The Manufacturing Sector in St. Kitts and Nevis
Jose Rosa – Chairman of the Manufacturing Division - SKNCIC
The manufacturing sector continues to be an important part of the St. Kitts and Nevis (SKN) economy. The sector represented about 6% of the GDP of the Federation in 2018. This consistent performance in the GDP and the resilience of the sector to adapt and to manage many challenges in the complex world of the manufacturing environment has made this sector one of great relevance for the economy of SKN. Over the last 10 years, the manufacturing sector in SKN has been the major exporter within the OECS to USA. As a matter of fact, the exports of SKN are larger than all exports of all the other OECS islands combined.
The sustainability of the manufacturing sector will depend on the efforts that we commit to the enhancement of the opportunities to start new manufacturing operations within the Federation. The competitive environment to bring new foreign manufacturing companies to the island is daily becoming more intense. Even bringing new product lines to the actual companies has become a very difficult task. The manufacturing companies are not only considering the low cost environment and government incentives as would have been used in the past, but the companies want to have access to international markets. They also want to operate within an environment equipped with high technological resources, furnished with strong and modern infrastructure and fortified with multiple international transportation options. On the other hand, the local manufacturing entrepreneurs would like to have easier access to capital and to enhance the regional sale of their products at competitive prices.
These challenges provide the Federation with an opportunity to review the actual manufacturing strategies to sustain and grow the manufacturing sector. This is the area that the Chamber Manufacturing Council (CMC) has focused on throughout this year. One of the main initiatives has been the re-initiation of the discussion of the National Manufacturing Strategy which provides the elements to create the landscape to have a sustainable manufacturing sector. The CMC began last year by working with the Ministry of International Trade, Industry and Commerce to take the necessary steps to implement the National Manufacturing Strategy. To achieve this goal, the Ministry in conjunction with us, the SKN Chamber of Industry and Commerce has re-organized the National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council (NMCC). This Council has representation from different government ministries and private sector stake holders. The main purpose of this Council is to implement the National Manufacturing Strategy. We met consistently during the second part of 2018 and we expect to implement a great part of the National Manufacturing Strategy in 2019.
Another area on which we have been working is that of providing access to the international market,as it relates to the completion of the Partial Scope Agreement with Brazil (PSA). This trade agreement has taken many turns during the implementation phase and its completion has been delayed for many years. However, since last year the Ministry of International Trade and the private sector have worked together to finally complete it. The PSA is in the final stages waiting for the finalization of the discussion of the rules of origin with Brazil. The negotiation with Brazil is expected to be completed early in 2019 which will facilitate the complete usage of the PSA.
The Chamber Manufacturing Council has participated in important discussions about the potential impact of different government initiativesin the manufacturing sector. The Chamber Manufacturing Council has had representation in the discussions of the National Health Insurance, New Labour Code and in those concerning Minimum Wage. The Council provides important inputs to sensitize all the stakeholders participating in the discussion of the impact of the implementation of these initiatives in the manufacturing sector.
In general, the manufacturing sector had a good year. We are motivated to reflect on some of the achievements of our members in 2018. Examples of these achievements include: the first time production of over 1 million cases as achieved by Carib Brewery and the expansion of JARO Electronics in the Industrial Site and Harowe Servo Electronics in Sandy Point. Unfortunately, we received the sad news of the closing of Lutron after being in operation for over 30 years in the Industrial Site. This closing is the reason that we need to be vigilant in our organizations and to provide an environment of continuous productivity improvement, cost control and flexibility,so as to accept and manage changes. In the manufacturing sector we work together and the Chamber Manufacturing Council plays an important role to move the agenda of this sectorwhichsupports over 1,400 direct jobs to the economy of the Federation.
This year 2019, the Chamber Manufacturing Council will continue with the agenda focus to enhance its services and activities. We will include areas of technical training, Lean Manufacturing, Environmental Health and Safety Training and the re-introduction of the Manufacturing Awareness Week. The Chamber Manufacturing Council appreciates the support and hard work of their members in 2018 and we count on your support in 2019. Now, more than ever, is the time to highlight the importance and strength that the manufacturing sector has in relation to the advancement of the economy of St. Kitts and Nevis.
A total of 13 members comprise the Manufacturers’ Division of the St. Kitts and Nevis Chamber of Industry and Commerce. These companies continue to play a major role in the development of the Sector and the Chamber.