Contrary to popular belief, weed is illegal in Jamaica. Weed my lips, possessing small amounts of cannabis for personal use has been decriminalized. If caught with under 56.6 grams of cannabis and without a prescription, the possessor will be fined 500 Jamaican dollars (about $5 USD). How do I know this? I was told by Aniffe, our driver in Jamaica (No, I wasn't caught using weed..) In this visit I took some notes as usual.
Queens Highway will take you to Ocho Rios, if your stay is at Montego Bay. It was named to honor Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth who officially opened it in 1953. It was the first highway in Jamaica. My goal was to visit the Dunn's River Falls - one of Jamaica's national treasures. Ian-Yeg a member of our investor community pointed this as a place to consider. Dunn’s River offers two climbs: a wet climb and a dry climb. If you are not a fan of getting wet, then the dry climb would be best for you. The wet climb entailed walking within the falls and through the water. You cant have an omelette unless you break the egg. It was very surreal.
“Dunn's river offers two climbs: a wet climb and a dry climb."
My attention now turns to Aniffe, our cab driver. Interestingly enough, we never go for advises or travel tips to the taxi drivers. We hire them to get from point A to point B and usually don’t even ask what their names are. Once departed with these people, we rarely think about them. After all you don't make enemies with crocodiles that share your waters! However, things we learn from these taxi drivers stay with us much longer. Aniffe was awesome. Undoubtedly he was efficient and knew the areas like the palms of his hands.
“I'd noticed while eating my fries that the ketchup provided wasn't by Heinz but Grace Foods.”
License Plates: Giving a number to a car is giving it legitimacy. A numbered car is a legitimate car; that is legally allowed to enjoy the rights on the road. Like a legal citizen enjoys the facilities of the State. Interestingly, Jamaican vehicles license plates are color coded: Green is for commercial use; White is for Private use; Blue is Temporary; Yellow is for Government use and Red is for Public Transportation. If you are curious about every single license plate variant used around the world follow this link.
History: Without any exaggeration, I have to admit that Aniffe knew his land. Besides being friendly and open he went out of their way to give a crash course in history of Jamaica. I didn't know that the original name for Jamaica was Xymaica - a name derived from the first Jamaicans who were the Taino Indians - something that even Google doesn’t know to a T.
Stock Market: While traveling, I appreciate every opportunity to learn as much as possible about a new place including political and economical situation in that county or area. I asked Aniffe about the Jamaican Stock Exchange. I'd noticed while eating my fries that the ketchup provided wasn't by Heinz but Grace Foods. I asked Aniffe about it. Apparently it's a popular company under the name Grace Kennedy (Ticker Symbol - GK). Naturally, the next question you'd get to ask is how can one invest in the stock market there and benefit from this growth. Normally an investor who wishes to get exposure to an overseas market is able to find a mutual fund or an exchange-traded fund, ETF, listed on one of the major world stock exchanges, easily getting exposure to China, Brazil, India and others. However, for investors this is up a creek without a paddle in Jamaica. A Bloomberg article pointed out that there is no such ETF with exposure to Jamaica. You would have to look before you leap. By the way Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is the ambassador for Grace Foods.
Movies: Anniffe clearly knew that James Bond was conceived in Jamaica by Ian Fleming, and the character and the country are deeply intertwined. Iconic scenes from “Dr. No,” “Live and Let Die,” and “No Time to Die” were shot here. While filming “No Time to Die” in Port Antonio, Daniel Craig stayed at Cocosan Villa, a luxurious six-bedroom villa for two weeks. if you’re a 007 fan, you might want to stay there. Prices on Google for a 1-night stay average is $4,410, just so you know!
Real Estate: According to Anniffe foreigners are eligible to buy property in Jamaica without any restrictions. The process begins when the buyer makes an offer. Obviously lawyers are involved in every aspect of a property sale and they generally charge legal fees amounting to 1.50 to 3 percent of the purchase price. Add to this 16.5 percent General Consumption Tax or GCT. In cases where stamp duty has to be paid, the buyer and seller share the cost. Stamp duty is approximately 4 percent of the purchase price. The registration fee, which can be paid at the National Land Agency, is around 0.50 percent of the market value of the property. The seller undertakes the transfer tax and this amounts to 5 percent of the property value. If a real estate agent is involved in the process, their fees can amount to 3 to 5 percent of the purchase price, along with 16.5 GCT. This is a lot of math and as you know the law is a jealous mistress. Aniffe pointed to a gated community in St. Ann of the Queens Highway but it looks like it's sold out. Fern Court Apartments would have set you back for ~$170k.
Ya Mon: It's a good idea to learn some of the phrases and sayings people use in their daily conversations. Ideally you do this where locals speak differently than you. The fact that Jamaica’s official language is English means that I didn't have problems communicating with the local people entirely. However a bit of Jamaican Patois threw me off. I got interested and learnt: 'small up yuhself' - make room; 'wah gwaan' - what's up?; 'irie' - everything is fine; 'ya mon'; - no problem.
There are times when life gets overcrowded. What we do as an investor community involves perturbation. If you have had a return on your capital, take a break this summer. Use your loaf! Heed Dalai Lama's advice "once a year go someplace you've never been before." Well that just dills my pickle.
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