Money talks, and with remittance revenues of over US $1 billion dollars per year, Jamaica’s Diaspora should have a loud voice. With the value of the diaspora’s foreign exchange revenue second only to the mighty Tourism industry, no government can afford to leave the proper courtship and engagement of the diaspora community to chance. A dedicated ministerial portfolio is required – no less!
Yes, the diaspora is a government constructed movement of patriotic Jamaicans residing abroad. Some in the disapora object to the involvement of the government any at all, but I say to them; respectfully, it is a mistake to object. Jamaica’s disapora movement is wider than the boundary of any one country. Only the resources of Jamaica’s Consulates and High Commissions across the world could properly serve the full extent of Jamaica’s international disapora. The movement is therefore a more cogent, organised and relevant force because of the fact that the government is involved.
Why should the government want to be involved seems a straightforward question and answer. The diaspora does need the government to support and facilitate it as a movement, whilst on the other hand the government and the country needs the diaspora for its crucial foreign exchange revenue that substantially offsets the trading deficit, assisting Jamaica to keep its head above the water of being plagued with international debt which would carry devastating consequences for every walk of Jamaican life.
Therefore, it is a matter of national security that any government will need Jamaicans abroad to not forget ‘home’, to not completely abandon old Jamaica for a new life in new lands, to not completely divest their interest, to remember family and friends on those special days of the year, and to continue to take pride in the successes of Jamaica as their own success.
The diaspora should not object to the government’s involvement – but use the government’s involvement. The problem with the disapora is that its membership (formal and informal) abounds in passion but lacks cohesion to organize itself into a movement with one democratic voice. It stands accused of being hijacked by commercial concerns and political meddling which turn more people away than attract their involvement.
Jamaica’s diaspora is presently one of Jamaica’s greatest untapped resource. There seems to be a lack of imagination or willpower to beneficially develop this relationship. Successive governments search for the utopia of discovering off-shore oil whilst over-looking Jamaica’s gifted off-shore community which remain a relatively neglected national resource.
Hamilton Daley is an Attorney-at-Law in Jamaica and Solicitor Advocate in England.