‘It is safer to be in Ja right now’ - Younger Jamaicans turning down job offers, eyeing return to land of birth
Figures released by JN Bank in the United States indicate that Jamaicans who live in South Florida are making plans to return to the land of their birth and are putting their money where their mouth is.
According to chief representative officer of JN Bank in South Florida, Janice McIntosh, Jamaicans in this part of the diaspora are projected to spend an estimated US$4 million (J$581 million) on real estate investments in the near future.
McIntosh told The Sunday Gleaner that the age cohort of those wanting to return home were not the usual retirees who make up the bulk of returning residents, but young professionals between 32 and 45 years old.
They had signalled their intentions to the financial institution before the onset of the coronavirus, which has infected millions and taken more than 100,000 lives in the United States, she said.
“Pre-COVID, we have had a number of Jamaican applicants who are desirous of holding down real estate in Jamaica, so they have got pre-approval with us to see how much they are qualified for based on credit reports and income information. The amounts (per loan) ranged between J$12 million and J$42 million,” she said.
McIntosh said males and females were equally represented among the Jamaicans living abroad who wanted to pack their bags and kiss life in the US goodbye.
Despite the economic fallout as a result of job lay-offs and furloughs due to the coronavirus pandemic, interest among the islanders have not waned.
“We still do have a number of persons who are on our book, but what we did, due to the fact that a number of persons have been affected by a direct loss of jobs or furloughs, we contacted every single one of them. At the time, it was 19 clients, and all but two persons showed keen interest,” she said.
McIntosh said confidence in Jamaica has increased due to the island’s ability to keep cases and fatalities relatively low. Up to yesterday, Jamaica had recorded close to 550 cases with nine deaths since the first infection was detected on March 10.
“I believe that the Government of Jamaica’s response has been so solid and has reverberated around the world that it has actually created a goodwill towards Jamaica than anything else,” McIntosh said.
Doctors, nurses, registered nursing assistants, certified nursing assistants and sales representatives are some of the persons who have sought to secure mortgages to buy their piece of Jamaica.
Donovan Irving has worked in the United States hospitality industry for upwards of a decade and is one of the Jamaicans who recently returned to Jamaica after being without work in Miami, Florida, after the Trump International Hotel closed its doors due to the pandemic.
Speaking with The Sunday Gleaner while in quarantine at the Bahia Principe Hotel in St Ann, Irving said he has no regrets being home despite the inconveniences being suffered.
Reports have emerged of the returned Jamaicans being hosted in substandard conditions, including unpalatable food, but Irving brushed that aside as a slight bump in the road.
“We feel safer to be in Jamaica right now. I spent most of my adult working life in the USA, but I am now hell-bent on spending more time at home,” the Ocho Rios native said.
“A lot of my relatives and my co-workers feel the same way. We had got offers from hotels in Maine and Tennessee, but we turned that down and opted to come home. It is safer to be in Jamaica right now. We safer dealing with the system here at home rather than with the pandemic in the US,” he added.
Jamaican Consul General to the United States, Oliver Mair, said Irving is just one of many Jamaicans who have expressed that sentiment to him.
“Miss Lou (the Honourable Louise Bennett-Coverley) wrote a poem titled Colonisation in Reverse. Well, this is ‘visarisation’ in reverse. There have been a number of Jamaicans who have expressed the wish to return home and many have been turning down good job offers. More and more young people are feeling confident about living in Jamaica rather than the US. This bodes well for our country, when the younger persons want to stay and build despite the lure of a better life overseas,” Mair said.