OCHO RIOS, Jamaica – A structured partnership with the nation’s Diaspora is necessary for Jamaica to achieve its developmental requirements, says Earl Jarrett, Chairman of the Jamaican Diaspora Foundation.
The Jamaican community overseas is now a major economic force, and also has the capacity to wield significant influence in key host communities, he stated. Addressing the biennial Jamaican Diaspora Convention 2011 at the Sunset Jamaica Grande Hotel in Ocho Rios, St. Ann on Friday (June 17), he said a framework was needed to harness this potential.
“Should there be a Ministry of the Diaspora?” Mr. Jarrett suggested to the delegates. Alternatively, he said that an equivalent of the investment promotions agency, JAMPRO, or the Jamaica Tourist Board could focus on developing the economic potential of this community.
Earl Jarrett, Chairman of the Jamaican Diaspora Foundation, has called for a more deeply structured relationship between Jamaica and its Diaspora. He was addressing the Jamaican Diaspora Convention 2011 at the Sunset Jamaica Grande Hotel in Ocho Rios, St. Ann on Friday (June 17).
The Jamaican market, said to consist of approximately three million persons, is already fully tapped by most local firms, he stated. The main growth opportunity for most firms lies in exports, and the Diaspora market is a key component in this thrust.
“There are thriving local industries which benefit from direct Diaspora funding such as air and ground transportation, tourism and the trade in ethnic goods,” he added. The Diaspora also provided Jamaican residents with J$92 million monthly through the direct purchases of telephone talk time, and more recently with the development of phone credit transfers.
He pointed to the US$2 billion in remittances the country gains from its overseas members, the many schools and hospitals assisted, as well as the fact that a major element in its tourism success consisted of visiting non-resident Jamaicans. And one crucial recent development was the mobilization of Jamaicans in the United Kingdom against that country’s damaging Air Passenger Duty.
More qualitative and quantitative research is needed to determine the value of Diaspora contributions to the country, he stated. He indicated that this could be carried out by the Jamaican Diaspora Institute, given the necessary resources and funding.
“We can certainly identify more opportunities for greater private sector engagements with the Diaspora; but, in order for the market to grow, we need to work with government to create the framework, around which the economic, philanthropic and tourism sector results can coalesce,” he declared.
Scenes from the biennial Jamaican Diaspora Convention 2011
Keith ‘Levi Roots’ Graham (left), British-Jamaican entrepreneur, shakes hands with Earl Jarrett, Chairman of the Jamaican Diaspora Foundation; under the gaze of (from second left) Paulette Simpson, General Manager of Jamaica National Overseas (UK) Ltd; and Hon. Marlene Malahoo-Forte, Minister of State in the Ministry Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade.
Governor-General Sir Patrick Allen (centre), presides over the Governor General’s 2011 Diaspora Awards with (left to right) Richard Powell, Chairman of the ceremony; Hon. Consul Mrs. Enid Dwyer, USA Awardee; Mr. Nehemiah Bailey, Canada Awardee; Hon. Marlene Malahoo-Forte, Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade; Earl Jarrett, Chairman of the Jamaican Diaspora Foundation; and Mrs. Alda Flowers, United Kingdom Awardee.
Delegates in attendance at the opening session of the biennial Jamaican Diaspora Convention 2011 at the Sunset Jamaica Grande Hotel in Ocho Rios, St. Ann on Thursday (June 16).