Each year, environmental pollutants cost an estimated 1.7 million lives among children under 5, according to World Health Organization reports released Monday.
Jamaica National Small Business Loans (JNSBL) is looking to vamp up interest in its US$2.5-million adaptation to climate change line of credit, catering exclusively to small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) from the agriculture, tourism and related sectors.
“In the coming months, JNSBL will be strengthening its efforts through collaborations with related parties in the tourism and agro value chain to further promote the special loan facility,” said Jacqueline Shaw Nicholson, JNSBL’s communications and client services manager.
“We will also support the education of persons on matters of climate change as well as adaptive and mitigation techniques available to them,” she told The Gleaner.
So far, SMEs have drawn down on J$19.5 million of the available funds to finance the installation of rainwater harvesting systems, drip irrigation systems, water recirculation systems, solar water heating system, and energy smart system.
The first loan was approved in December, following the official launch of the line of credit earlier in the year.
“JNSBL is pleased with the take up of the loan facility so far, with 51 per cent to the Tourism sector and 49 per cent to the agro sector in disbursements,” said Shaw Nicholson.
For those persons wishing to drawn down on the funds, criteria for selection include not only that they be operating a tourism or agro-related business, but also that proposed projects must enhance their capacity to cope better with the increased changes and effects of climate change.
“Collateral is required and can include machinery and equipment of trade or to be purchased, motor vehicles that can be comprehensively insured or registered titles as well as lien on deposits, guarantors are also acceptable,” revealed Shaw Nicholson.
The maximum loan amount that can be awarded is $5 million, with an interest rate of four per cent per annum on the reducing balance.
However, Shaw Nicholson said, “borrowers can also utilise other loan facilities available at JNSBL to further support project implementation where needed”.
The line of credit is one of two financing mechanisms under the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience. The other is the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCAF) that is being administered by the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ).
The SCCAF finances adaptation and disaster risk-reduction projects and cover associated programme management cost.
It is accessible by community-based organisations, other civil-society groups and select public-sector agencies specifically for “clearly defined high-priority activities, particularly related to building the resilience of the natural environment and contributing to livelihoods protection and poverty reduction”, according to project documents.
The EFJ recently awarded 18 grants to the tune of $84.9 million to undertake projects designed to boost the ability of communities to respond to climate change threats.
Counted among those threats are increased and/or more severe extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and droughts, which destroy agricultural and tourism livelihoods.
Climate change also brings warmer temperatures, which, too, have negative implications for not only human livelihoods but also marine life. This is given, as one example, the negative effects of increased sea surface temperatures on coral reefs.
It is a look at these implications that, at least in part, provides the basis of JNSBL’s decision to pursue administration of the line of credit under the PPCR.
“Increasingly, agro-related activities were experiencing negative changes in production yield, both in quality and quantity, which affected their ability to earn as per usual. We, therefore, wanted to assist with educating our clients and staff on matters of climate change and assist them to obtain the systems and techniques necessary to adequately respond to matters of climatic variability,” Shaw Nicholson said.
“JNSBL is also cognisant of the wider threat climate change poses to food security and as a part of our own mandate to support economic sustainability, JNSBL wanted to provide well needed support to the MSME sector to adequately mitigate and adapt for sustainability,” she added.
Power utility boss Kelly Tomblin views Softbank’s acquisition of Fortress Investment Group, to which New Fortress Energy is affiliated, as positive for furthering plans to build out gas facilities in Jamaica,
American company New Fortress Energy is a gas supply partner to Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS).
Last November, the partners celebrated the commissioning of Jamaica’s first LNG-fired plant at Bogue in Montego Bay, and they are about to start development on another gas facility in St Catherine. In both cases, New Fortress invests separately in the gas-supply infrastructure, while JPS develops the power plant.
The marine terminal and gas power plant development at Old Harbour in St Catherine is to get off the ground “in a couple of weeks,” said Tomlin, the president and CEO of JPS, on Friday.
JPS secured funding locally for its plant, while New Fortress planned to finance the project themselves with cash rather than debt, Tomlin, who noted that the acquisition by Softbank means “they will have a lot more cash”.
New Fortress did not return Gleaner calls up to press.
Last Wednesday, the two parties jointly announced a US$3.3 billion deal for Softbank of Japan to acquire New York-based Fortress Investment Group. Fortress, which is co-chaired by Pete Briger and Wes Edens, said its senior executives would remain with the company.
“I am in dialogue with Wes Eden,” said Tomblin. “I am assured that this acquisition doesn’t harm the project and that also he is excited about this deal; and so too the members on the ground who work for New Fortress,” said Tomlin.
Asked about any other implication to Jamaica, she said there would be “absolutely none”.
New Fortress plans to build and operate a liquefied natural gas marine terminal and pipeline within the Portland Bight area or close to the Goat Islands, according to the environmental report released last year.
The project will be executed through affiliate NFE South Holdings Limited. The marine terminal will feed gas to the 190MW plant that JPS will be developing at Old Harbour.
However, Dennis Chung, the chief executive officer of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), says if Government wants to divest its shares in JPS it might make sense, noting the valuation of the shares would be based on future prospects of the business.
Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, delivering the Throne Speech in Parliament on February 9, said the Government will this year begin the process of privatising its minority shareholding in JPS.
“The Government will take steps to ensure that there is broad retail and institutional participation and Jamaican owners in the divestment process,” he said, adding that an enterprise team will be appointed to lead it.
JPS is primarily owned by Marubeni of Japan and Korea East West Power Company, each of which holds 40 per cent interest.
Paulwell said the Government’s expressed plan to offload its shares in the power utility “doesn’t mean it’s going to happen as we have seen from last year’s Throne Speech”.
Notwithstanding that, “I am opposed to the divestment of the shares at this time because we would get the least possible value on those assets in JPS, largely because everybody is aware that 290 megawatt of JPSCo capacity will become scrap metal in a matter of time when the new 190MW plant is established.”
The 190MW plant to which he referred is the proposed gas-fired power station at Old Harbour Bay, St Catherine, on which construction is slated to start in early March.
“For me, the Government should participate in the new 190 (megawatt) plant which will preserve and enhance its value, and after that plant has been established, that’s the time you can think about selling the shares,” Paulwell told the Financial Gleaner.
“If you were to sell the shares now, we would end up not getting much because we owe JPSCo so much money now; so nothing will go to the government’s coffers, because any money we make from the sale will have to go and clear our debt with JPS,” he said.
He noted that the Government currently owes the JPS more than $2 billion in bills, including for street lighting.
“So if it were to sell the shares now it will be at a depressed value. The net effect would not mean anything coming into Government’s coffers,” said the energy spokesman.
What the Government needs to do is to participate fully in construction of the 190-megawatt plant, Paulwell said. “It will cost them about US$20 million in equity,” he said, noting that for that plant, the JPS has a 20-year power purchase agreement which guarantees that project a significant rate of return on the investment for 20 years.
“That is one of the safest investments you could make. Why would the Government not be a part of that? And at that time it could contemplate on how to dispose of its shares,” said Paulwell.
“And, in any event, if it’s going to do that, the Jamaican people must be the people to whom those shares are sold,” he said.
Chung indicated that in making the decision to divest its shares in JPS, the Government must know what is happening.
He said he did not see it as a big deal to divest the shares and make Jamaicans a part of the ownership.
Referring to Paulwell’s opposition to the sale at this time, Chung noted that valuation of the shares would be done based on what is expected in terms of business.
“If you know, for example, that you have a contract to sell twice what you sold this year, then you can build that knowledge into the valuation,” he said, adding that the valuation would also be based on future prospects.
He noted that shares are traded at a price-earnings ratio and sometimes can be valued at many times more than the book value of an entity.
“So it’s based on information that people have,” he said, adding that if investors believe they are going to make a killing “out of this thing, going forward, then you value the shares accordingly”.