Exodus — Over 7,000 professionals left for North America since Great Recession

BY TERRON DEWAR Business reporter dewart@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, July 20, 2014

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OVER 7,000 managers and professionals left Jamaica for North America since the start of the Great Recession.

On average, the number of professionals opting to leave total over 1,100 each year since 2008 when the globla financial crisis started.

"People make calculated individual decisions when they decide to leave," said an established, 35-year-old chartered accountant, who asked to remain anonymous and who plans to emigrate to the US at the end of July.

"I know that more than half of my graduating class from UWI left long before me," said the man who currently works at one of Jamaica's largest banks, and who admits that he has a number of colleagues who have been looking at that option.

He said that his decision to 'migrate north' came after years of contemplation, and was largely driven by a number of assessments that he has made of the financial sector since 2007. "The number of layoffs that has been happening in the sector recently" was definitely noted.

"It is not an easy transition [but] I don't know anybody who has left and hasn't met their goals or who is not at least better off," he said. "As long as they carry their Jamaica work ethic, they usually make it."

The chartered accountant also noted that "people who leave usually return home for vacation when the time gets cold and a number of them still has assets and strong ties here."

For Dennis Chung, who admited that were it not for his experience travelling, or "maybe if I wasn't working or in a worse position", he too might have made the trek to North America, his prevailing love for Jamaica has been the most dominant reason for staying.

"I have a love for Jamaica [and] I think Jamaica is the best place in the world to live" said the CEO of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), who is also an accountant by profession. "Where else in the world you can go and the society is so warm? Where else in the world you can go in your back yard and pick some Julie mangoes and ackee?"

Chung argues that there are only a few things wrong with Jamaica and he would rather stay here and help to remedy them.

"I would rather stay in my country and fix my country rather than stay outside and help to criticise it," he said. "Everything is not just about having a lot of money, quality of life is a lot more important than that.

"People take simple things for granted, like the fact that you can walk down the road and see Usain Bolt or pay $1,000 and hear all the vintage artiste sing, when people aborad have to pay up to US$100 to see three of them perform."

In accounting for the experiences of some of his colleagues who left for the North, the PSOJ CEO said, "One or two of them have done well, but for the most part a lot of them are not really living the life that they thought they would be living (in Jamaica)."

Chung said that "people have called me and said that they are trying to come back to Jamaica and get a job because it is so difficult up there".

He reckons that the transition is far from a 'bed of roses' because a lot of people don't have the support base that they would have back home.

"Had some of them been back in Jamaica where they have a solid base and work smart, not hard, they could have actually made it," he said.

He figures that the level of brain drain is largely resultant of the lack of transformative leadership in Jamaica, the issue of crime and the cumbersome and restrictive effect of the Jamaican bureaucracy.

On the other hand, he is confident that 'no weh no nicer than yaad', because, despite the fact that while there is still a lot wrong with our politics, "you have some ministers now who are actually showing that type of transformational leadership".

"Jamaica is getting more mature as a nation because the people are demanding it," he added and the issue of crime, which has always been a problem is trending down "in the right direction", largely because of a change in the culture of policing left by Owen Ellington.




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