Commentary Jamaica Magazine

What future for Jamaica’s Diaspora?

INTERNATIONAL TRADE is the source by which a country usually earns its wealth. In recent times however it is money remittances from Jamaica’s Diaspora that is Jamaica’s leading foreign exchange source.

It is both flattering and concerning that, in these days, the economic significance of remittances to Jamaica is so important to the nation’s Revenue that the Diaspora has its own dedicated Minister of State.

Conditions which started to run 30 years ago mean that the purchasing power of the Diaspora is now at its height. Remittances have surpassed the foreign exchange earnings of the Tourism Industry and Bauxite exports. Is this a sustainable trend? For Jamaica, is it a desirable trend? Should Jamaica just sit back and organize to receive remittances or does the Diaspora expect to hear and see that Jamaica is working well and growing economically in the areas of trade and commerce.

Relying on its Diaspora for remittances is fair, but not fine. Jamaica must not lose its ability as regional and international traders. Even the bauxite is not an inexhaustible resource. The mining of what is left of it will one day become uneconomical.

Jamaica must continually be entrepreneurial in capitalizing on its earning potential. A potential which is currently underutilized.

In Jamaica’s interest questions of the long term should be asked; What will happen when we get to the third and fourth generation of expatriates? How many reading this article are third generation expatriates? Where will the remittances come from then?

There is talk amongst some politicians of the policy of ‘exporting brains’ (ie, home grown professionals who are expected to emigrate), but the problem with this approach is that it assumes that attitudes to international migration will always favour Jamaica. Developed nations don’t have to accept Jamaicans into their workforce without quota or quid pro quo. Their own national interest comes first. As a matter of fact we should be hoping that there is not an international trend in the other direction.

During the colonial era of the British Empire sugar made Jamaica one of the richest economies in the World. Changing with the times is a necessary part of development, but in our view change should be driven by foresight rather than reactive to lack of it.

Jamaica is thankful to its overseas kinfolk for the remittances, but as a country there must be a realization that Jamaica’s long term economic well-being must foremost depend on its ability to make a living in the world of TRADE and commerce…the technically resourceful Diaspora should engage, encourage and invest in this path.

The saying goes: “Give a man a fish – you feed him for the night, but teach him to fish – then you feed him for life.”

We all know the problems…on some things the Government will have to take the lead for a comprehensive solution, but in other areas it is persons who are gifted in commerce and trade who will have to lead the way to make Jamaica a place which will always be our ‘Home sweet Home’.

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.

About the author

Hamilton Daley