For such a small nation Jamaica’s impact on the world resonates. In examples of world politics, international sports and music, Jamaica’s notable presence belies its size as a country. The “Jamaica” name is big!
Like French is to France, English to England or Spanish is to Spain, reggae music is to Jamaica. It is a sound that Jamaica has exported to the world.
The abilities of Jamaicans are legendary. Prior to her ascension to prime ministerialship, I once heard Portia Simpson Miller say in a speech: “Jamaican’s have the ability to reach the highest level and to be the best in whatever endeavours they take up (the problem is that includes being bad)”. But the fact remains when we are good we are world class – we are very good indeed!
The present challenge for Jamaica is to become world class traders. The accolade we seek is the reputation of being the Caribbean’s number one trading nation. There may be other accolades Jamaica earns, but our project is about stimulating and improving Jamaica’s international trading performance.
In trading terms Jamaica needs to get into the gym, get focussed, lean and competitive. Instead of precedence being given to supporting the practical application of regional and international trade conventions, there appears to be a misguided focus on organizing to collect Diaspora remittances. Yes – there are some who through up their hands in the air and profess that the world should surrender to the potential of the massive production capabilities of countries like China and the technological strides of giant developing markets such as that of India.
I have in the past commented by the medium of these articles that the Diaspora’s remittances is a crop currently in the height of season, but that it is too fluid and unpredictable in its performance as to form a reliable basis for long term fiscal planning. In the meantime however remittances do remain indisputably the leading source of Jamaica’s foreign exchange income.
An analysis of the current pattern of foreign exchange income may suggest that Jamaica is under-performing as a trading nation. I have questioned whether the level of Diaspora remittance suggests that the cost of living and life style of many Jamaicans are being subsidized by income from overseas. This subsidy analogy taken to its extreme would mean that as a nation Jamaica will become substantially dependant on Diaspora remittances to fund chunks of its regular annual budget. Thus the ultimate result will see Jamaica being relegated to the position of a State which is substantially reliant on private remittances received from the First World countries.
There is a consequent concern if such a development were to occur in reality, for First World countries may at any time regulate their currencies flow to suit their own respective national interest. Sure we live in an era of globalisation, but the notion of national interest is a paramount philosophy.
In the immediate and short term it is easy to organize to collect remittances – after all the remittances are coming anyway. The Diaspora do not send money home out of patriotism but because they have their own domestic interest to maintain. On a macro scale however it is the responsibility of the Government to devise credible plans for Jamaica’s long term and perpetual economic well-being.
There is a lack of Government priority for Jamaica to have a respectable reputation as regional and international traders. At the moment the Diaspora is being heavily courted, which is fine, but we hope from this courtship will come a relationship of real substance where businesses of Jamaican interest will thrive across international borders.
In the future when we hear “the Jamaicans are coming”, we have the power to market what that means. Government has shown that it can mobilize the Diaspora community, it is now a question of what to do with the sleeping giant that has been awoken.
Hamilton Daley is a practising Attorney-at-Law in Jamaica, Solicitor Advocate in England and Managing Director of T.R.A.D.E. Ltd . Entrepreneurial Diasporians Jamaica calls you to duty. Please contact T.R.A.D.E. Ltd to facilitate your contribution. TRADE exists to facilitate trading bridges between Jamaica and the rest of the world.