Ladies and gentlemen, esteemed members of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, distinguished guests, and all who have joined us today,

It is with a profound sense of honour and responsibility that I address you as the Executive Director of the PSOJ. Since assuming this role in September 2023, my journey has been deeply enriched by the dedication, passion, and collective commitment of not just our esteemed members but also our committee chairs and members and, of course, our and staff, who are the backbone of this organisation.

Over the past year, the PSOJ has played a pivotal role in shaping the economic and social landscape of Jamaica’s private sector. Our journey, marked by significant achievements and challenges, has been navigated with resilience. We have focused on strengthening and revitalizing our seven standing committees and ensuring the PSOJ secretariat remains robust and effective.

All these efforts were directed toward a singular, overarching goal: to build an inclusive business environment that benefits all our members and to ensure a thriving and competitive private sector that is a cornerstone for national growth and development in Jamaica. 

In these few months at the helm, I have been inspired by each member’s dedication, passion, and collective commitment to this esteemed organisation. As we reflect on these accomplishments and challenges of the past year, I am humbly reminded of the significant role the PSOJ plays in shaping the landscape of our nation’s private sector.

Highlights of Committee Efforts and Impact

The PSOJ has continued its mission as one of the leading voices in Jamaica’s private sector. Reflecting on the achievements and initiatives of 2022 and those of 2023, I am humbled by the progress we have made. This progress is a testament to the hard work of our seven standing committees, which have been instrumental in our success.

Our committees, consistently focusing on strategic areas such as Economic Policy, Crime and Public Order, Human Capital Development, Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Corporate Governance, Innovation and Digital Transformation, and Membership Engagement, have been the bedrock of our achievements. The tireless efforts of the committee chairs and members have been pivotal in advancing the advocacy and strategic objectives of the PSOJ.

Comprising industry experts and leaders, these committees have played a crucial role in driving policy advocacy, fostering collaboration among businesses, and addressing key challenges in the private sector. Their collective efforts have led to significant advancements in areas such as economic growth, job creation, and sustainable development.

Review of 2022 Achievements and Committee Efforts

National Security and Justice Committee

Under the leadership of Lt. Cr. George Overton, our National Security and Justice Committee has played a pivotal role in enhancing public safety and order in Jamaica, fostering effective public-private partnerships with the Ministry of National Security and the Jamaica Constabulary Force. This committee has been key in developing strategies for crime reduction, justice reform, and maintaining public order.

The committee has overseen and monitored critical initiatives vital to public safety, such as the Traffic Ticket Management System, Jamaica Eye, and Road Safety Measures. Their active involvement and advocacy in crime management and prevention have been invaluable. Furthermore, their significant contributions to legislative reforms, including the review of the Road Traffic Act and Noise Abatement Regulations, have been instrumental in creating a safer and more regulated environment for businesses. 

The Committee paid close attention to issues affecting businesses, notably the ruling from the NHT v. Marksman case, where security guards may be declared employees depending on the circumstances. In response, the Committee promptly organized forums and issued press releases to inform the business community about the potential increase in security costs and its impact on operational expenses. This initiative aims to enable businesses to proactively prepare and mitigate their cost.

Furthermore, the Committee advocated on various media platforms like the Susan Show, employing a multi-sectorial approach to discuss the impact of crime on society and the cost of doing business in Jamaica. The Commitee continues to highlight how crime is contributing to the increase in business costs and ultimately affects consumers through price increases.

The Economic Policy Committee

The Economic Policy Committee, co-chaired by Dr Adrian Stokes and Richard Pandohie in 2022 and now led by Marian Ross-Ammar, continues to make significant strides to inform government policy on matters affecting economic development and growth of the private sector.

They have revitalised the Economic Bulletin in collaboration with VM Wealth Management Limited, providing invaluable industry insights on key economic indicators, regional, international and local trends to inform business decisions. Their leadership in hosting the Roadmap to Jamaica 2.0 Series webinar has been effective in leading conversations on the impact of global and local economic dynamics on our private sector.

The committee continues to demonstrate its commitment to providing valuable insights and leading critical discussions, which are essential in steering Jamaica’s private sector towards sustainable growth and prosperity.

Human Capital Development Committee

Our Human Capital Development Committee has shown remarkable foresight, initially under the co-chairmanship of Mariame McIntosh Robinson and Maya Walrond, and now under the sole chairmanship of Maya Walrond. In collaboration with stakeholders such as the Inter-American Development Bank and People First, a UK-based consulting firm, we have advocated for the establishment of three additional sector skills councils in the manufacturing, agriculture, and logistics industries. This initiative is aimed at alleviating the skills gap through an industry-led approach.

Additionally, the PSOJ’s involvement in developing the Jamaican Education and Transformation Commission Implementation Plan underscores our commitment to shaping a robust education system, ensuring that Jamaica has an educated, well-prepared, and skilled workforce.

The HCD has been at the forefront of assisting businesses in implementing strategies and solutions to alleviate skills gaps within their organizations. The Committee continues to advocate for a multi-pronged approach involving academia, private sector participation, and public sector collaboration to address these issues. To this end, the Committee hosted a forum in partnership with HEART/TRUST NSTA, themed “Unleashing Jamaica’s Human Capital: Preparing for the Future,” attracting over 100 attendees. The event featured a keynote address from Dr. the Hon. Senator Dana Dixon, Minister with Responsibility for Skills and Digital Transformation.

The Gender and Disabilities Affairs Sub-committee, under the leadership of Renee Morrison, has actively addressed issues within its scope. This includes conducting forums on critical topics, such as the implications of the Sexual Harassment Act for workplace environments.

Energy, Environment and Climate Change Committee

Under Eleanor Jones’ leadership, the Energy, Environment and Climate Change Committee has made impactful strides. In a decisive move, the committee partnered with Climate Analytics (CA) to amplify Jamaica’s climate action endeavours. This collaboration aims to empower the Government to craft a robust “250 Long-term Emissions Reduction and Climate Resilient Strategy for Jamaica.”

Additionally, the committee has continued its involvement in the National Tree Planting Initiative (NTPI), actively collaborating with private sector stakeholders. Over the past two years, the committee has hosted forums focused on energy diversification and climate resilience, furthering our commitment to these critical issues.

Corporate Governance Committee,

The Corporate Governance Committee, chaired by Camille Facey, has significantly enhanced corporate governance practices in Jamaica. The launch of the revised Jamaica Corporate Governance Code, a collaborative effort with IDB Invest in February 2022, and the subsequent release of an abridged version in October 2022, are clear indicators of our dedication. We continued to provide invaluable tools for our members in 2023 and are gearing up to launch an updated Handbook and Toolkit in 2024.

In partnership with the Ministry of Finance and Public Service (MOFPS), we played a key role in the Corporate Governance Awards for Public Bodies, held on December 1, 2022. This collaboration underscores our commitment to promoting exemplary governance standards across public bodies.

Additionally, we’ve hosted several training sessions to bolster corporate governance skills, including the Director’s Strategic Guide to Corporate Governance Leadership training programme in partnership with the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE). In 2023, this programme equipped 19 executives from both the public and private sectors with the necessary skills to effectively serve on executive boards.

We also conducted our annual three-day training session for Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) focusing on best practices in corporate governance. This initiative is part of our ongoing efforts to strengthen governance across all business scales.

Notably, on May 20, 2023, the Ministry of Finance launched its electronic public bodies Database for Prospective Directors. The PSOJ, led by Camille Facey, played a pivotal role in this initiative, encouraging private stakeholders to contribute their expertise by volunteering on public body boards. This initiative is a testament to our commitment to enhancing governance standards and facilitating public-private collaboration.

Digital Transformation Committee

Under the stewardship of Chris Reckord, the Innovation and Digital Transformation Committee has made significant strides, particularly in advancing our cyber readiness and developing AI Guidelines for businesses, a venture that we anticipate will carry us well into 2024.

Furthermore, the Committee, in collaboration with the Corporate Governance Committee, is currently developing an AI Guidelines toolkit, a vital resource for businesses navigating the complexities of artificial intelligence.

In another notable initiative, we conducted a thorough cyber readiness survey in collaboration with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). This critical survey was aimed at evaluating the cyber preparedness among Jamaica’s businesses and organizations, identifying key areas where cybersecurity practices need to be enhanced.

Complementing these efforts, we’ve hosted several online forums focused on the Data Protection Act, aimed at equipping our members with the necessary information to comply with legislative requirements. Most recently, we organized a webinar in partnership with the Office of the Information Commissioner, which saw over 500 participants gaining direct insights into compliance requirements and having their questions and concerns addressed.

These initiatives underscore our commitment to not only keeping pace with technological advancements but also ensuring that our members are well-prepared and informed in this digital age.

Membership Committee

Membership engagement remains a cornerstone of our efforts. Chaired by Yaneek Page in 2022 and now Clair-Ann Kennedy, the Membership Committee has reinvigorated our connection with members through various initiatives, including our ongoing Mentorship Series, Hall Of Fame Masterclass and the PSOJ SME Hub. Throughout the year, we were able to revive connections which were impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and conscious efforts to social distance, through the hosting of our signature face-to-face Executive Members Mingles.

We were delighted to welcome new members to our constantly growing membership network and our Onboarding Sessions that provided both an opportunity to learn more about the organisation and making invaluable connections.

Strengthening of the Secretariat

The success of all our committees was strongly supported by a robust and agile secretariat. Consequently, the PSOJ has ensured that our organizational structure, internal capacity-building, and resources align closely with the strategic focus areas of all committees. We have implemented strategies that include capacity building and training for staff in critical areas, utilizing technology to enhance participation, and establishing feedback and evaluation mechanisms.

These efforts aim to continuously improve our services and diversify our offerings, such as providing industry-specific insights and research.

The PSOJ’s Secretariat has been instrumental in advancing our strategic initiatives and maintaining operational efficiency. Aligning our organizational structure with our strategic objectives has been crucial in supporting our committees’ work.

Furthermore, the PSOJ continues to enhance its visibility and public awareness of our advocacy efforts. In 2022, we were able to generate J$106 million in PR value, thanks to our efforts across various platforms, including traditional and digital media, as well as our website. We saw a 30% growth across all our platforms, which shows our commitment to keeping our members informed and showcasing the work of the PSOJ through our digital channels. We also publish our quarterly newsletter, the Private Eye, which covers important issues, strategies, and policy implications for businesses. This further exemplifies our commitment to keeping our members and the public informed and engaged.

As we look towards 2024, the PSOJ is poised for a strategic transformation. We are committed to a more data-driven approach, enhanced branding, strategic social media use, and leveraging technology for efficiency and expanded offerings. Internally, our focus will be on upskilling, nurturing staff resources, and enhancing our capacity to attract and retain top talent. I express my profound appreciation to Team PSOJ and the Committee chairs and members for their tireless efforts. Your dedication is the driving force behind our success. Together, we will continue to champion the cause of Jamaica’s private sector, striving for excellence and making an indelible impact on our nation’s growth and prosperity.