of the NWC. A major inefficiency, is NWC's energy bill. This is said to be Jamaica Public Service Company's (JPS's) biggest customer, with a monthly bill of approximately J$ 500 million, J$ 6 billion annually. An untenable figure. Plus, the high energy cost limits the amount water that may be pumped economically, especially in mountainous areas such as Mandeville, Manchester. With that said, the NWC should use renewable energy where applicable, so as to significantly lower the cost of pumping water. A long-term solution, such as building a dam should also be considered, Jamaica's last major was built in the 1940s.

Instituting these measures should go a long way to provide, efficient and accessible water to the masses.


National Water Commission to invest billions in water projects under K-Fogramme, Jamaica Observer

Billions down the drain - NWC losses big due to theft, leaks, etc. Jamaica Gleaner

Physical Facilities and Operations, NWC

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Is Jamaica On The Road To Universal Internet Access?

A perennial problem in Jamaica has been the accessibility of internet. The 2011 population and housing census out of the statistical institute of Jamaica (STATIN), highlighted some of the issues. The census suggests that most Jamaicans were without Internet for the period of the census. A breakdown of the figures were available in a Jamaica Gleaner story entitled CENSUS: Majority of homes still without computer, internet access.

Visual representation of the internet. Source of image: LiveScience

The article states that, of the 881 078 households in Jamaica, 163 314 had Internet access at home. A quick calculation suggests that, approximately 18.5% of the population had Internet at home. Though, the census data may be correct, access to an Internet connection is often available at community centers, libraries, Internet cafes and at schools. This that Internet access/usage is not limited to the households

Additionally, with the explosion of mobile devices (smartphones and tablets), many Jamaicans are connecting to the Internet via mobile networks. This was confirmed in a survey done by the planning institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), news came from the medium, Jamaica Gleaner - Internet Subscribers Headed To One-Million Mark.The survey found that there were 920 000 Internet Subscribers in Jamaica, of which 786 680 were mobile broadband subscribers, and 132 537 were fixed broadband subscribers. 989 narrowband (possibly dial-up connection) subscribers were also picked up in the survey.

Alternate data from the world bank, reveals that Internet access was 37.8% in 2013. This was approximately 10% above their 2010 figure, but comparable to the figure in 2011. Data provided by the world bank is available here: Internet Users (Per 100 people).

As stated in my first article The liberalization of Jamaica's telecommunications industry; impact on the Jamaican economy and communications, Internet Subscribers were estimated to be under 80 000 in the year 2000, inferring that there has been a marked increase in Internet Subscribers. However, Jamaica has a long way to go to achieve ubiquitous Internet access.

I shall revisit the topic in future blog posts, where I may go in-depth at what is being done to augment the gains made.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Could The US Help To Solve Jamaica's Energy Woes?

In my last post, the focus was on the implementation of 78 megawatts of renewable energy projects, these projects are aimed at lowering our energy costs by 2016. However, seeing that close to 90% of our energy output is derived from heavy fuel oil (HFO) and automotive diesel oil (ADO), additional steps are needed to significantly lower the cost of electricity in Jamaica.

To understand why, let's look at some figures. Data from the petroleum corporation of Jamaica (PCJ), suggests that Jamaica's oil import bill was approximately US $344 million in 1998. This rose markedly to US $1.84 billion in 2006, and now exceeds US $2 billion.

Of our oil import bill, 33% is used to produce electricity, 28% in road and rail transportation and 14% in the bauxite/alumina sector. Making the electricity generation sector the largest consumer of oil. You can see from these numbers, that it is foolhardy to continue on the same path.

Consumption of oil by sector. Source of image: Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica

Various projects over the years, sought to diversify our fuel source, we've had minor successes in this area. However, on the push to reduce electricity tariffs, there has been not any success.

US Shale Oil And Gas Boom, And Possible Benefits To Jamaica.

Thanks to new hydraulic fracturing (fracking) techniques; techniques used to extract natural gas from shale rock formations, and relatively high oil and gas prices, the United States have been able to do the improbable. It was once thought that the US had reached their peak petroleum output. 

However, data out of the US shows that, Crude oil output in 2014 was the highest since 1986. See for additional information The US Hasn't Produced This Much Oil Since 1986. This has spurred the US to loosen a four decades long export ban on Light crude. A step that should be beneficial to Jamaica and the Caribbean.

News emerged late last year, that the US may assist Jamaica to solve our perennial energy problem. Information was also available today in the Jamaica Gleaner, entitled A Hug From Uncle Sam.

The news piece suggests that, Prime minister Portia Simpson Miller and Energy minister Phillip Paulwell Will be meeting the US Secretary of sate John Kerry on January 26. The aim of the meeting is find solutions to Jamaica's Energy Woes, while exploring areas of cooperation. The article didn't elaborate on the extent of assistance. However, it is likely that Energy minister Phillip Paulwell will be seeking access to cheap natural gas to supply future energy projects, a step that has been futile over the years.

Let's hope for a fruitful outcome, as this would augment the renewable energy projects, diversify Jamaica's fuel mix and lower electricity tariff rates.


Frequently Asked Questions

Background, Energy Efficiency and Conservation

Friday, 16 January 2015

78 MWs Of Renewable Capacity to be added to the grid by 2016

Jamaica has just over 800 megawatts of installed power generation capacity, this was previously expressed in my blog post titled "Reducing The Cost Of Energy In Jamaica". Of this total, renewable energy makes up a small fraction of generation capacity.

Data from the petroleum corporation of Jamaica, suggests that renewable energy was responsible for 9% of the aforementioned total in 2009. Heavy fuel oil makes up the remaining total, with the high cost of crude on the world market, this makes Jamaica highly exposed to external shocks.  In this regards, the aim of energy officials is to have 12.5% in installed renewable energy capacity by 2015/2016.

Wigton wind farm in south Manchester. Source of image: Jamaica Gleaner

This target seems plausible, as evident by recent pronouncements attributable to Science, Technology, Energy and Mining minister, Phillip Paulwell in the Jamaica Information Service (JIS). The minister suggests that, ground breaking on 78 megawatts of renewable energy capacity to take place by February of this year, and a completion date of March 2016. See the article for additional reading " Renewable Energy Projects To Add 78 Megawatts To National Grid".

A breakdown of the figure shows, 58 megawatts of additional wind power will augment what exists at wigton in Manchester. BMR wind Jamaica will add 34 megawatts of wind energy in Malvern, St Elizabeth. The petroleum corporation of Jamaica will add 24 megawatts of wind at the Manchester based, wigton wind farm. Additionally, WRB enterprises will build Jamaica's first solar photovoltaic plant, rated at 20 megawatts in Content Village, Clarendon.

The initial bidding round by the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR), sought to secure 115 megawatts of renewable energy to add to the national grid. However, 78 megawatts of renewable energy was secured. Seeing that the aforementioned projects should be operational by Q1 2016, a new bidding round to secure additional renewable capacity should commence in the shortest possible time. As we need to make every effort to diversify Jamaica's energy mix, with renewable energy being a major contributor.

The long-term target of the energy ministry, is to have 20% renewable energy capacity on the local grid by 2030. However, minister Phillip Paulwell along with energy stakeholders insist that 30% is an achievable target, let's see what future brings.


Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Is Jamaica Prepared For A Major Earthquake?

Tuesday January 12, 2015, marked the 5 Th anniversary of the 2010 Haiti. The intensity was measured a remarkable 7.0. M on the Moment Magnitude Scale (MMS), a scale designated to measure the intensity of earthquakes. The MMS scale is preferred to the somewhat antiquated, Richter scale, that is said to underestimate higher magnitude earthquakes. However, the Richter scale is said to be a better measure of lower end earthquakes.

A fact to note is, to the eastern and southern end of the Island, Jamaica share the Enriquillo fault zone with Hispaniola. The Enriquillo fault zone is responsible for numerous earthquakes within the past 400 years. Including the aforementioned Haiti earthquake, the 1907 Kingston earthquake and the destructive 1692 earthquake that destroyed Port Royal. To the north and western end of Jamaica, lies the Walton fault zone. Both Walton and Enriquillo fault zones, separates the Gonave microplate from the Caribbean plate.

 Gonave And Caribbean plates. Source of images: UWI earthquake unit 

The 1907 Kingston earthquake was measured at 6.5. M on the Moment Magnitude Scale, not dissimilar to the 2010 Haiti earthquake. In technical terms, the 1907 earthquake was three times smaller in comparison to the 2010 Haitian earthquake, and released fewer than six times the energy of the 2010 Haitian earthquake. However, it is estimated that 1000 individuals were killed, with approximately 10 000 individuals left homeless.

The big daddy of the aforementioned earthquakes to affect Jamaica, was the disreputable 1692 Port Royal earthquake. It had an intensity of 7.5. M, a local tsunami was also triggered. It is estimated that 2000 individuals were killed. Additionally, approximately 66% of the Port Royal archipelago sank, destroying virtually everything. There were also numerous reports of landslides across Jamaica.

Is Jamaica Prepared For the Inevitable?

The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) designates the month of January as earthquake awareness month. Quoting from the earthquake unit at the University of the West Indies (UWI) "About 200 earthquakes are located in and around Jamaica per year most of which are minor, having magnitudes less than 4.0.". However, are we prepared for the next major earthquake?

A February 7, 2014 story in the Jamaica Gleaner, suggests that approximately 70% of designed buildings, are done without the input of building professionals. See the Jamaica Gleaner story for additional information: Jamaica's New Building Code Imminent.

Giddy House in Port Royal, Kingston. A region that is prone to liquefaction. Source of Image: Clarmo

A worrying statistic. But a study commissioned by NEM insurance company, implies that Jamaica should fare better Haiti, in the event of a 7.0. M earthquake. The study was carried out by the Mona Geoinformatics Institute and the earthquake unit at the University of the West Indies (UWI). The study suggests that eastern parishes should fare the worst. This attributable to the geology of the area, an area that is prone to landslides and liquefaction.

Despite being relatively prepared for a major earthquake, steps should be taken to improve our preparation for the inevitable. This includes proclamation of a new building code, providing required funding to the essential services and educating the public on what should be done in the event of a major earthquake. We cannot prevent earthquakes, but the aforementioned steps should go a far way in reducing property loss and loss of life.


Wednesday, 7 January 2015

America To Normalize Relations With Cuba; What are the implications to Jamaica?

The Five decades long embargo against Cuba is still in place, it came about following the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. However, somewhat surprising news came last December; the US announced the initiation of steps to normalize relations with Cuba. The announcement is generally seen as a positive development, but apprehension is also perceptible, especially within the Caribbean region. I'll explore whether the fear of US-Cuba diplomatic normalization is justified.

Plaza Vieja, Havana. Source of Image: Brian Snelson on Flickr.

A myriad of changes were contained in President Obama's announcement regarding US-Cuba relations, the aim of these changes are to take a flexible approach to diplomacy, as was done with China. The changes include relaxation on US-Cuban travel, though a ban on direct tourism travel remains. Plus, an increase in the sum that can be remitted to Cuba. Additional changes in the flow of information and commerce are expected.

What are the implications to Jamaica

On the positive side, benefits of the move will not be immediate, similarly, negative implications are not expected in the short term. The biggest worry is Cuba being a threat to the regional tourism industry, to be specific, the tourism industry here in Jamaica.

But with an Embargo in place, and the continued ban on tourist travel, Jamaica will maintain Its presence as a major player in regional tourism. Plus, it is said that tourist visits Jamaica because of our culture and strong brand, a trend that is likely to continue. However, this threat should not be taken likely, I urge stakeholders to implement measures to improve competitiveness to limit possible fallout, knowing that removal of the embargo is inevitable. Additionally, the ministry of  tourism must increase airlift and diversify tourism offerings.

Cuba's tourism industry wouldn't be considered nascent. In fact, their room stock consists of approximately 30 000, with at estimated 3 million tourists. A breakdown of the figure indicates that Canada is their primary source market. With diplomatic normalization, a gradual increase in American travelers are expected. However, removal of the embargo should allow for an exponential growth in the aforementioned travelers, possibly at a lost their neighbours.

On the economic side, an increase in remittance will have a positive on Cuban spending. However, removal of the embargo should provide an astronomical boost to the Cuban economy. Namely in areas such as telecommunications, construction, manufacturing and tourism.

In such a situation, Cuba's regional neighbours may see a reduction in foreign direct investment. Despite the possible negatives, opportunities for Jamaican and Caribbean business would be numerous. Plus, with over 11 million people, Cuba would be the largest Caribbean market. In other words, with time, Cuba may become a major consumer of regional goods.

I implore on the Jamaican government, private sector and individuals to improve their competiveness; while awaiting US-Cuba normalization, and the inevitable removal of the 5 decades long embargo. Doing otherwise may be fatal, economically speaking. However, be it cliche, let's see what pans out with time.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

To Break Or Not To Break?

Negril, Westmoreland is well known to be a tourism dependent region. Tourism is a major employer of residents, not to mention the approximately US$ 500 million generated by tourism activities. However, the shoreline is now under threat, attributable to human activity, sea rise and anomalously high storm activity. As a result, studies have been done to remedy to situation, or halting the precipitous rate of beach erosion.

Negril beach, Westmoreland. Source of image: koolandgang

Over the past year, there have been widespread discussion on plans to build a breakwater to protect the shoreline at the tourism dependent Negril, Westmoreland. Hoteliers, residents and environmental groups have been generally against the building of breakwaters, which is expected to be implemented by the National Works Agency (NWA), under the watch of the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA). The method that is preferred by the aforementioned stakeholders is Beach nourishment. The argument is that a breakwater would not be aesthetically pleasing, and could result in major economic losses. Let's take a look at what's planned, and the possible alternative.


Breakwaters are considered to be hard structures. Quoting the marine engineering section of the Britannica " a break water is an artificial structure protecting a harbour, anchorage, or marina basin from water waves."

The primary aim of a breakwater is to absorb wave energy and protect a shoreline from erosion. We know from Physics, that energy cannot be created or destroyed. Energy transitions to a different form, or energy transfer between two bodies. We can see the latter while floating in the ocean, waves pass by an individual, but we remain in the same position. Essentially, the water is not moving, but energy is being transferred between water molecules.
I mentioned the above to suggest that a breakwater is best suited for a region with high wave energy. Plus, the breakwater method is relatively inexpensive when compared to beach nourishment.

On the downside, if a fixed breakwater is built, It's considered to be aesthetically displeasing. Construction time is often lengthy, leading to economic losses. Plus, a rock can be displaced during a storm surge.

Beach Nourishment

To understand what's beach nourishment, I'll share a quote by Sea Grant California "Beach Nourishment, or beach replenishment, is the practice of adding sand or sediment to beaches to combat erosion and increase beach width." 

Beach Nourishment is generally a preferred option to mitigating beach erosion, this because It's easily implemented. Plus, It is said to be aesthetically pleasing, and allows for natural beach accretion. Additionally, studies have shown that erosion is somewhat slowed during storm activity, if beach nourishment is done properly.

On the downside, beach nourishment is expensive. Marine animals on the beach can be killed, and beach nourishment has to be continuous. In other words, It may not be sustainable, especially if funds are limited.


It's imperative that a solution is found to the ongoing erosion, as failure to find a solution will result in major economic losses to Negril and the entire Jamaica. My view is that, beach nourishment can augment the benefits of a breakwater, instead of having a single method. But let's see what pans out in the coming months, seeing that the breakwater plan was recently approved.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Recovery of Jamaica's Bauxite/Alumina Sector?

Bauxite/Alumina has long been a major part of our history, at least in independent Jamaica. It is the heaviest industry in Jamaica. Before the recession in 2008/2009, Jamaica was producing in excess of 14 million tonnes of bauxite, and approximately 4 million tonnes of Alumina annually. This has fallen significantly, especially with two dormant plants since 2009. Export earnings peaked at over US $1.3 billion in 2008, making the bauxite/alumina Sector the third largest foreign exchange earner.

However, with the price of Aluminum well below that of 2008, export earnings are markedly below the aforementioned figure. The sector was dealt a severe blow in the recession, attributable to lower prices of the metal, in addition to exorbitant energy cost. Two of our four Alumina plants have been closed since 2009, But recent announcements suggests that this could change in the short to medium term. For additional information on the bauxite/alumina Sector, visit: Jamaica Bauxite Institute

Bauxite mining in Jamaica. Source of Image:JIS

The announcement by minister Phillip Paulwell, of impending mining operations at Aluminum Partners of Jamaica (ALPART) has been greeted with excitement, especially in south east St Elizabeth and south Manchester. These bauxite producing areas have been plagued by high unemployment, and weak economic activity. But residents are now optimistic about a possible change in fortune.

Mining operations at ALPART is said to resume in January 2015, with export of the ore in July 2015. Sadly, residents have to wait until December 2016 before the Alumina refinery is up and running. Minister Phillip Paulwell states that investment in a power plant, port and plant facilities amount to approximately US $ 400 million, with job opportunities for a possible 1200 people.

A visit to nearby communities in which Alpart and Kirkvine plants operate makes the fallout in bauxite/alumina sector conspicuous, many towns or communities appear as virtual ghost towns, namely Nain in south east St Elizabeth and Content in Central Manchester. Mandeville, Manchester is doing better, but the fallout is still evident, any upswing in bauxite/alumina is a positive for the aforementioned area.

Word from Phillip Paulwell, suggests that discussion on the future of the Kirvine refinery is taking place. A positive outcome should be welcome. In terms of the wider Jamaican economy, having these plants open will help to decrease the unemployment rate, increase foreign exchange earnings and help to boost GDP growth.

Though many positives are associated with the bauxite/Alumina sector, issues of land reclamation has been perennial. Steps should be taken to remedy this problem.

 Land reclamation in central Manchester. Source of image: nigel182

But all and all, with improving Aluminum prices, steps taken to lower the cost of energy, and more automobile manufacturers planning to substitute Steel with Aluminum. Sustained growth in our bauxite/alumina sector seem likely, especially if the above conditions come to fruition. With that said, mining and alumina production in Jamaica should continue for sometime.