Mrs. Marlene Street Forrest Welcome Conference Attendees at the JSE’s
9th Regional Conference on Tuesday, January 21, 2014. Please see her address below:
9th Regional Conference on Investments & the Capital Markets
Theme: Social Changes- Catalyst for Investment, Growth & Development
The Jamaica Pegasus Hotel
On January 21, 2014
Good Evening. We are indeed delighted to see you all at this, the opening night of our Ninth Regional Conference on Investments & the Capital Markets. The Jamaica Stock Exchange is pleased and honoured to host this event in collaboration with our lead sponsors: Oppenheimer and Co. Inc., Television Jamaica Limited, the Jamaica Observer, and Ernst & Young, along with all the other sponsors that have continued to support this worthy event over the years. We are even more pleased that this support continues yearly due to the sponsors’ recognition of the value being added to the industry and the Region’s economies.
Our Objectives of the Conference this year are:
1. To bring together key participants of the financial services industry to explore and develop ideas and issues pertinent to the development of the capital market;
2. To aid in the development of strategies necessary for the future growth of the sector in the region;
3. To assist in the creation of partnerships and improved understanding between financial institutions to allow for the generation of investment opportunities;
4. To showcase industry trends, products and services;
5. To highlight the importance of the capital market to the economic development and prosperity of the region.
6. To build social and strategic alliances; and most importantly
7. To energize participants to move from discussions to action.
This year’s Conference theme is “From Productivity to Prosperity: Regional Survival & Growth through Investments”. This focus recognizes the only way that our countries will prosper will be through production that is competitively geared towards local, regional and international consumption, as facilitated by investments. In Jamaica and the region, we are beginning to appreciate that the shifts in global economies have changed so many aspects of our lives that we once took for granted. The decline in welfare states, lengthening of retirement ages, rising unemployment, the increase in the number of working poor and the demand for smaller but more efficient public sector have become commonplace around the world. The new economics of our time have given new life to old phrases. Printing money is now known as “quantitative easing”, while rising unemployment during an economic rebound is called as “jobless growth”.
New global trade rules seek to remove artificial props and stimuli for closed economies, to reduce trade barriers and improve the mobility of capital. By knee-jerk reaction, impacted countries, especially smaller and more vulnerable ones continue to try to protect local industries and the jobs of their citizens. Our Caribbean countries must survive and learn to grow within this new world order. For us, this economic period could well be called “the Age of Uncertainty”, where very low business and consumer confidence is rife and where “wait and see” is the order of the day. But, in an environment where opportunities are fleeting and challenges present themselves at the speed of streaming megabytes, this malaise of uncertainty and inaction can do just as much damage as doing the wrong thing. The question therefore is not “how we survive” but “how do we grow our way out of the rut we find ourselves in”.
In a recent UK survey, it was the overwhelming view that based on the many changes that have affected the lives of the population, there needed to be a concentrated effort by all, to improve the economic conditions, promote social justice in an age of austerity and improve people’s feeling of wellbeing. The thought is that economic activity will improve as consume confidence is improved and this can be achieved if as government and institutions promote fairness and make co-production a standard way of operations in achieving set goals. Co-production is defined as an inclusionary power sharing arrangement which strengthen relationships and make the most of our collective resources. At a company level this might take the form of an ESOP. In the government and the private sectors, a Jamaican example of this may be EPOC.
As a region with scarce financial resources but high demand for infrastructure and capital spend, we often look to the international agencies or foreign direct investment for assistance. We think that it is equally important to look inwardly to local and regional direct investments, diaspora investments and the pooling of different kinds of skills, assets and knowledge to achieve our goals. New ideas have also emerged on how we can tap into local and international support through programmes such as time banking, asset mapping and crowd sourcing. All types of investment programmes that are legitimately conceived and managed should be explored.
The UK survey also spoke to the need for transformation at the local level, as in doing so the social fabric of the economy would begin to repair giving citizens a sense of well-being for all and a sense of economic stability at the micro level. It is therefore important that in this new economic order, support be given to community-based enterprises in industries such as entertainment, sports and tourism.
We cannot deny the fact that in this new age there is financial integration across the world which was clearly highlighted and felt by the region due to the contagion of the 2008 financial crises. The world economies and indeed our regional players have made significant strides in strengthening our financial framework. The question now is how we as a regional exploit the benefits of financial integration. How do we use the knowledge and systems to reap the benefit of this integration? The follow-up question is whether we are as prepared as we should be in knowing and understanding what is out there. It is with this in mind that conferences such as this one is so important.
The sharing of knowledge, formally and informally will be one of the lynchpins for our development and to this end we must reshape our educational systems. Our schools must become more relevant, practical and accessible. Our curricula must become more aware of the world’s changed circumstance. Information technology has long since ceased being the new, nice-to-have tool of tomorrow, it is the omnipresent, essential must-have of now.
In this light of both these factors and in fulfilling our mandate of assisting Jamaica and the Region in transforming to a knowledge-based economy, the Jamaica Stock Exchange e-Campus was launched a few years ago. The e-campus has since achieved registration with the University Council of Jamaica, certification by CPD, a UK body responsible for validating on-line course content and approval by the FSC for the delivery of continuing education in the financial services industry. After all, it was Benjamin Franklin who said, “An investment in education pays the best interest” and we are always mindful of a good investment. We therefore stand firm in our belief that IT-based continuous education and training will form one basis for competitively position ourselves and provide the growth trajectory that we seek.
But, since our problems by and large start with us and specifically with our actions, we posit that the solutions will not be arrived at through talk but through action. There are bright minds in the financial sector that have overseen considerable investment in a raft of products from fixed income securities and derivatives to equities and commodities. These investments are commendable, as they have assisted our governments in meeting their capital and liquidity needs and kept the wheels of business turning while allowing investors to receive reasonable returns on their investments. Let us now use our collective resources to stimulate productivity in our grass-roots communities. It will take someone with a vision, an idea or innovation or competitive strength, the right investment framework and some good old-fashioned hard work to compete with the rest of the world. Let us understand within the financial sector that there is a need at this time to provide patient and reasonably priced capital to stimulate productivity and move our countries to prosperity for the longer-term good of us all.
In order to properly respond to the urgency of the situation and address the priorities that are demanding of our attention, this year’s conference will examine issues that are so critical to our survival that it would be remiss of us not to have an understanding of them and how they impact on us individually, on our businesses and on our economies. We seek to put on display some of the many projects and plans that have been mooted as most likely to move our region forward. We understand there will be more talk but we expect that if those with the ideas are within the same venue as those who can finance the ideas, the results will be positively explosive. It is imperative that we move talk into action.
Much of our discussions will delve into how investments can assist with issues such as regional food security, productivity, the logistics hub and solving the energy crisis. Putting capital to work for investors, businesses and government will also be a major focus. These discussions should help us to position ourselves to take advantage of the opportunities before us.
Over the next two days we expect presenters and participants will explore how we can be the drivers of the change we so badly need to spur our development and growth. To discuss how we can, as a region, re-lay the foundation for production and growth and stop missing the opportunities that others see. The discussions will be on identifying areas of growth, industry by industry and community by community in earmarking the necessary manpower and financial resources to fuel these developments. It is expected that we will speak honestly about the issues that retard our development and ways in which these can be overcome. We know that opportunities will present themselves from examining issues such as:
· A new vision for Agriculture, including perhaps Marijuana
· The effective means of managing projects
· The possible benefits to be gained from a Logistics Hub
· The importance of human capital to regional development
· The possibility of a capital inflow from reparations
· Investments in Energy
This conference is therefore not intended to be a ‘talk-shop’. Our impressive slate of speakers will explore the challenges that face us, both regionally and globally and together, participants and presenters we expect to shape practical and workable solutions for the business and government leaders in attendance and to spur them into action.
We are grateful for the continued support of our participants, sponsors, presenters, and moderators who have been loyal and faithful to the cause of the growth of our capital markets and by extension the development our regional economies. Tonight is one way in which we express our thanks to you and welcome you to the start of what we know will be yet another successful event.
Marlene Street Forrest
January 21, 2014