A clause in the Special Economic Zone, SEZ Bill, passed in the House of Representatives this week, has sparked debate over trade and free movement of workers within CARICOM.
The Opposition has objected to an amendment to the Bill that seeks to remove the preferential selection of Jamaicans for jobs within the zone.
Where the original legislation spoke of jobs for Jamaicans, the amendment now recognizes CARICOM nationals. A Special Economic Zone, SEZ, is like a country within a country. Businesses within the zone don’t pay the same taxes as other businesses in the country. They also don’t pay import duties.
For this reason, SEZs are very attractive to multinational companies who are mostly interested in exports. The main benefit to the host country, is the thousands of jobs they bring.
There’s now a controversy over who should be entitled to those jobs. As President of the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association, JMA, Metry Seaga, explains, Jamaica’s membership in CARICOM means the country has to treat other CARICOM nationals the same as it does Jamaicans.
However, President of the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica, PSOJ, William Mahfood, argues that Jamaicans don’t have the access to CARICOM jobs that they should.
And while jobs are one thing, goods are another issue.
President of the Jamaica Employers Federation, JEF, David Wan, says if Jamaica opens up its SEZs to CARICOM job seekers, then CARICOM should open its markets to SEZ products.