OCHO RIOS – Dr. Kenneth Baugh, Jamaica’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade opened the biennial Jamaican Diaspora Convention telling delegates that the deliberations were critical to the long-term economic development of the island
He pointed out that one example of this was that the views of the Diaspora had been integrated in Vision 2030, the development plan charting Jamaica’s destiny. Minister Baugh made the disclosure while addressing the opening ceremony of the Diaspora Convention at the Sunset Jamaica Grande Hotel in Ocho Rios, St. Ann on Thursday (June 16).
“You are ideally placed and you have been playing an important role in increasing Jamaica’s trade in the countries where you live,” he stated. “Investments that originate in the Diaspora and are directed to various sectors in Jamaica are sizeable and we must do what is required to simplify our processes and make doing business hassle free.”
Dr. Kenneth Baugh, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade addressing the opening ceremony of the Jamaican Diaspora Convention at the Sunset Jamaica Grande Hotel in Ocho Rios, St. Ann on June 15-17.
The annual migration rate among Jamaican tertiary students and skilled workers is approximately sixty percent, he said. Yet despite this loss of human capital, the minister declared that Jamaica benefits from Diaspora contributions to its economy as well as from their lobbying and other support of Jamaica’s policies.
He singled out the “tremendous assistance” received from the Diaspora in the health sector, as well as in disaster response. “Instead of a focus on brain drain, we must integrate migration in national development, to the end that the focus becomes brain gain,” he pointed out.
Senator Marlene Malahoo-Forte, Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade with responsibility for Diaspora affairs, said the country will not resolve its problems overnight and needs the help of the Diaspora to do so.
“Our common interest is to move Jamaica forward through positive partnerships,” she stated. “Our aim is to find more creative ways to strengthen this partnership to which we are devoting ourselves and our hope to emerge stronger, better enable to do the task yet undone.”
She added that the Diaspora Convention 2011 was also a precursor for what is to come in 2012, when the country will mark the 50th anniversary of its nationhood and its athletic prowess will be on display at the Olympics in London.
Opposition Spokesman on Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator A.J. Nicholson urged the Diaspora to continue to strengthen the structures of the movement, which he said requires their full commitment. He recommended that stakeholders on all sides should be treated with respect, and where differences arose, “what is important is how these differences are approached and the scope and opportunities presented for genuine resolution.”
Dr. Kenneth Baugh (centre), Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade makes a point to Senator Marlene Malahoo-Forte, Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade with responsibility for Diaspora affairs.
Earl Jarrett, Chairman of the Jamaican Diaspora Foundation said Jamaicans needed to acknowledge their challenges, but also have the capacity to look beyond them and work together as one nation.
“As the rest of the world experience a new spring, so too Jamaica is experiencing its own spring,” Mr. Jarrett said. “Those persons who are here today have committed to participate in engagement, participating in the principles of dialogue and discussion, and represent the true opportunity for Jamaica and its Diaspora.”