Jamaica and its diaspora: Working in partnership for prosperity
The Government of Jamaica (GOJ), the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council (GJDC), and its youth arm, the Global Jamaica Diaspora Youth Council (GJDYC) continue to work as strategic partners for growth and development of the country. While there are many voices across the diaspora, the GJDC and GJDYC are the mechanisms used to enhance diaspora engagement and implement the National Diaspora Policy geared towards achieving Jamaica’s national development goal and, at the same time, securing the welfare of Jamaicans in the diaspora.
The GOJ’s deliberate move to improve its diaspora engagement came to the fore with the January 2020 launch of the 30-member GJDC and GJDYC, replacing the former Diaspora Advisory Board which had eight representatives drawn from the United Kingdom (UK), United States of America (USA), and Canada.
The councils, representing an expanded and more inclusive global consultative group, are comprised of members from the UK, USA, Canada, Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America, Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Middle East. In addition to the new and emerging regions added to the group, the councils also include sector leaders in agriculture, the arts, sports and culture, citizen security, commerce, development issues, education, environment, health and wellness, and faith-based communities.
In keeping with its mandate, the GJDC and GJDYC consult with the GOJ on a plethora of issues, including education, health, investment, tourism, security, and agriculture, often providing great insights and recommending best practices, all of which have been considered by the GOJ.
The GJDYC comprises second, third, and fourth generation Jamaicans — true to the GOJ’s commitment to develop a closer and more robust relationship with young members of the Jamaican Diaspora across the globe. Their voices have been heard and their ideas have been taken on board: from the Inaugural Online Youth Summit in June 2020, under the theme ‘Leading Beyond COVID-19: Industries, Impact and Innovation’, to their active formulation of and engagement in panels at the Diaspora Symposium in 2021 and engagements in the regional conferences staged last year in the UK, USA, Canada, and Europe, at which, in my capacity as minister of state in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, I was the keynote speaker.
It is also the GOJ, GJDC, GJDYC, and legacy partners, such as the Victoria Mutual (VM) Group, GraceKennedy Group, Jamaica National Group, government ministries and agencies (MDAs), alongside other private sector partners, that are currently engaged in the consultative planning of the 10th Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference slated for Montego Bay in June 2024.
Further, it is to be noted that the GOJ reiterates its sincere gratitude to the diaspora and all our development partners for their unwavering support to Jamaica. As we approach the 10th iteration of the conference we anticipate it will continue to provide an inclusive platform for enhancing and propelling development, with special attention to and regard for critical sectors of Jamaican life, especially health and education. The Government is conscious of the significant tasks ahead and recognises the necessity for ongoing and inclusive collaboration with all Jamaicans to fulfil its commitment to growth and development.
As we thank the diaspora for its commitment and support, I must also note that the Government continues to fulfil its promise to deliver important services to the its members. In that regard, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, through its diplomatic missions and consular posts, offers a range of services. These include facilitating applications for passports, citizenship, police certificates, letters of no objection, certificates of no impediments, settlement of estates, and payment of pensions to retired Jamaican public servants overseas, as well as the issuing of Jamaican visas.
Jamaicans worldwide have expressed their confidence in the Government and its calculated approach to economic growth and fiscal responsibility, which has resulted in unprecedented socio-economic progress for Jamaica and its citizens. To that end the diaspora has continued to praise the Government for its achievements, including our historic low unemployment rate of 4.5 per cent; the lowering of the national debt to 77 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP); the 10 consecutive quarters of economic growth; the 22 per cent reduction of dangerous crime, with murder being reduced by 7 per cent, as a result of both the increased focus and expenditure on improving crime-fighting capabilities and enhancing human capital in the security sector; improvements in policing our borders, thanks to bilateral and multilateral partnerships; the infrastructural development of our motorways and highways; and the booming construction industry.
The massive return to the island of thousands of Jamaicans to celebrate the Christmas holidays, the increased diaspora direct investments and philanthropic missions across Jamaica added to the approximately 7 per cent increase in remittances from Jamaican families overseas in 2023 further signal the goodwill and energy that exists between Jamaica and its diaspora. As such, it is undeniable that Jamaica and its diaspora are at an unprecedented stage of engagement, with mutual benefits being gained from this strategic and symbiotic relationship.
Jamaicans across the diaspora have indeed expressed hope and are excited by the stabilising economy and currency; the bolstered direct and indirect local and foreign investor confidence which has made Jamaica the ideal destination and poster child for trade and investment — a fact recognised by our key bilateral and multilateral partners, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the United Nations (UN), and the World Bank. As such, the vast majority of our diasporans are opposed to any attempt to disrupt Jamaica’s growth trajectory and nation-building.
Jamaicans in other parts of the world have also expressed the view that one region or one individual does not speak for an entire diaspora that exceeds three million people. They have advised that the diaspora will continue to work with the GOJ as strategic partners to foster greater engagement and empowerment of all Jamaicans.
The Government welcomes this approach as we all play our part to advance the welfare of all Jamaicans, in keeping with the Vision 2030 national development goal of leaving no one behind as Jamaica becomes the place to live, raise families, and do business.
I also take the opportunity to share that the Jamaica Diaspora Engagement Model (Jam-Dem) — a portal which seeks to put diaspora investors and investment opportunities in Jamaica in the same space, whilst putting diasporas together on the same platform — should be launched at the 10th Biennial Conference. This platform will be one more active space in which we expect to reap growth and development dividends for generations to come.
Alando N Terrelonge is Member of Parliament for St Catherine East Central and minister of state in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.