Wed | Apr 26, 2017

Time to Renew Hope in Jamaica

Published:Thursday | February 19, 2015 | 2:00 AM

It is unfathomable that we have heard very little from our elected officials about the recent polls indicating that a significant number of Jamaicans are yearning to leave the island. I understand that some (or many?) are even willing to revoke their citizenship. Why are our leaders so deafeningly silent about this? Perhaps it is true that keeping abreast of what's happening in the country via the news isn't particularly important these days, and so they have not the slightest idea that many of us are fed up and tired of this place we call home.

The poll findings do not augur well for Vision 2030 - The National Development Plan to make Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise families, and do business. In fact, the findings make the goal laughable. Maybe we can use these polls as a sort of mid-term assessment of how well we are doing where the national development plan is concerned (since there seems to be none).

We cannot afford to not be anxious that so many of us are planning to leave the country. Are the two major political parties, namely Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and People's National Party (PNP), not remotely concerned about the current situation? Or are we all too preoccupied with other matters? I and many other Jamaicans would appreciate some intervention on this matter. The situation is impatient of a solution. I would be most pleased in the parliamentarian who is bold enough to table this for discussion.

 

national discourse

 

One would think that this finding would spark a national discourse about the reasons why our people are so eager to leave and for us to finally have a conversation about the vast number of persons - especially tertiary graduates - who have been migrating over the years. We cannot be so resigned in the status quo and pretend the benefits to the country outweigh the negative consequences of so many Jamaicans, including more than 70 per cent of persons with tertiary qualifications, migrating annually.

According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) 'Jamaica is increasingly troubled by the emigration of a significant percentage of its highly trained and skilled professionals. Over the past several decades, close to a million Jamaicans have emigrated to the United Kingdom, United States, and Canada. Recent approximations indicate that more than 80 per cent of Jamaicans with tertiary-level education and living outside of Jamaica were trained in Jamaica.'

The situation is, in my very humble opinion, untenable and requires an urgent national conversation that is anchored in our goal to make Jamaica a developed nation by 2030. It makes a mockery of what we are trying to achieve. The Governor General Patrick Allen, in light of his 'I Believe' Initiative, should include this matter in his throne speech later this year.

Note: I am not in any way suggesting that people, despite their desperate situation, should feel obligated to remain in Jamaica. I would be rather cruel to suggest that people live and feed on hope of a better tomorrow, which we have been promised on innumerable occasions.

I fully understand that there are tremendous benefits to be had from this 'human capital flight' (as economists put it) such as remittances. This has the potential to increase people's income and standard of living. However, we must appreciate that there are negative consequences that must be considered despite the percentage contribution of remittances to GDP.

We can't be pursuing a path of social and economic development and not be concerned about the impact migration can have on the productive sector. Yes, we will get remittances, but that is not a sufficient reason for us to be so unperturbed.

I am yet to be convinced that more than 70 per cent of tertiary graduates migrating is not such a terrible thing - after the Government has spent millions of dollars for education - because these persons will send remittances. This is not the best return on investment for the very commendable percentage spend on education annually.

I would be grateful if the Government can tell us what we are doing to create opportunities for our people to see a fulfilling life in Jamaica? How will we engender hope and ensure that more of us can stay in the country and pursue our dreams?

There can be no good in a significant number of people seeing no opportunity for them in their home country. This is certainly not the way to build a nation. It's time our leaders renew hope in this great nation.

- Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human rights advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jaevion@gmail.com.