by Karl B. Rodney
Just recently, Dr. Wayne Henry, CEO of the Jamaica Planning Commission, predicted a growth rate of Jamaica of approximately 5%, and the various ministers associated with the economy have taken that to indicate that Jamaica has gone back to pre-Covid development path.
Jamaica may have overcome the disadvantages of Covid 19, Minister of Finance and Public Service, Dr. Nigel Clarke says that Jamaicans across the diaspora ought to be lauded for their invaluable contribution in helping the local economy stay afloat through remittances, during the Covid-19 pandemic, Clark noted that remittances jumped approximately 500 million to US 2.9 billion in 2020, which helped to cushion the loss of 2.5 billion in foreign exchange earnings from tourism. Remittances, inflow increased in 2021, exceeding US 3.3 billion. Dr. Clark went on to comment.
“A lot of people wondered how Jamaica could have survived after the airports shut down in March 2020, and virtually no tourists came for months, he spoke. “It was the increase in remittances that enabled the country to successfully navigate the crisis.” Dr. Clark and so many ministers of government, not just this government, but governments in the past. Have looked at the remittances from the diaspora in some degree, as if it is an ATM machine, and have devised means and methods to keep the cash flowing. This is a policy, of course, that is not self-sustainable and there has always been a cry in the diaspora for a constructive means of engagement and a sustainable means of using the remittances for real development.
Jamaica has developed the Global Diaspora Council, which is a successor to the Diaspora Advisory Board and this council organization. Organized through the government is to be the mechanism for a diaspora engagement with the government and have in fact crafted areas for that engagement, education, health, agriculture, et cetera.
It certainly is a well-meaning attempt, but one that has to be examined in the light of how global diasporas work successfully around the world. Diaspora organizations that are successful and impactful are generally organic and not organized through a political means, the government of the day, simply because your global diaspora movement organization needs to have longevity across the political spectrum and needs to be consistent through its policies and not by a regime or a particular government.
And so yes, government should look to facilitate these organization in terms of issues of their value around poverty reduction, economic growth and their connection with civil society. Government should provide information, coordination, and where necessary connections to these needs, but the government should not be the controlling element of these diaspora organizations.
For decades in a number of countries, diaspora organizations have been engaged in the development of the country and have worked with government officials as well, a representative, representatives in academia, civil society, media, and private sector to develop successful programs. This way, the diaspora organization can be fully engaged and contribute to. the long term sustainable development of the countries, regardless of which political party is in power.
So it is highly desirable for Jamaica and for that matter can Caribbean countries, they’re all very well supported by remittances to develop the kind of diaspora program that will be in the long run will have a positive effect on the country.
There have been simple issues like listening to the diaspora who have had the experience in both locations, listening to priorities and challenges seeking to get long-term commitments that go beyond just election cycles.
Allow the diaspora population in contributing developed countries to work with those countries, in the development of aid programs, and to bring the strength of the diaspora well within the realm of the country that they’re operating from, this is a common practice of strong diaspora organization and it suits the countries to have that combination of energies between the diaspora and the policy of the country of destination so that there is a vigorous and effective coming together over the issues and interests of both the diaspora and the country of destination.
And so as we as the Caribbean look at the diaspora and their movement, we just need to be far more sensitive to how we organize it. There are lots of material and Diaspora examples for us to look at, so we don’t look at short-term gains, what could be long-term sustainable programs on all levels, but keep the coordinating and information flow between the diaspora and their homeland and make making sure that there is that synergy and real connection around the issues.
Jamaica, Haiti, Guyana, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and so many countries in the Caribbean, and Latin America are dependent on the diaspora for remittances, that it should be a priority to find ways to work with all sectors to make sure that that source is engaged, protected and apolitical around how they can be of value to their native country.
This organization has to be more than an ATM or an organization working on political projects.