Aubyn Hill, Financial Gleaner Columnist
On October 28 the famous American icon, the Statue of Liberty, will mark its 127th inauguration anniversary on Liberty Island in Manhattan, New York.
The French-American collaboration was initiated by a French law professor and politician Edouard Rene Laboulaye and designed by his compatriot Frederic Auguste Bartholdi.
Laboulaye stated in 1865 that such a monument to freedom and American independence should best be a joint project of the French and American people.
This gift of friendship from the French to the Americans committed the two nations to promote and defend liberty.
Across the world, the Statue of Liberty has been a robust symbol of welcome to people of many different nationalities, the vast majority of whom would eventually become Americans.
The 34-year old poet, Emma Lazarus, wrote her now famous sonnet, The New Colossus, in 1883 and captured the nation's imagination then and continues to shape the way Americans think about immigration.
These famous lines of the sonnet were inscribed on a bronze plaque and placed on the base of the pedestal of the 300-foot 1-inch (93-metre) monument:
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she with silent lips.
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yelling to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
The Jewish poet penned these words to aid the fundraising effort to find the US$270,000 in cash to construct the 89-foot granite pedestal, which was the American contribution to match the US$400,000 provided by France to design and build the 151-ft 1-inch (46.05-metre) statue.
Between 1820 and 1920, about 34 million people immigrated to the United States and approximately 75 per cent stayed permanently. Since then, the Great Depression, the Second World War, Soviet communism, the pain of poverty and the desire for better education are some of the myriad reasons why people have responded to the attractive and freedom-inspired invitation embedded in the Statue of Liberty.
LIBERTY'S BUSINESS MODEL
It is my estimate that about the 1960s the business model of the invitation of the statue changed. America had become the unquestioned leading economic and military superpower after the defeat of the Nazi Germany.
The "huddled masses, yearning to breathe free" were not the persons America now most welcomed regardless of how "wretched" they were, or how many were " teeming on their poverty-stricken and liberty-starved shores".
There was an unannounced, subtle, but effective change to "send me your brightest and best" from Germany, Russia, France, England, Australia, Egypt, now India, China and Brazil - and even Jamaica and Mexico.
Of course, the welcome is even more fulsome if you can pay for your own university education. Sure, the United States still helps the needy to settle but one cannot ignore the debate in Congress and elsewhere as to building barriers to keep the "huddled masses" out.
The words of the sonnet have given room to "send me your best and brightest".
In spite of the increased risk and increasing barriers, thousands of people risk incarceration, unspeakable hardships and obstacles and even death in order to get to the USA and take their chances at making their own 'American Dream' a reality.
The simple fact is, to millions around the world - and certainly thousands in Jamaica - the free-enterprise system in America, the chance to improve one's social and economic position by hard work and merit, the greatly reduced corruption, the existing of a legal system that is quite transparent and perceived to be fair, and equitable and fairly equitably administered taxation regime make people with smarts, ambition and drive still flock to America.
The free press, great entertainment and freedom to be oneself are seen as still embodied in the now practical but nuanced invitation on the Statue of Liberty. Lots of people still want to go to America - immigration walls or no.
MAKING JAMAICA SEXY AGAIN
Today, it is a fact that many are not beating a path to invest in Jamaica. The opposite is largely true. But that truth needs not be our permanent reality, it can change.
So why do companies and individuals seek to visit, invest and reside in countries which they perceive as attractive destinations, and can Jamaica become one of these successful destinations?
Yes, we can.
Political leaders - I name them first because our Government plays such a prominent role in our economy from such a commanding height - business leaders, civil society and other NGO leaders, church and academic leaders and all of us who are sensible followers must create an economic vision that is infused by the growth imperative and driven by knowledge.
We must jettison economic ignorance and a wrong-and-strong unwillingness to make necessary changes.
So, to construct an attractive and inviting economic edifice we have to fix our decrepit ad often corrupt way of doing business.
Jamaica needs to make it easy to do business here. So we must measure and monitor and measure again Government's efficiency and transparency in terms of time to complete straightforward processes like starting a business - from concept to product delivery - and transferring land from an old conveyance document to a full title.
We must now measure how much we do not have to pay as blatant and petty bribes, as against what we must legitimately pay for the services.
When there are clear and illegitimate variances, corrupt practitioners should be charged, exposed and removed. Prospective investors love clarity of charges that do not vary depending on the persons at the counter or the supervisors behind them.
Decision makers who drive foreign direct investment into emerging markets do so because they can make profits and not vilified for doing so. Jamaica's economic statue will become much more attractive when we fix our perennially costly, inefficient and non-renewable energy conundrum.
We must make the clear and swift decisions to bring more and cheaper energy sources into our mix.
'Cheaper' must be judged against the current cost of fossil fuels we have used for hundreds of years - not some mirage of costs constructed from unrealistic future sources.
The economic 'statue' that local and foreign investors will like would be built on a taxation system that is broad-based, fair, equitable and operates with low rates. Our education system must be radically re-jigged to produce knowledge workers, and imports must be reduced and exports increased in order to stabilise the Jamaican dollar.
The prime minister who builds this dynamic, economically inviting 'statue' and produces growth will deserve the commemorative public statue like the one in Manhattan.
Aubyn Hill is the CEO of Corporate Strategies Limited and was an international banker for more than 25 years.Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter: @HillAubynFacebook: facebook.com/Corporate.Strategies