The Jamaican government stated Monday that its free economic zone in Montego Bay, which is home to many foreign outsourcing firms, generated over 7,000 jobs and US$121 million in foreign exchange earnings in the past fiscal year.
The Free Zone has also beaten analysts’ expectations by achieving 100% occupancy well before the end of 2014, revealed Anthony Hylton, the Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce.
Hylton was speaking after inaugurating Elephant Group’s new contact center in the Free Zone. Built at a cost of US$700,000, the facility has reportedly created 600 jobs in the Caribbean country.
The minister praised the partnership agreement between the US BPO provider and the Factories Corporation of Jamaica (FCJ), saying that only public and private partnerships can take Jamaica forward at a time where governments across the regions are facing shortages of funds.
Designed to encourage foreign investment and international trade, the Free Zone allows businesses to operate in Jamaica without paying tax on their profits. They are also exempted from customs duties on imports and exports (capital goods, raw materials, construction materials, and office equipment) and import licensing requirements. However, they must export 85% of their products outside the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
There are many outsourcing firms in the Free Zone, including global giants such as Xerox and Teleperformance. The number of call centers has increased from four in the 1990s to 16 at the end of the last fiscal year, and the zone reported more than 20% growth in employment in the last fiscal year.
Real estate firm Mark Kerr-Jarrett is now set to construct a tech park specifically for BPO companies within the Free Zone area.