High hopes for Diaspora conference

BY HAROLD G BAILEY Observer writer editorial@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

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NEW YORK, USA — There is heightened optimism within the Jamaican community here that the upcoming Biennial Diaspora conference will be one of real substance and not another exercise of empty rhetoric.

The four-day conference will open on Sunday at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James.

"It definitely will not be another talk shop," remarked Irwin Clare, a principal player in Diaspora affairs.

Clare, who heads the Diaspora Advisory Board for the North-East United States, said that most of the talks have already taken place, and that the conference is being viewed as "one that will seek to implement a number of ideas that will have a serious impact on Jamaica's development and enhance the Diaspora movement".

As a measure of how serious the matter of implementing proposals on which discussions have already been held is being taken, Clare said deliberations on some of these measures will be limited.

This year's conference will place heavy emphasis on trade and investment, but will also look at national security, education and health, among other issues.

Clare said that the conference will also be opened to individuals as well as organisations.

There is also a sense of satisfaction with the preparation and run-up to the conference which, in the past, has been subject to controversy.

Roy Davidson, who heads the powerful National Association of Jamaica and Supportive Organisations (NAJASO), said in an interview that he was "impressed with a recent presentation by state minister Arnaldo Brown" as he outlined the Jamaican Government's plans for the Diaspora during a meeting with stakeholders here.

Davidson said that, for the first time, a delegation from NAJASO will attend the conference. He said that only the head of the organisation was previously invited to the conference.

Another key player in matters relating to the Diaspora here, Patrick Beckford, said he was "generally satisfied with the agenda items listed for discussions".

The rehashing of plans to establish a database of Jamaican professionals here have also won widespread approval within the Diaspora.

The Diaspora Conference is convened by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.

According to the ministry, "Conference 2013 seeks to build on the legacy of the Jamaica 50 celebrations by exploring defined opportunities for the Diaspora to expand their business interests in Jamaica through increased trade and investment -- large and small".

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