In a visit to South Florida, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness discussed the Jamaican Diaspora with the Miami Herald. Holness, 45, faces significant challenges in Jamaica, including a high murder rate, bloat in the public sector, low growth rates, and high debt. But he has also overseen positive actions in his country, such as easing business dealings, initiating affordable housing, and adding about 60,000 jobs. Holness noted the challenges and attainments as he was ending his first-ever engagement with the Jamaican Diaspora since winning the general election in February 2016.
The Jamaican-American Bar Association invited Holness to South Florida to give the keynote speech at the group’s 10th annual scholarships and awards event. He began what he called his “conversation” with the Diaspora by posing the question, “What does it mean to be Jamaican?” He then answered by saying that being Jamaican wasn’t only about birthplace, but was “a state of being.” He noted that Jamaica has “transcended its borders” and has nearly as many citizens living abroad as on the home island. There are about 350,000 Jamaicans living in the southern United States, he estimated.
The Jamaican Diaspora represents a powerful tool for the country, which can play an important role in helping to resolve the nation’s problems, including financial difficulties linked to the withdrawal of US correspondent banks and the effects of climate change. The Diaspora can be a powerful voice in encouraging and making investments in the country and counteracting the negative perceptions of Jamaica that hamper business interests from contributing to its development. Holness acknowledged that “we have not found the right mechanism to leverage” the powerful voice of the Jamaican Diaspora, however.
Holness received considerable support for his suggestion that Jamaica change its constitution to allow Jamaicans living overseas to vote and run for office on the island. He said this would be a progressive step in the country’s development.
Source: Miami Herald