Tue | Oct 16, 2018

Jamaica losing out on billions as it fails to maximise Diaspora potential

Published:Friday | February 16, 2018 | 12:00 AMSyranno Baines/Gleaner Writer

Jamaica has the potential to reap as much as US$6 billion annually from the Diaspora but is maxed out at US$4 billion, particularly because of a lack of a clearly defined engagement strategy.

This US$2 billion of unrealised economic value from the Diaspora represents roughly 11 per cent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), according to the findings of a recent study carried out by the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI) and the Jamaica Diaspora Institute (JDI).

Funded by the Jamaican National Group, with a margin of error of plus or minus five per cent, the study, titled 'The Economic Value of the Jamaican Diaspora', was conducted from June to August and involved more than 500 respondents from the Diaspora.

It sought to find out how significant the Diaspora's current involvement is in Jamaica and also to determine if there is unrealised economic value from the Diaspora by looking at the key areas of remittances, investments, exports, tourism and philanthropy.

"We need to work on the fundamental engagement strategies which involve collecting critical data to really know the Diaspora," asserted Shanike Smart, research officer at CAPRI.

"The idea is to tailor our initiatives to the needs of the people, which we can't do without the data. We must have improved data collections efforts because our study is an indicative one and we understand that we need to expand on a larger scale," Smart added.

Among the focus areas, the data showed that investment had the most untapped economic potential with investments from the Diaspora totalling just US$1.16 billion, a massive US$1.4 billion less than the US$2.56 billion potential from the area.

The findings also revealed that both exports and philanthropy had significant unrealised economic value, with the former amounting to US$89 million while having a potential value of US$126 million and the latter bringing in US$17 million with an unexploited potential of US$559 million.

While tourism from the Diaspora currently equates to US$323 million, its potential is unknown.

To this end, Smart pointed out that spending may be increased in tourism through targeted marketing campaigns and having members of the Diaspora act as brand ambassadors and promoters of Jamaica's tourism brand.

Meanwhile, remittances exceeded its potential of US$2.1 billion, amounting to US$2.2 billion.

The finding also indicated that 80 per cent of respondents have at least some tertiary education while more than 70 per cent are earning more than US$40,000 annually.

 

Some of the recommendations put forward to maximise the Diaspora's potential

- Assess and Rationalise Existing Institutions

- Create a sustainable Financial Plan

- Integrate with other Agencies

- Develop a communication/marketing strategy

- Improve (Initiate) Data Collection Efforts

- Build Monitoring and evaluating capacity

- Increase Educational and Awareness

- Invest in the Implementation of a National Diaspora Bond