From its genesis in a marketplace dominated by trading and distribution of imported goods and in the face of initial consumer resistance to the fledgling industrial sector, the JMA has steadfastly pursued its mission to promote the production and the increased use of local products. Today, as one of Jamaica’s most important development institutions, the JMA proudly acknowledges the bold, visionary and practical leadership of the Presidents who have guided the Organization for over 56 years.
The courage and determination to contribute to nation-building that inspired founding President, Harry Vendryes (1947-1952), still drive the JMA today. This self taught industrialist, who mounted the first “Buy Jamaican” campaign in 1948, also set the wheels of industry irreversibly into motion when he successfully lobbied for the changeover in electricity generation from 40 cycles to 50 cycles.
His successor, the noted entrepreneur and manufacturer, James Gore, who held the Presidency for one year from 1952 to 1953, was a vocal spokesman for Jamaica’s business sector, even challenging the authority of the Colonial establishment, which he accused of stifling the spirit of enterprise. His involvement in many areas of business gave him a keen insight into the challenges facing manufacturers and enables him to be a true champion for their cause.
The nine-year stint by Aaron Joseph Matalon (1953-1957 & 1960-1965) makes him the longest serving President of the JMA. Under this dynamic leader, the Association staged Jamaica’s first exhibition of locally produced gods in 1953. His administration also effectively advocated the imposition of quantitative restriction on imports, the establishment of the Bureau of Standards and the development of free trade within the English- speaking Caribbean. Mr. Matalon left behind a legacy of growth, manifested through the programmes spearheaded by the Jamaica Industrial Development Corporation (JIDC), which was established during his tenure.
President Lee Gore steered the JMA through a period of change between 1957 and 1960, as the Organization was restructured to widen its scope of operations; while Jamaica and several of its regional neighbours moved towards political independence. Accession by Jamaica to the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) and its provisions to liberalize trade among nations created a new, competitive and challenging context for local manufacturers. But, under Mr. Gore’s leadership, the JMA maintained the dynamism, despite the odds.
Still one of the most successful promotions ever undertaken by the JMA, the famous “Flying Showcase” which introduces Jamaican products to seven Caribbean countries in 1965, was led by Vincent “Vin” Bennett (1965-1966), and was consistent with his vision that “trade and culture will finally untie the world” A pioneer pharmaceutical manufacturer who campaigned relentlessly for the development of local industry and, in particular, the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector.
Ray Hadeed’s (1966-1970) vigorous lobby for regional economic integration was a highpoint of his four year term as President, culminating with Jamaica’s signing of the CARIFTA agreement in 1968 and the subsequent growth of the country’s export trade with its Caribbean neighbours. As a result of his administration’s constant negotiations with the government, the manufacturing sector remained buoyant and benefited from new concessions, including duty- free importation of raw materials, tax incentives and protection for locally produced goods.
A manufacturer for more than 60 years, Charles Henderson- Davis (1970-1973) and his ‘eternal vigilance’ to safeguard the interests of the local productive sector, maintain quality standards and promote unity are legendary. He was a member of the CARIFTA lobby… and, as President, he also successfully negotiated for the protection of infant industries, paving the way for major investments by well established industrialists and the subsequent expansion, diversification and modernization of the sector.
In the 1970’s, under the leadership of Douglas Vaz (1973-1974 & 1975-1976), the JMA fought for sound economic policies that would benefit industrialists, as well as all Jamaicans. In the face of deteriorating social and economic conditions, and the rapid decline of manufacturing, Mr. Vaz consistently challenged the Government’s Democratic Socialist path, during his two one year Presidential terms. He subsequently entered politics and, as Minister of Industry and Commerce oversaw dramatic growth in the manufacturing sector.
A conscientious and uncompromising advocate, Winston Mahfood (1974-1975, 1976-1981) worked closely with both the Government and the newly formed Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica to secure the effective solutions to the many challenges that threatened the viability of manufacturers in the late 70’s. In the face of the foreign exchange crisis, he promoted a major shift from import substitution manufacturing to export- led development, and by the end of his two terms as President, he had helped to firmly establish the private sector as the engine of national growth.
Restructuring the JMA as part of a thrust toward greater professionalism is one of the hallmarks of R. Anthony Williams’ tenure (1981-1985). The formation of the Trafalgar Development Bank (now Pan Caribbean Financial Services) to provide low-interest development loans to the productive sector was another major JMA initiative, which was guided to success by the Williams administration, as manufacturers grappled with the challenges posed by the Government’s structural adjustment and economic deregulation programmes in the early 80’s.
The youngest President of the JMA, J. Paul Thomas (1985-1988) is still remembered for his intense lobbying efforts for the removal of the structural disincentives to production, to enable manufacturers to adjust to the increasingly competitive international environment of the late 1980’s. The successes of his Presidency included the reduction of duties on capital goods and spare parts, the passage of screwdriver legislation and the provision of cheaper funds for manufacturing through various windows. Under his leadership, the JMA also played an integral role in the drafting of the Anti- Dumping legislation.
The Presidential term 1988-1990 was one of change and adjustment, as manufacturers grappled with foreign exchange restrictions, the influx of cheap imports and the continued high cost of credit. The JMA’s interventions, led by Anthony Barnes, culminated in the Government’s adoption of a General Consumption Tax (GCT) regime to shift some of the taxation burdens from production inputs to consumption, the dismantling of most price control mechanisms for local manufacturers, the restructuring of import tariffs and the streamlining of import certification procedures to curtail smuggling and under- invoicing.
Against the background of the continuing hostile economic environment, Major Anthony Robinson led the JMA between 1990 and 1994 in a charge for the development of a National Industrial Policy that would help foster investment and the structures, long term growth of the manufacturing sector. Today, many of the provisions for which he fought are embodied in the Policy.
His unrelenting faith in the tremendous economic potential of a manufacturing sector that is allowed to operate on a level playing field inspired Anthony Hyde’s achievements during his two years (1994-1996) as President of the JMA. His administration secured the relief of retroactive Customs on duties, on raw materials for the packaging sub- sector, as well as deferment of the tax on imported raw materials and intermediate goods. His advocacy for reform of the labour market has subsequently borne fruit, with increased worker training and certification in the industrial sector.
As President of the JMA during four of the most challenging years for local manufacturers, Sameer Younis (1996-2000) harnessed every available resource to raise the profile of the Organization and ensure the continued survival of a sector threatened by the closure of numerous businesses and the loss of thousands of jobs. His vocal and persistent lobbying succeeded in the Government’s introduction of a stringent import monitoring programme to prevent the entry of dumped and substandard products into Jamaica, the removal of the taxes on raw material imports and the removal of duties on capital goods.
The creation of an investor- friendly environment, relief of the increasingly onerous tax burden and administrative bottlenecks which delayed the approval of processed foods for export… the restive labour sector and Jamaica’s heightening crime problem, were among the major priorities during Clarence Clarke’s term (2000-2003) as JMA President. His team’s success in securing amendments to the Processed Food Act and averting the 2002 increase in property taxes benefited both manufacturers and the wider society; and is testimony to the merit of the hallowed JMA tradition of dialogue and collaboration.
Doreen Frankson made history in 2003 when she assumed office as the first female President of the JMA. Low interest rate schemes, the implementation of the procurement policy to allow “set asides” for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs), and the removal of the 2% Customs User Fee were some of the initiatives she fought for during her four-year tenure. Her greatest achievement was the successful renewal of the “Buy Jamaican…Build Jamaica” Campaign. After an eight-year hiatus, the JMA/JEA Expo was staged in 2004 and road shows were held islandwide to promote Brand Jamaica and garner support for locally manufactured products. She served until 2007.
An avid believer of service above self and a strong voice for manufacturing, Omar Azan, achieved a huge milestone for the sector with the removal of the 2% Customs User Fee (CUF) on raw material and capital equipment. The implementation of the Modernization of Industry Programme 2; provision of free factory space for start-ups and expanding entities; access to single-digit financing as low as 7.5%; and the largest corporate support for the “Buy Jamaican…Build Jamaica Campaign” were among his greatest accomplishments. He also fought for reduced energy costs and the awarding of school book contracts to local printers during his 2007-2011 tenure.
The Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association Ltd. (JMA) salutes the unwavering commitment of its Past Presidents and their tireless efforts to promote locally- made products, stimulate entrepreneurship and strengthen the industrial sector to take its place as the engine of growth in the Jamaican society.