Jamaica Observer:– MINISTER of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Audley Shaw says that the Government is moving to support the development of the local cannabis (ganja) industry for medical purposes with the utilisation of thousands of acres of idle lands for production of the herb.
Shaw also says that the Government is moving to reduce the 15-year limit for commercial banks to return dormant funds to the economy, to create a pool of funds which will help to boost the contribution of medium-sized, small and micro enterprises (MSME) which are willing to formalise their status and invest in the economy.
“It is time for us to take a different view of cannabis, starting with medical cannabis. If you are offended by recreational cannabis, stay away from that and focus on medical marijuana,” Shaw told the 2018 business conference of the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) at the Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston last week.
Shaw, who recently returned from a visit to Canada where he spoke with some leading investors and visited some of the major sources of cannaboids in that country, told the conference that, as a spokesman for the development of the sector, he is aware of the “negative stigma” associated with the use of cannabis.
“But the world is moving on, and if we are not careful the world is going to leave us out. We are going to be down here worrying about two ounces of ganja that is legal or people rubbing out their hand middle with two ounces of ganja, but the phenomenon of medical ganja is here and it is changing by the day,” he said.
He announced that he has already ordered a rationalisation of all Sugar Company of Jamaica Holdings’ lands, starting with those in St Catherine and Clarendon. He said that this was necessary as the vast lands used by the former Government-owned sugar companies — Bernard Lodge, Monymusk and Frome — were needed to become available for farming initiatives, such as Red Stripe’s cassava production for its beer, Jamaica Broilers’ plans for expanding broiler production, as well as Grace Kennedy’s Mother Farm concept to work with small farmers.
He noted that that some 15,000 hectares of the 18, 000 hectares of land still controlled by the sugar company were idle.
“We have to have that rationalisation, and I am sending out a message to people who are serious about growing other things. A lot of initiative and enterprise is alive and we have got to get it together; we have no more time to lose,” he told the audience.
He said that the Government is looking at reducing the 15-year grace period allowed commercial banks to retain dormant accounts left behind by customers, it to seven years.
Shaw said that this would immediately allow the Government to access some $15 billion which is needed for a special fund to offer cheap loans for the MSMEs and to assist them to become formalised.
“But, you can’t get the funding unless you become formalized,” the minister warned the MSMEs.
He said that formalisation of the MSMEs was important because 45 per cent of the country’s economy was informal, which is responsible for the low productivity levels.
“This is because it is too ramshackle. It doesn’t have the discipline and it doesn’t take unto itself internationally accepted standards of excellence. So you have poor performance and low levels of output,” he stated.
He said that country is just emerging from the shadows of the 1990s financial and business collapse, and there was a need to focus on the redevelopment of the business sectors.
“We have to look and acknowledge the unique situation that we are in and begin to think and focus on finding a way out of this conundrum that we have brought ourselves into over the years,” Shaw said.
“But if we come together with strength and character and courage, we can overcome that and we will. We are going to do it, and you are going to be hearing more from the prime minister on that,” he predicted.
The IIA was established in 1941 as an international professional association with global headquarters in Altamonte Springs, Florida, as the internal audit profession’s global voice. Its president is Tamara Baugh-Brissett.
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