Respect due! - Jarrett says diaspora not getting enough recognition locally
For all its contribution to the development of the Jamaican society, the diaspora deserves more "respect", says Earl Jarrett, chairman of the Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference that starts Sunday in Kingston.
"For many Jamaicans, Jamaica represents a point of confidence and identity. And, many Jamaicans overseas do feel a little disrespect at home in Jamaica. We refer to our Jamaican brothers and sisters as foreigners and we don't necessarily give them the sort of respect that's due," he told a Gleaner Editors' Forum last week.
The issue, he argued, is compounded by the overlooked contribution of Jamaicans abroad who support the country not just through remittances - which make up more than 15 per cent of Jamaica's gross domestic product.
Jarrett said there are significant investments in areas such as health where non-resident people even establish offices and businesses here. Education and social development are other areas that have received attention from the diaspora estimated to be more than Jamaica's almost three million population.
The problem for the banking executive, and local officials, too, is the lack of precise data on exactly what is the diaspora's contribution to Jamaica."We will never really give the diaspora the recognition and respect it needs until we begin to count. It's like women and women's work in Jamaica, where you won't respect it until you count it," he said.
DIASPORA'S TRUE CONTRIBUTION
The Caribbean Policy Research Institute, a University of the West Indies-based think tank, has been hired to study the size and value of contributions.
"What CaPRI hopes to do for us is to begin to count it so we can begin to say what is the true contribution of the diaspora to the overall economy," said Jarrett, who heads the Jamaica National Group.
Kamina Johnson Smith, the foreign affairs and foreign trade minister, emphasised the point, saying that the upcoming conference is one of the ways through which the Government can deepen the relationship with the diaspora and get help in developing various areas of national life.
The biennial conference, which is being held under the theme 'Partnering for Growth', will run from Sunday, July 23 to Thursday, July 27. It's being spearheaded by the foreign ministry.