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Jamaica After Obama: Commentators suggest Obama’s visit was a play to China, say benefits to Jamaica have been limited

Published:Tuesday | April 5, 2016 | 12:00 AM
President of the United States Barack Obama addressing a youth forum at the University of the West Indies Mona campus last Thursday.

Professor Paul Golding, dean of the College of Business and Management at the University of Technology (UTech), is arguing that last year's visit of United States President Barack Obama was motivated by the increasing reach of the Chinese in the Caribbean.

"Though unsaid, China's presence and growing influence in the region was a primary reason for the visit," he said.

Golding was one of the respondents in a Gleaner project that seeks to highlight the first anniversary of Obama's visit to Jamaica.

"Jamaica's geographic locations, which makes it an ideal trans-shipment port, and China's interest in locating a logistics hub on Goat Islands, 90 miles from mainland USA, was also of prime interest," he added.

According to Golding, having the attention of two superpowers is a winning situation for Jamaica.

While he conceded that the visit by Obama would result in significant direct long-term benefits for Jamaica, Golding has posited that, to date, the benefits have been tangential.

Describing Obama's visit as an international rite of passage for Jamaica, adjunct professor of law at the University of Miami School, David Rowe, said: "President Obama's visit reflects that Jamaica may be more important to the United States than Afghanistan or Iraq."




Rowe echoed Golding's sentiments and also argued that China's heavy investment in Jamaica has created weakness in US-Jamaica relations, a factor which underscored the visit.

"The weakness in US-Jamaican relations created by the heavy investment by the Chinese in Jamaica sugar estates, roads and other infrastructure [is] an economic collaboration which has threatened to make the United States secondary to China as Jamaica's chief business partner," he said.

The threat posed to US-Jamaica relations by the presence of China, for Golding, continues to be a concern.

"Spurning of overtures from China could result in reduced infrastructural support," he posited.

"His greetings which, started with 'Greetings, massive' and 'wha a gwaan Jamaica?', filled Jamaicans with pride in our language and culture. There were also improvements in infrastructure, a focus on youth entrepreneurship, and the promised US$70K investment in youth development through education, training and employment," he said.