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GK Announces New Joint Venture With Trinidad and Tobago Unit Trust Corporation ( TTUTC)

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Photo caption: Kerry-Ann Heavens, Legal Counsel, GraceKennedy Financial Group (standing) looks on as the joint venture agreement between TTUTC and GK is signed last Friday, May 20, 2002 at the GK headquarters in downtown Kingston. (L-R) Deyson Scott, (Ag.) Vice President, Sales and Service, TTUTC; Hilary Reid, Partner, Myers, Fletcher & Gordon; Dawn Seepersad, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, TTUTC; Nigel Edwards, Executive Director, TTUTC; Don Wehby, GraceKennedy Group CEO; Steven Whittingham, Deputy CEO, GKFG; Patsy Latchman-Atterbury, Managing Director, GK Capital.; and Gregory Hines, Vice President of Business Development and Principal Investments, GK Capital.

GraceKennedy (GK) has announced that the investment and advisory arm of its GraceKennedy Financial Group (GKFG), GK Capital Management Limited (GK Capital), has signed a joint venture agreement with the Trinidad and Tobago Unit Trust Corporation (TTUTC). The new venture, which remains subject to the requisite regulatory approvals, will allow GK and TTUTC to partner in the distribution of mutual funds in Jamaica.

Speaking at the signing of the agreement which took place last Friday, May 20, 2022, at GK’s Headquarters in downtown Kingston, GK Group CEO Don Wehby explained, “Our vision for GraceKennedy is to grow as a global consumer group. This will include leveraging relationships with our international partners.

If you look at the list of our current international partners, there’s Western Union, Proctor & Gamble, Frito Lay and others; but what is so heart-warming for me about this new partnership is that TTUTC is a Caribbean company. We look forward to reaping the rewards of this new venture with them, while fulfilling our financial inclusion strategy for Jamaicans. For over one hundred years, Jamaicans have remained confident in GK’s ability to generate innovative solutions, and it’s critical that we create wealth building options for all socioeconomic groups across our country. This is yet another example of how we are expanding GKFG’s service offerings and broadening our reach to new market segments.”

In January this year, GK Capital announced its intention to enter the mutual funds market. TTUTC is the largest operator and manager of mutual funds in the Caribbean, and currently manages US$3.7 billion for over 625,000 investors.

TTUTC’s Executive Director Nigel Edwards, who attended the signing at GK headquarters on May 20, commented, “GraceKennedy touches the life of every single Jamaican, and that’s really important to us because our business is built on creating wealth for every single investor. We are elated about this partnership and believe the timing is perfect. Even as uncertainty keeps sweeping global economies, financial markets, and industries, we remain focused on delivering value. UTC’s business trajectory is prudently mapped, and our investment management philosophy is borne out of a customer-centric approach.”

Also present at the signing of the agreement were Deputy CEO of GKFG and Head of GK’s Investment and Insurance Divisions, Steven Whittingham, Managing Director of GK Capital, Patsy Latchman-Atterbury, and Vice President of Business Development and Principal Investments at GK Capital, Gregory Hines.

Discussing the new venture Whittingham explained, “The initial funds will diversify the sphere of investment opportunities for GK Capital’s clients and expand our product reach. While we acknowledge that we are entering a competitive CIS market, the design of the funds and the planned novel approaches to distribution will deliver a unique customer experience, and drive client acquisition and the accumulation of assets under management.”

Agriculture

Black Castor Oil – Liquid Gold Untapped In Jamaica

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PHOTO: YHOMO HUTCHINSON
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Pearnel Charles Jr. (right), is shown a bottle of black castor oil by Jovaughn Bailey of the Jamaica 4-H Clubs, during the Jamaica Bauxite Institute’s (JBI) Castor Industry Forum, dubbed ‘Black Castor Oil – Liquid Gold Untapped’, at the Golf View Hotel in Mandeville, Manchester, on March 15.

Farmers and other stakeholders are being encouraged to collaborate to explore the full potential of the local castor bean.

Minister of State in the Ministry of Transport and Mining, Hon. J.C. Hutchinson, who made the call, said there is an opportunity to tap into the high demand for Jamaican Black Castor Oil, noting that the global market for the product is valued at up to US$100 million.

“This is a truly Jamaican product that must carry brand Jamaica in every way; and I suggest that a committee be established, comprising the Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI), Jamaica 4-H Clubs, the Scientific Research Council (SRC), the processors, farmers, JAMALCO, Jamaica Baptist Union (JBU), and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), under the chairmanship of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA),” Mr. Hutchinson said.

He was speaking at the JBI’s Castor Industry Forum, dubbed: ‘Black Castor Oil – Liquid Gold Untapped’, at the Golf View Hotel in Mandeville, Manchester, on March 15.

Mr. Hutchinson said, to realise the potential of the local castor bean, Jamaica needs to have a structured programme which ensures that processors have consistency of supply.

Currently, the product, which has gained popularity worldwide, is not a major farm crop in the island.

“This is too much of an important [product] for it to be faltering by the wayside. I feel strongly about it; so, let us, together, make it work,” Mr. Hutchinson said.

Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Pearnel Charles Jr., in his remarks, cited the need for training, organisation and planning to maximise opportunities in the industry.

“Across the world, you are looking at US$75 million to US$100 million [worth] of opportunity in this liquid gold; so, we have a massive global opportunity. There is more than enough reason to move to develop the local castor industry,” he said.

“Now, more than ever, when we push for ‘Grow Smart, Eat Smart’, we are saying to Jamaica, it is essential to understand the sector and to utilise every inch of land, refine the processing and utilise the research and development to maintain our standards,” the Minister added.

Mr. Charles urged farmers to ensure they understand and look closely at the science, the different types of seeds, and how they will fare in different parts of the island, before planting.

Currently, a study is being done on the Jamaica black castor bean at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona, under the leadership of Director of the Mona Institute of Applied Science, Dr. Howard Reid.

This is being undertaken through a grant facilitated by the JBU and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

Upon conclusion, the findings will guide the process of securing the intellectual property rights of the Jamaica Black Castor Oil for the country.

For many years, several companies globally have been producing their own oil, but falsely labelling it ‘Jamaican’.

President of the Jamaica Castor Industry Association (JCIA), Courtney Haughton, said most of the products being marketed as Jamaican Black Castor Oil are fake.

“The only way we can claw back what is ours is if we secure our intellectual property rights. The process includes [the] research now underway at the Mona Institute of Applied Science,” he noted.

Other engagements include standardisation of the product with assistance from the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ), and producers’ compliance in meeting product standard acceptance in the global market.

Registration at the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO) will be the next step, and initial dialogue has begun.

“Our next objective is to protect market integrity, because we will need strategic alliances with people who have the capacity to seek out those in violation of our rights and protect us through legal action,” Mr. Haughton said.

The association has also forged partnerships with the National Council on Technical Vocational Education and Training (NCTVET) and the JBU, to develop a curriculum for training and certification of industry participants.

Already, there is a Level One Module for planting, reaping and storage of castor beans, which has been ratified by the NCTVET Board.

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Special Security Operations to be Established at Major Infrastructure Projects In Jamaica

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The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) have been tasked with establishing special security operations around key infrastructure projects.

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, said the aim is to ensure that major projects which will be undertaken are not hijacked by criminals seeking to illicitly benefit from public resources through extortion or holding up work schedules.

He was making his contribution to the 2023/24 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives, on Thursday (March 16).

The Prime Minister said elements of this undertaking and the resulting impact on crime have been seen along the Southern Coastal Highway Improvement Project, particularly in the Bull Bay area.

“In the coming fiscal year, the Government will be undertaking several major infrastructural projects across the island. The National Security Council discussed this specific type of threat and we have tasked the JCF and MOCA to establish special security operations around these projects, to ensure that our major infrastructure projects are not hijacked by criminals seeking to illicitly benefit from public resources through extortion or holding up work schedules,” he said.

The Prime Minister said in addition to the social and public health challenge, crime and violence is now a systemic threat to the proper functioning of the State to enforce its laws, deliver justice, protect its borders, and secure its revenues.

“When criminals routinely seek to kill or intimidate witnesses, they weaken the ability of the justice system to convict them… When criminals deliberately seek to befriend and enlist the protection of police officers and public officials, they compromise the ability of the State to effectively enforce its laws,” he emphasised.

“When criminals seek to infiltrate our ports and airports, they compromise the ability of the Government to control our borders. When criminal gangs seek to extort public works, this is a direct and brazen attempt to use State resources to advance criminal enterprises,” Mr. Holness said.

He maintained that the prevalence of criminal gangs organising violence against citizens and the State, in furtherance of their criminal enterprises, cannot be taken lightly. He added that organised violence by gangs amounts to criminal terrorism.

Meanwhile, Mr. Holness said the verdict in the recent anti-gang trial is a victory for Jamaica.

“I want to commend the JCF and their investigators, and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and their prosecutors, who have put together the case; and I believe special mention must be made of the two main witnesses who made great personal sacrifices,” he said.

The Prime Minister emphasised that organised violence is a national emergency requiring enhanced preventative powers to disrupt the activities of the gangs, control the space in which they operate as well as the movement of their members, increase surveillance on them and cut off their source of funding, and divert their recruits.

“It is in this context that we have used limited and localised States of Public Emergency, to slow the build-up of gang terrorism and its devastating impact on communities and the undermining effect it has on the State,” Mr. Holness said.

“The SOEs work every time they are deployed, because they are targeted at those on whom strong intelligence has indicated their involvement in creating the threat to life and property on so extensive a scale in the community, that if the State does not act immediately, the threat will materialise and rapidly escalate,” he added.

Mr. Holness said the JCF does not only disrupt the violence of gangs through the SOEs, but every year the security forces interrupt at least 300 planned murders through its intelligence capabilities.

“The problem, however, is far greater than the resources and institutions that we have. But the bigger problem is the lack of political consensus around how to deal with it,” he argued.

“The SOEs, combined with our intelligence operations and the gang cases we continue to put before the courts, have helped to suppress the murder rate. However the root cause, organised violence from gangs, is always trying to push the murder rate up. It is a continuous struggle. But we are building the capacity to overcome the gangs in a sustainable way,” Mr. Holness said.

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We Want To Transform Public Transport In Jamaica…Andrew Holness

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Public Transportation

Madam Speaker, I could not speak about roads without emphasizing that an efficient and orderly public transportation sector is not only critical for the development of any well-run society but is also essential for the daily lives of Jamaican citizens. Our vision is to have a professional transportation sector that is operated with pride, where the investors and operators are the strongest advocate for order and high quality service from their industry. I know there are a significant number of transport operators who view public passenger transport as a formal business. However, too many operators see it as a hustle. We want to assist our transport operators to create a real industry out of public transportation. I have heard the voices of our public transportation operators and I am convinced that there is a critical mass that share this vision to develop a first-world public transportation sector.

“Our vision is to have a professional transportation sector that is operated with pride, where the investors and operators are the strongest advocate for order and high quality service from their industry.”

Madam Speaker, the transport sector is multi-faceted and made up of a number of stakeholders, including drivers, owners/investors, and owners who are also drivers. Their concerns are varied and include the rising expenses that they are faced with, the need to access affordable financing to retool, and issues relating to appropriate places to stop, disembark and take on passengers.

Some have expressed to me that they have no special facility for health insurance or pensions.

While the transport sector is largely a private operation, there is a significant public service they provide and this government is willing to work with our transport operators in meaningful ways to address their issues and improve their conditions. In the coming weeks, I will be arranging consultations with the various taxi groups to further explore their concerns.

Madam Speaker, to support the public transportation sector, the Government will be implementing the following:

1. Cutting of renewal fees for Route Taxi, Hackney Carriage, Rural Stage Carriage, and Contract Carriers of public passenger vehicles by 30% for a period of one year. This incentive is given to allow operators to regularize themselves and avoid tickets. During this period the Ministry of Transport and Mining has been directed to establish an updated database of all operators. While over 9,000 operators were able to benefit from the CARE programme to the tune of approximately $300 million, too many operators were not able to access the programme for a variety of reasons including lack of registration or incomplete registration with the relevant authority at the relevant date.

2. We must improve the quality of service, behaviour and awareness of our drivers. We will be introducing a short course for all Public Passenger Vehicle drivers to be administered by the Island Traffic Authority in collaboration with the Heart Trust NSTA. Drivers will be invited to register for the course focused on the new RTA, defensive and courteous driving techniques, maintenance and sanitation procedures for vehicles, assistance with establishing bank accounts and digital wallets, and the use of digital payment technologies. All drivers who register and complete the course will be formally certified and receive a $25,000 grant from the Government. Specifically for motorcycle riders, we will be making 10,000 helmets available free of cost for who go through a short course.

3. Last year the government announced a special loan window for transport operators to refleet or upgrade their vehicles. We are currently recrafting the existing DBJ loan facility to facilitate access on preferential terms for persons who would like to change their current vehicle or motorcycle to an electric vehicle or motorcycle. Our preliminary analysis shows that electric vehicles could be very efficient for certain types of taxi operations.

4. The NWA has been directed to collaborate with the Ministry of Transport to assess the adequacy of parking, loading bays and approved stops in all urban areas and townships and along all approved routes. Where these facilities overlap with roads on the SPARK programme they will be addressed as the roads are improved.

The NWA will however prepare a specific budget for high use and critical loading areas and parking area to be funded in the next budget.

Madam Speaker, we want to transform public transport in Jamaica, the above measures along with the 100 electric buses announced last week is a significant seed in that transformation.

Nuturing S.E.E.D.S for Peace, Opportunity and Prosperity. PRIME MINISTER OF JAMAICA The Most Hon. Andrew Holness, ON, PC, MP Extracted from 2023 Budget Presentation

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JA$1-Billion Fund for Film and TV Production

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The Government will be establishing a $1-billion Jamaica Screen Fund to provide financing for the development and production of film and television (TV) shows in the country.

Opening the 2023/24 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives on March 7, Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr. Hon. Nigel Clarke, said the Government will continue to support the growth of a local film, television, and animation industry.

He informed that the Fund will be established in partnership with the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce.

Dr. Clarke said that the $1 billion, which is an initial amount, will be provided over two years, with $500 million in 2023/24.

He said that the Fund will enable creatives to devote time and sweat equity to developing their projects to the point where they can receive financing.

This includes, for example, writing a feature script or a TV series pilot script, producing a short film as proof of concept, or producing a teaser video as proof of concept for animation.

Dr. Clarke said the Jamaica Screen Fund will also support production of films locally by providing a defined percentage of the production costs up to a maximum contribution for local productions, with other percentages and thresholds for foreign films being shot in Jamaica once certain criteria are met.

Dr. Clarke informed that the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce will be responsible for governance arrangements, which will be multi-stakeholder .

Portfolio Minister, Senator the Hon. Aubyn Hill, will publish the rules of the Jamaica Screen Fund, along with guidance on how to access grants and financing, inclusive of what is expected of writers, creatives, and production companies, which receive support.

Dr. Clarke explained that the resources for the Fund will remain with the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service to be drawn down in tranches once the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce approves eligible projects that have completed and fulfilled the application requirements.

The Minister, in noting the potential of the film industry, said that creative content production can make a significant contribution to Jamaica’s economy and to gross domestic product (GDP) growth.

He said that film and television involve the employment of skilled production crew, technicians, support and logistics staff behind the camera and talented cast in front.

“Hundreds of persons can be employed in a single production for months at a time. In addition, the production of film and television generates indirect and spin-off economic impact through the provision of goods and services required and spending in the local economy,” Dr. Clarke pointed out.

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UK-Based Entity to Provide Forensic Audit Services for SSL Probe

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The United Kingdom (UK)-based Kroll Associates will be providing forensic audit investigative services to the Financial Investigations Division (FID) in the entity’s probe of the Stocks and Securities Limited (SSL) matter.

“Kroll will bring leading-edge technology that will support the FID in unravelling all aspects of this 13-year fraud and bringing co-conspirators and accomplices to justice,”

The development follows the signing of a Statement of Work by Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr. the Hon. Nigel Clarke, and representatives of Kroll this morning (March 7).

“Kroll will bring leading-edge technology that will support the FID in unravelling all aspects of this 13-year fraud and bringing co-conspirators and accomplices to justice,” Dr. Clarke said, while opening the 2023/24 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives this afternoon.

The signing of the agreement with Kroll follows the Minister writing to and collaborating with the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office of the UK.

Dr. Clarke noted that the British Government, which has long supported the FID, has offered to cover some of the initial costs of this engagement, with the Government of Jamaica providing the balance.

Dr. Clarke also implored Jamaicans not to jump to conclusions on the SSL matter but to await the outcome of the investigations.

He said that a formidable team of highly capable local law-enforcement professionals from multiple agencies supported by foreign investigative capacity is on the case.

“The Government will not carry out this investigation. That is the work of the investigative authorities, but our policy directions are clear. We will get to the bottom of this matter, and we will continue to keep the people of Jamaica informed, whatever the outcome,” Dr. Clarke pledged.

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