Sun | Oct 22, 2017

Crime not deterring diaspora from investing in Jamaica

Published:Friday | July 14, 2017 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke
Kamina Johnson-Smith, minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade.
Earl Jarrett
Professor Neville Ying, executive director, Jamaica Diaspora Institute.
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It would be naive to think that the recent upsurge in crime has had no impact on investment in Jamaica from the diaspora, noted Kamina Johnson-Smith, the minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade.

Speaking at yesterday's Gleaner Editors' Forum in looking ahead to the upcoming Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference in Kingston, starting next Thursday at the Jamaica Conference Centre, Johnson-Smith said that confidence levels are strong in spite of crime and that Jamaica is ripe for investment emanating from the diaspora.

"Note that I am not asserting that there is an impact. I'm just saying that it would be naive to presume there is no impact. Likewise, it would be naive to think that there is never an impact on investment or on an appetite for investment," said Johnson-Smith.

"But we can say that the conference, perhaps, will provide an opportunity for us to focus on how investment can take place, and to celebrate what is good about Jamaica; celebrate our business confidence levels and our consumer confidence levels and the ways in which Jamaica is ripe for investments."

 

CRIME INTERVENTION TASK FORCE

 

That the diaspora has taken an interest in the crime issue was agreed upon by Johnson-Smith and Professor Neville Ying, executive director at the Jamaica Diaspora Institute, who posited that the formation of a Diaspora Crime Intervention and Prevention Task Force in 2016 shows the level of involvement and the intention to maintain investment in Jamaica.

"This task force has been involved and made a fact-finding trip here last October. It is made up of persons with a variety of excellent expertise in different areas for crime intervention and prevention, from intelligence to cyber crime, to conflict resolution," the professor said.

He emphasised the ongoing collaboration between the task force and the Ministry of National Security, as both sides try hammering out a partnership.

"They have looked at one of the five pillars of the crime-fighting plan as a starting point, around which they can give some assistance and have determined to pay attention to social issues. There is also interest in the area of the rehabilitation of offenders. They are also looking at the intelligence fusion centre because there are people in the task force who have worked in the US in those areas and want to help," Ying said.

... Statistics show crime has no severe impact on diaspora investment

Banker Earl Jarrett, who will chair next week's Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference in Kingston, said that investment remains strong in spite of crime, as members of the diaspora use their knowledge of Jamaica in their assessment to put their money in the country.

He noted at yesterday's Gleaner Editors' Forum that a survey being undertaken by The Caribbean Policy Research Institute will shed light on the various ways the diaspora invests in Jamaica.

Outside of remittances, which accounts for approximately 16 per cent of gross domestic product, Jarrett said that the result from the survey will give a better indication to the amount of investment being poured into the country despite the high crime rate.

"What does the term investment mean? This includes savings in Government of Jamaica instrument, some of those remittances also end up in saving accounts, which also is a form of investment, so statistically we're not seeing that mass effect of crime turning away diaspora involvement in investing in the country," Jarrett said.

He noted that Jamaicans abroad are aware of the situation, and because of that familiarity, they are able to make measured decisions about their levels of investment.

"These are your sticky investors. They already know the landscape, they are able to measure the risks, and so they are able to start up new projects in Jamaica, despite the crime," Jarrett said.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com