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The Diaspora: An untapped asset

 

posted by Focused on March 20, 2010 @ 8:48 pm in SOCIETY

Jamaicans have consistently migrated to various countries for centuries (remember that the Panama Canal workers and Costa Rica workers left Jamaica from as early as the late 18th century). This has resulted in Jamaica having a considerably large Diaspora. While Britain, The United States and Canada have the largest Jamaican communities outside of Jamaica, The Jamaican Diaspora spans the globe. One can find Jamaican communities in ‘less expected’ places such as Switzerland. What is the role and value of a Diaspora?

 

A Diaspora represents a link between the homeland and the new country. What does this mean in the context of a developing country like Jamaica? Having a dynamic and high-achieving Diaspora is an asset for Jamaica. Members of the Jamaican Diaspora possess something priceless: Expertise gained through exposure and experience with functional systems (political, social etc). Although developed countries are far from perfect, Jamaica could still learn some valuable lessons from them in areas such as social security and tax breaks for entrepreneurs. This is where Jamaicans abroad can play a pivotal role in accelerating Jamaica’s development.

 

By enlightening their friends and family in Jamaica about the development-encouraging aspects of the countries in which they live, members of the Diaspora would help to demystify the notion that money is always a prerequisite for developing a country. In addition to that, members of the Diaspora and Jamaicans living in Jamaica need to ask themselves what they mean to each other and what Jamaica means to them. What does the Diaspora mean to Jamaicans in Jamaica? Remittances and nothing else?

 

Too often, Jamaicans living abroad are only seen as an opportunity for easy money when they return to Jamaica. How does this manifest itself? For example, when refurbishing a house in Jamaica, a builder can easily charge a Jamaican living abroad a fee 4 times higher than what a Jamaican living in Jamaica would be charged. How is this going to encourage a Jamaican living overseas to invest more money in Jamaica? Whether someone has the money or not is irrelevant. It’s about principle.

 

On the other hand, too many Jamaicans in the Diaspora lower their standards when returning to Jamaica by displaying adopting a form of behavior that they would never consider abroad. Would they urinate on someone’s wall in Toronto or London? I doubt it. What does this say about the respect they have for Jamaica? Why do things at home that you wouldn’t dare do abroad? Civic pride is civic pride regardless of where you are.

 

Increased dialogue between Jamaicans at home and abroad is necessary as it will lead to the type of unity that nation-building requires. The creation of the Jamaican Diaspora Advisory Board is a step in the right direction. No obstacle is too big once a sense of trust and genuine solidarity exists within a community.

To be continued...

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Tags : Jamaica, diaspora, links, unity, migration, asset, nation building, remittances,
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