Portmore, Jamaica, Oct, 2019 -- A business process outsourcing (BPO) development funded by local investor Gordon Tewani is expected to grow the sector by more than 12 per cent and provide 4,500 new jobs.
The BPO entity is expecting to tap 60 per cent of its workforce – 2,700 employees – from Portmore, the sprawling dormitory St Catherine community which has significant swathes of commercial enterprises.
Construction on the 240,000-square-foot complex – spanning three buildings of 80,000 square feet each – is expected to run over 18 months.
Ground was broken at GTECH Park on a five-acre property along Municipal Boulevard in Portmore, St Catherine.
Tewani, who formerly owned Mall Jewellers and Tropical Jewellers stores in St Andrew, revealed that his BPOs would likely operate call centres similar to many of those that currently exist across the island but said that he was open to technology-based models of business. He said the first building would be constructed over a six-month period.
Through his company, Portmore Holdings, the 80-year-old Indian native, who has lived in Jamaica for six decades, already owns 150,000 square feet of real estate, which he has leased to BPO outfits on Constant Spring Road in upper St Andrew and Haining Road and Trinidad Terrace in New Kingston.
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The businessman was upbeat yesterday about Jamaica’s growth prospects despite the latest consumer and business indices suggesting a dip in confidence.
"Jamaica definitely is going to grow. It won’t stand still. It has to grow, no matter who the government is. Billions of dollars have gone into this project, and that includes land and everything," Tewani said.
As at March, the BPO workforce stood at 36,100 and generated annual revenue of US$500 million (J$69.5 billion), Gloria Henry, president of the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica, told The Gleaner yesterday.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who was present at yesterday’s groundbreaking, urged young people to latch on to emerging job opportunities.
"There are just some people who don’t want to work. They prefer to sit on the street corner, be in gangs and a part of subcultures rather than join mainstream prosperity. Somehow we have to find a way to reach them. There has to be some social outreach," the PM said.
Holness added that he was elated that local financial institutions, such as Sagicor Bank and National Commercial Bank, had partnered with investors on major construction projects.
"When I see that, I know that the economy is starting to pick up and the banks are getting the message," said Holness, who also noted that the DBJ had approved more than US$79 million worth of loans to the BPO sector.
"The DBJ is seeking another US$40 million from the Ministry of Finance to continue to enable the sector to grow. From our estimates, that will mobilise another 13,000 jobs. Before the end of next year, the next time I am on a platform opening a BPO business, I can say we are over 50,000 jobs."
But the prime minister acknowledged that while the spawning of new businesses might continue to drive down unemployment – which stands at a record low of 7.8 per cent – "it might not add to the GDP growth figure significantly, but it does add significantly to the employment figure".
Despite a favourable alignment of Jamaica’s macroeconomic fundamentals, the country’s growth rate is currently lagging at one per cent, a far cry from the Holness administration’s aspirational objective of five per cent in four years, projected when it came to power in 2016.
Tewani’s call-centre model may also draw criticism from high-profile economic watchers like central bank Governor Richard Byles, who has decried the low-tech, low-wage paradigm of Jamaica’s BPO sector.
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