Sat | Oct 21, 2017

CaPRI : Diaspora contributes far more than remittances

Published:Thursday | July 27, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Shanike Smart, research officer, Caribbean Policy Research Institute, makes a point to Michael Lee-Chin (second from left), chairman of the Economic Growth Council (EGC), following their participation in the Diaspora Growth Forum at the Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference on Tuesday at the Jamaica Conference Centre, Kingston. Also participating in the conversation are Dr David Panton (left), chair of the EGC Diaspora Task Force, and Earl Jarrett, CEO of Jamaica National Group, whose company organised the forum.

The Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI) has indicated that the Jamaican diaspora, which numbers some three million people, located mainly throughout the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, is contributing much more to the Jamaican economy than through remittances.

According to CaPRI, the diaspora contributes a minimum of 23 per cent to gross domestic product (GDP) through several sectors, including investments and tourism, but has the potential to contribute at least 35 per cent.

The think tank revealed its data during the Diaspora Growth Forum, organised by the Jamaica National Group, on day two of the Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston. The five-day event ends today.

 

UNEXPLOITED GDP

 

"That leaves us with an unexploited value of 12 per cent of GDP," argued Shanike Smart, research officer at CaPRI, who led the study along with Executive Director Dr Damien King.

That's significantly higher than the 16 per cent of GDP or US$2.2 billion earned from remittances sent to Jamaica from the diaspora countries. GDP is the total value of the goods and services the country produces.

"While a lot of us think there is value in the diaspora, there is not a lot of empirical evidence and data to validate this value preposition," argued Smart, who presented the data on behalf of the team.

She underscored that while the value of remittances contributed by the diaspora is known, the attendant economic benefits to remittance businesses and other entities that play a part in the transmission of funds to Jamaica is not measured. CaPRI estimates that the companies earn some US$188 million annually, although not all of these funds flow into Jamaica.

"While this figure isn't entirely attributable to the Jamaican environment, it does give us an idea of the benefit of the diaspora beyond the individual persons who receive it. The business environment benefits as well," she noted.

... Many invest in economic institutions

Beyond remittances, many in the diaspora invest in economic institutions and instruments in Jamaica. Looking at the investments held in banks, bonds and the stock market, the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI) has estimated that Jamaicans overseas have about US$400 million invested in the country. Outside of Jamaica, they are estimated to be saving some US$12.4 billion.

This was revealed by the think tank during the Diaspora Growth Forum, organised by the Jamaica National Group, on day two of the Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston.

The estimate supports evidence that most Jamaicans in the diaspora are affluent, with 80 per cent having some form of tertiary education, and 70 per cent earning more than US$40,000 annually.

"While we are not expecting to get all of this money, a portion of this can be targeted for local investment. Let's say we targeted 10 per cent. We are looking at US$14 billion, which accounts for 14 per cent of our GDP," illustrated Shanike Smart, research officer at CaPRI.

Jamaicans overseas also play a significant role in exports as purchasers of Jamaican goods and services, and also as trade facilitators, CaPRI outlined. They account for some 10 per cent of the exports to the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, or US$89 million. However, the think tank says the potential is US$129 million.

"They (the diaspora) facilitate even the idea of setting up the business in the first place, and they recommend them to their neighbours and friends," Smart said.