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British politician says Bolt's value must be exploited with urgency

Published:Thursday | August 27, 2015 | 12:00 AMGary Spaulding
Usain Bolt
The security bars in Half-Way Tree couldn't contain her as Bolt lit up Beijing.
Jamaicans celebrating Bolt's 200m win in Beijing in Half-Way Tree yesterday.

Clearly captivated by the spellbinding exploits of sprint sensation Usain Bolt, a senior political representative out of the United Kingdom (UK) is urging local interests to be more creative in exploiting the value of the famed Jamaican brand to enhance the country's economic fortunes.

"It's not for me to tell Jamaica what to do, but for all practical purposes, Bolt has just secured a magnificent victory in the 100 metres at the IAAF World Championships," declared Grant Shapps, UK's minister with responsibility for the Caribbean.

"You have some of the most instantly recognisable brands in sports, music and food, so I think that Jamaica has quite a lot going for it," an animated Shapps told The Gleaner ahead of Bolt's second showdown in Beijing, China.

In a one-on-one with The Gleaner hours after he landed on local shores, the British parliamentarian suggested that Bolt's genius as a national asset must not be allowed to go to waste.

Shapps squeezed in half-hour of his one-day schedule for The Gleaner after meeting with Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, National Security Minister Peter Bunting, and Foreign Affairs Minister A.J. Nicholson.

He contended that at present, Jamaica was not making adequate use of either its famed athlete or brand, both of which blend well.

Shapps pronounced Bolt as Jamaica's most valued asset of its world-famed brand and insisted that should not be squandered in Jamaica's quest for fresh opportunities.

"It is a very easy sell, particularly in Great Britain, because a lot of Brits believe that while Jamaica is a long way away geographically, it is very close to their hearts, so I think the basis is all there."

Elected as the Conservative MP for Welwyn Hatfield in 2005, Shapps was appointed minister of state at Department for International Development on May 11, 2015.

The Brit, who is temporarily carrying out the ministerial portfolio of Foreign Office Minister James Duddridge, suggested that Jamaica is more blessed than it gives itself credit for.

"I really believe that in terms of the view that Brits have of Jamaica, you could not be in a better place with Brand Jamaica," he asserted.

Added Shapps: "We are very keen to work with Jamaica, I have met with Prime Minister Simpson Miller ... (about) things like making the justice system work faster."

To make investment work both ways, Shapps suggested that every business person wants to know that he/she is working in a market where the rule of law is not corrupt and where people who do wrong are pursued.

"So those areas of criminal justice and lack of corruption are some of the areas that will make it all the more easy for these companies to invest," said Shapps. "In the end, what business wants wherever it goes is stability, lower energy prices and good infrastructure. These are things that we can work together for for our mutual benefit."