Buoyed by massive Chinese investment, the Caribbean is set to realize its investment potential, according to various speakers and panelists at Invest Caribbean Now, a seminar held in New York to discuss investment opportunities.
Underscoring the Sino influence, China Daily was a major sponsor of the event, held at The Harvard Club, and speakers included the Deputy Secretary-General of Beijing Municipal Government, the Vice Chairman of Beijing’s Municipal Commission of Tourism and the Director of the Chinese-American Business Development Center.
Last year, China’s President Xi Jinping (right) visited Trinidad and Tobago with $3 billion in loans. According to Larry Lee, China Daily’s Publisher, tourists will be following. He said a recent survey of Chinese who planned to travel overseas ranked the Caribbean as the most desirable place to take a cruise. He said that could mark an opportunity to gain future visits.
Dr. Ma Lin, Beijing’s Deputy Secretary General, said his city’s experience hosting major events such as the Olympics and as a global tourism destination provides expertise that can be shared.
Paramount Communications’ President Dr. Isaac J. Newton, who has spent 18 years working on sustainable investment and development in West Africa, Latin America, the U.S. and Caribbean credits the Chinese for brining “dramatic changes in the investment sector.”
He said there has been a push to demonstrate Return-on-Investment and to create transparent labor and employment laws and a clearer legal framework that is making the Caribbean attractive to investors from all around the world, including local residents and Diaspora.
He added Caribbean governments need to ensure they don’t stand pat with the Sino investment influx and noted, ”We still need to attract investors – local and foreign. We have to ask what enticements do investors needs to invest in the Caribbean.”
Trinidad & Tobago Minister of Trade, Industry, Investment and Communications The Hon. Vasant Bharath (below) said his country has streamlined red tape. As examples, he cut the time to start a business from 43 days to three days. As part of the process, it used to take 30 days to verify a business address. That has been sliced to 24 hours.
“It can’t be done incrementally. It has to be transformation,” Bharath said. He noted, Customs used to view its mission as a “collector of taxes” and now the mission is seen as “a facilitator of trade.” By introducing technology that begins clearing cargo before a vessel arrives speed has increased and so has security.”
With this fresh approach, the Trade Minister said his country’s reserves have doubled to $5 billion and unemployment has declined to five percent. A bond offering in London last year was oversubscribed by a multiple of 10. Four hundred
foreign firms operate in the country, including Microsoft, General Electric and BP, using Trinidad as regional headquarters. Location on “Brazil’s doorstep” means that the government is diversifying beyond oil and gas and is now pursuing financial services, tourism and maritime services. A 700-acre economic zone is being developed.
Anthony Wellington Phills, who launched Caribbean Commerce Magazine, noted that the Caribbean is well positioned to diversify. A key opportunity, according to speakers is medical tourism, a market that is expected to grow to $20 billion by 2020.
Patrick Goodness of Goodness Group, an advertising agency specialized in the segment, said yields can be five to six times higher than average spend.
Paul Angelchik, MD, Chairman and CEO of American World Clinics, told the audience a mature facility brings as much as $250 million annually to its host nation and makes the country more attractive to retirees, real estate investors, Diaspora and business investors as well as creating high paying jobs for the local workforce.