12 Jan Opposition Moves to Clarify Cause for Delay in SEZ Regulations
Reacting to an Article in today’s Gleaner, Western Focus on the disappointment of stakeholders with SEZ delays, and quoting the Chairman of the Special Economic Zone Authority, Metry Seaga that, “There is a time lag because one act was repealed before the other was enacted”, Opposition Spokesman on Industry, Investment and Commerce, Anthony Hylton, under whose stewardship the SEZ Act was passed in January 2016, said “the response by the Chairman of the SEZ Authority is misleading in as much as it conveys the erroneous impression that the passage of the SEZ Act itself effected a repeal of the Jamaica Export Free Zones Act (JEFZA) which has resulted in much confusion among investors, especially in the BPO and Logistics Sector”.
Mr. Hylton explained that the passage of the SEZ Act contemplated the need for both the establishment of an SEZ Authority and the necessary implementing regulations. This he said was achieved by the proviso in the legislation for the new SEZ Act to take effect not at the time of passage, but on a date to be named by the Minister. A tried and proven legislative device.
He further explained that “the problem arose when the current Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, pre-maturely and inexplicably named a date for bringing into effect the new SEZ Act without awaiting either the establishment of the SEZ Authority or the passage of the required regulation”.
The Opposition Spokesman said, “the Minister’s action represented a significant risk to existing and potential investors in the BPO and Logistics Sectors and the rest of the economy, in that until now there is little or no protection for existing investors in the several hundred Free Zones across Jamaica or potential investors, as recognized by the stakeholders in today’s article”.
Explaining further, Mr. Hylton said “the provisional measure now being put in place by the Administration is a damage control measure and does not solve the massive problem created by this inexplicable act by the Minister”.
The only saving grace so far, according to Mr. Hylton, is that the Prime Minister has acted to remove the portfolio responsibility from Mr. Samuda and brought it under the aegis of the Economic Growth and Job Creation Ministry. However, the effects of the Minister’s action he said, has been to stymie investments in the BPO and Logistics Sectors given the strategic importance of the SEZs to the growth and development of these two key Sectors.