Jamaica to establish database of overseas professionals
The Portia Simpson Miller government says it will establish a comprehensive database of Jamaican professionals and investors abroad.
"We will be embarking on a mapping of this later on in the year with the assistance from the International Organization on Migration," said junior Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Arnaldo Brown.
He said the database would be a critical tool in engaging the diaspora in the country's development and that all countries that have well-developed diaspora models have a comprehensive database of their nationals, who are in strategic places, and are highly influential and successful.
"It is these persons that they have been able to use to leverage companies ...in order to unlock investments," said Brown, adding that these countries have designated bodies to deal with diaspora matters on a daily basis.
He said that the Jamaica Diaspora Foundation and the Jamaica Diaspora Institute will have to be strengthened to be effective.
"Those structures will have to be beefed up because the range of issues that the Diaspora is engaged in is far and wide. We will have to look at a model that is specific to Jamaica to allow for that type of engagement to take place, for it is really a full-time activity if we are going to leverage."
The foreign ministry has been examining successful diaspora models in countries such as Israel, India, Ireland, China and Mexico with the intent of replicating successful elements in Jamaica.
Citing the case of Israel, Brown said that the issuing of diaspora bonds has been a "powerful tool" in that country's model.
He said funds from the bonds go directly to the state "and the state is then able to use that money whether to pay down on the debt, to build roads, to build infrastructure, to build schools, to put in state-of-the-art trading systems and to do high-tech agriculture".
Brown said that there will be discussions on a similar diaspora bond at the upcoming diaspora conference.
"We will take a further look at that, but there are issues which arise in relation to how the bonds are structured," he said, noting that although Jamaica receives inflows of some US$2 billion annually from nationals abroad, the funds go directly to relatives and friends and not to the Jamaican state.
Lauding the Israeli model, Brown said the relationship between the country and its diaspora community has been "transformational", and expressed confidence that Jamaica "can get to that point and we are steadily working (with the diaspora)."
The 5th biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference, which has been rebranded to focus on trade and investment, will be held from June 16-19 under the theme 'Nation on a Mission: Jamaica - Diaspora Partnership for Development".