Jamaican Diaspora and Canada

by | Jul 9, 2008 | Articles | 0 comments

Canada is an important source of remittances. Although there re no available data regarding the flows, there is no doubt that the six Jamaican collective remittance companies operating in Canada constitute an important financial link with the island. But despite the existing commercial links between the Diaspora in Canada and the homeland, the potential for investment in trade between Jamaicans at home and those in Canada has hardly been tapped. While the community in Canada commends the Government of Jamaica for a number of initiatives underway to modernize the country’s infrastructure, for example, developments in telecommunication, highway, construction, seaport and airport expansion and for measures adopted to improve the business environment, there are a number of challenges which constrain the pursuit of business opportunities.

Among these are high incidents of crime and extortion and the processing of enquiries from Canada. Implementation of projects has been affected by the reduced services provided by JAMPRO to the Canadian market since 2004 and the focus of JAMPRO does not appear to address small and medium size businesses. Government bureaucracy often delays the grant of approvals and permits. The cost of doing business in Jamaican is considered high. Jamaicans investing in real estate experience delays with the process of transfer of titles. The postal service between Canada suffers from inordinate delays. With specific reference to the trading of goods, customs duties are high. Customs clearance is often fraught with hurdles even for packages sent by courier. Funding for the implementation of projects in Jamaica is difficult to access. Member of the Jamaican business community on the island all too often fail to communicate with business contacts abroad in a timely manner. Jamaicans outside of Ontario have indicated that they feel somewhat of a disconnect with Jamaica. Whereas the delegation from Canada in desirous of collaborating with Jamaicans and from other regions overseas on finding solutions to the constraints identified, we would like to propose the adoption of some specific measures which it is felt would strengthen the business links between Jamaica and the Diaspora.

These include:

 

  • The establishment of a skilled bank of overseas Jamaicans.
  • Regular circulation among Diaspora groups of the information on business opportunities for Jamaicans at home and abroad.
  • Exploring the vast opportunities that deal with the aged, featuring health and wealth centres, wellness centres, weight control clinics, retirement and nursing homes.
  • Increasing the resources available to JAMPRO’s North American operation to enable it to service the USA and every corner of Canada.

 

We do understand the budgetary constraints but we would like to see if we could find a way to shore up the resources of the North American operation:

 

  • Strengthening the Jamaica Business Development Corporation so that it can facilitate small and medium size business proposals from the Diaspora.
  • Promotion of Jamaica to its nationals across Canada.

 

For the growing number of Jamaicans in the film and television industry finalization of the long awaited co-production of Canada and Jamaica;

 

  • Compiling a register of funding sources;
  • Establishing a system whereby Jamaican professionals overseas can volunteer their services to Jamaica for capacity building.
  • Adherence to the rules governing intellectual property and Brand Jamaica through vigorous registration enforcement and monitoring by the appropriate authority. Ensuring that the civil legal framework is up to date and is efficient with regard to facilitating business.

 

Finally, permit me to address our brothers and sisters in the USA and the UK. Jamaicans in Canada welcome the opportunity to strengthen our links with you who like us have grappled with untold challenges in an alien environment and have become a formidable economic force. Let us establish closer ties with each other and let us pool our resources for the betterment of our beloved Jamaica.

Chairman – Mr. Ryland Campbell

It is time for you to ask questions. You state your name and the country in which you reside, the person to whom you wish to address the question and we will take it from there.

 

DELEGATE: Canada

I came with a number of questions relating to Customs and the postal services, but having come in and heard a number of presentations I am going to switch gears to deal with something on the ground. To facilitate business we need to be able to communicate. And communication means the internet, so we can link back home, and to find that it costs. US$5.50 per half hour for internet service here in the hotel, for J$22 when you may not have the need to use it for an hour, is gouging. How can we encourage business when there is that kind of gouging? To make one page photocopy it was US$1.00. How can we sustain that?

 

DELEGATE:

My question is to Miss Templer: What do we have in place so as to take advantage of new investment opportunities, to encourage or mandate philanthropy on the part of companies for including it in their budget? The biggest issue is to support funding for social issues and a lot of companies have significant returns are unwilling to mandate it. I am not sure if it is not a part of their internal value system we might be missing some opportunities.

 

MR. WILSON: UK

Just to pick up a point raised by Mr. Hylton and Mrs. Campbell, the first question is to Mr. Hylton:

As somebody who more or less informs the government on issues, that would be your suggestion to the Jamaican Government in order to encourage Jamaicans overseas to actually continue to develop more investments in Jamaica?

The next question is to Ms. Templer:

What does JAMPRO do in the UK to get to the root of communities, to actually ensure that they are aware of JAMPRO’s activities to encourage them as well to invest in Jamaica?

 

MS. BEV. ALLEN:

I notice that there is an increased focus on the building of other (delegate) industries, however, I have not heard a lot about what we are doing to build our health industry. I think it is clear that there is a serious need. After all, our visitors to the island would feel a lot safer if after feasting on our exotic foods, if they develop a bellyache they at least have somewhere to go. As a nurse, I know what it means if there is not a clean sheet to put on a bed. In addition, people working in the health industry tend to flock to where new jobs are. I just want to know if there is some provisions for this. After all, this does place a serious strain on our hospitals.

 

DELEGATE: MR. SMITH – CANADA

I would like to address a question to Ms. Templer.

Having heard Mrs. Campbell talk about the challenges facing people in Canada in trying to do business in Jamaica, and some of those challenges caused by the absence or the closure of the JAMPRO office, are there any plans, or perhaps I am recom-mending that the JAMPRO Office in Canada be re-opened and as soon as budgetary means permit, to establish a satellite office in Toronto.

 

MS. COLEEN:

Time and time again I hear about encouraging to invest in Jamaica.

 

NEITA:

but it seems to me that the government or large companies are only (delegate) interested in Jamaicans in Ontario and not in Western Canada. We hear of launches in Ontario for just about everything but nobody seems to come out west and there are lots of Jamaicans out west with serious money, but they feel that the government and large companies are not interested in them. I would like them to remember we are also Jamaicans and they should come out west, not just to Ontario; Ontario has had everything but Alberta is the money province, the oil province.

 

CANADA:

How much thought or recognition is given that instead of looking only at individuals and businesses, focusing attention on institutions abroad and on the opportunity for members of the Diaspora to encourage institutions to participate in the kind of exchanges that we are talking about? In addition to international banking. Jamaicans are very active. For example, I have spoken to the Mayor of Ottawa, Canada, and invited him to suggest twinning with the City of Kingston as two capital cities. So there are opportunities for institutions to engage in this interaction as well.

 

DELEGATE: UK

My question is, the under-developed parishes in Jamaica, what plans are in place to positively encourage development both financially and socially, and encourage development environ-mentally? Because there are Jamaicans here who genuinely want to help. I want to know who I can write to, ca talk to, to actually continue this work in Jamaica.

 

MR. HYLTON:

There were two questions that were specifically addressed to me, and the first question was from the gentlemen from Cayman.

With respect to the gentleman from Cayman who asked about off-shore banking and the possibility of the establishment of hedge funds and so on, there is some amount of off-shore banking involving Jamaica’s financial institutions through various subsidiaries and various activities, but the Jamaican financial system is something that continues to evolve and one of the things we need to remember, we had a setback in the mid-1990’s and coming out of that we have had a period of sustained growth and improvement.

What we are experiencing is hyper-competition and what is being done, it is encouraging Jamaican financial institutions to look at new markets, to look at new opportunities, to look at new strategies in terms of how we grow the business going forward, and I can assure you that included among these strategies is the development of off-shore capabilities within Cayman and otherwise.

The second question:

It would be my suggestion to the government to encourage more investment by the Diaspora. One of the things I said is that there has to be somewhat of a different approach to the whole issue of interrelationship and connectivity with the Diaspora. I have spoken about the fact that we need to accept as a reality given our existing capacity to absorb skills and resources that migration is an option that is going to be pursued actively by a number of Jamaicans and we have to accept the brain drain as a reality and it has been caused by several things. What we need to accept and acknowledge and accept is the fact that it has happened, it is not necessarily a loss but it also presents an opportunity. It presents an opportunity through structures, through arrangement and through the establishment of appropriate mechanisms.

Several things that can be don’t to facilitate the greater interaction in the Diaspora to address the issues that concern us. For example, I have heard just recently people saying that the reason why people are a little hesitant about investing in Jamaica is because of what happened I the 1990’s. Let us all be open and frank about it. Let us understand what happened and why. What is the mechanism in place to prevent it from happening, and let us say, notwithstanding the fact that persons have done and continue to do well by increasing and putting in place programs to facilitate the investment.

 

MRS. TEMPLER:

Let me respond to the delegate from Canada who asked a question of philanthropy and JAMPRO with respect to ensuring that investors contribute to community development.

We do not have a policy of mandating philanthropy and we are not sure it is a policy we would want to implement. Business persons come and invest in Jamaica, achieve economic gain and in doing so contribute to the development of Jamaica. They are looking at Jamaica and other countries in terms of effectiveness and we do not want to add t the competitiveness of Jamaica by putting in that kind of requirement for them to come do business.

Having said that, it is something we actively encourage with all investors coming to Jamaica with good results. For instance, the Spanish Embassy is right now working with Jamaica to look at Jamaica’s development of some of our heritage sites. They have a consultant. They have been in areas of downtown Kingston and Spanish Town, looked at development to enhance Spanish Town, the old city, and to develop that area as a tourist attraction. They are talking to us about training in hospitality and helping to develop the country, and that is just one area. So that is something we can actively encourage in our discussions, moral suasion, not something we plan, I don’t not think we want to go in that direction.

The other question is by and large centred around JAMPRO and what JAMPRO can do. What are the resources that we have in terms of community involvement and providing information to the Diaspora? We have limited resources and that is the reality. We are not able to open an office in every city in which there is a large Diaspora community. The resources are just not available, but I believe in the days of information technology that there is a lot that can be done without setting up satellite offices in every city to be able to create some linkage to form those relationships and provide that information.

I have been at JAMPRO now for two and a half months and I am definitely convinced that, that is a critical process that has to take place. The Diaspora has a lot to offer Jamaica and J amaica has a lot to offer the Diaspora. What I can undertake, JAMPRO will seek to articulate the Diaspora vision and mission and strategies where we do not have in one place. I think the entire Diaspora movement is just developing and Jamaica as a whole is looking at how to develop that clear mission and those mechanisms. We will have to work closely with other institutions such as the American Chambers of Commerce. We have worked closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and other government services overseas, and we will have to use more technology. We will have to make sure persons in the North American Office visit the various offices from time to time. There must be some way we can do it. I agree we need to do it better, put more time and effort n creating those linkages coming out of the community and meeting with persons and making information available and we will see going forward how e can do it.

There was a question about the health sector. Health and Wellness tourism is a critical are under serious consideration and I know the PIOJ is currently undertaking a research in relation to that. It is an are we targeted as a sector going forward to promote and that is one are that will help to address and gaps currently existing with respect to health.

 

MR. MARLON:

Going back to the question that the gentle men from the UK HILL mentioned about the UK based Jamaicans, we really need to figure out a way to maximize the use of Diaspora. Org. We have software engineers who will help us to come to up with a formula to pull all the skills together, the art and culture, philanthropists, so we can bee in touch. Find a way to contact people, but we need to open up the communication and interaction using our skills, that is the next phase.

 

MS. CAMPBELL: Canada

Just a couple of points. We in Canada are very much interested in the sort of health tourism and my recommendations and comments are very much informed through consultations with Jamaicans across Canada.

The next point is that with regard to business outside of Ontario, of course, on would really still utilize the Honorary Consuls than the Jamaican Association sin all those forums and partner, as we did effectively in Toronto, with the NCB and there are other companies with whom we can partner. Partnering is one of the ways to go.

 

MS. DUVAL: South Florida

My question relates to Jamaicans in Florida, and especially South Florida, who would like to invest or who have money to invest but they are not legal.

My question is, is there any way that the powers that be could liaise with the authorities to get these people too invest? There are people who are working hard in the US or elsewhere who have money to invest and would like to come back to Jamaica to settle here but there are no mechanism to unleash that potential. Is there a way to address the immigration issue in order to unleash the potential?

 

MR. B HYLTON: UK

My question is addressed to Patrick Hylton- no relative of course. Marlon concluded his presentation by saying that the best paradigm that confronts us is the fact that the Government needs to put into effect structures to actually enable or maximize the potential in the Diaspora and he Diaspora in turn should be willing to respond accordingly.

My question is whether the putting into effect means that the Government is prepared to actually, besides encouraging, to financially support and, therefore, put their money where their metaphorical mouth is.

 

MR. C. HOWDEN

My question surrounds the issue of potential of returning Jamaicans. I hear a lot about this $1.5 billion remittance, I hear about health and education, what can be done, I hear about trade and so forth but I think we are missing a large potential of Jamaicans in the Diaspora who would love to return.

The question is, what is the private sector doing to promote the potential of retirees who would love to live here in Jamaica because 1.5 billion is nothing if you can get a large portion of retirees who tend to retire now in Atlanta and in Florida? I f you can get them in Jamaica, then that would unleash the potential.

 

DELEGATE: UK

Business travel is the most important thing and there is some problem going on with Air Jamaica with regard to timing and general competence. Certainly, the opportunity is lost in terms of business travel coming to Jamaica using the national carrier because of its inefficiencies. Our question is, why is ackee so expensive?

 

MS. MARIE KELLER: California

We talk a lot about collaboration, about partnering, about networking and i wanted to find out, are there any mechanisms in place for international business partnering that we can access here at the conference and take back with us as something to continue working on?

 

MR. P BECKFORD:

I think the key statement that I heard here this morning was from Mr. Hylton and he said ‘changing our attitude toward the Diaspora’ and that is my question especially to JAMPRO and to the business sector. I am just saying that when you come here it is nice talking, you guys visit in the US and say nice talk, come home and invest but when you come here from you reach the airport, customs officers and the business people, the attitude toward us is very ,very negative and that has to be changed, the culture has to be changed. JAMPRO, for example, you tell us that you will work with our organizations and we get the most runaround from JAMPRO in New York in terms of working with organizations.

 

DELEGATE:

This question is to JAMPRO. I am involved in a Caribbean organization there that does a wonderful Festival Expo of busi- nesses and we are inviting you so you can get your message out Forget about the runaround, let us get this thing done. Any org-anization in this room can do that. This is an open invitation.

 

MR. L POYSER:

The Association of the Resettlement of Returning Residents and there are thousands of us who have returned and some of us are in business.

Now in view of this Conference, a question to JAMPRO, are you going to widen the scope whereby you can facilitate businesses because there are quite a few of us who are struggling and would like sleeping partners to wake us up especially from this group here. There are many businesses all over the island.

The question is, is JAMPRO going to widen the scope to take in some other businesses, for instance, roots, wine, real estate businesses and the fishing business, et cetera?

 

MS. HYDE: Chicago

I want to pursue the question relating to ackee. Ackee has tremendous potential in the United States and for some months it has been banned din the United States by the FDA. I want to know what Jamaica is doing to see that that ban is lifted.

 

MS. WITTER: UK

I would just like to point out that I am a manufacturer in the UK doing alcoholic beverages and I have been approached by the Indians and the Gambians to actually get it bottled there.

My question is, can there be a link on the Diaspora website because I didn’t understand what JAMPRO does until yesterday, so we need to create a link really with this source where we could put it there, so we really need some transparency about these things.

 

DELEGATE: UK

Basically, one of the things I have heard about so far are plans and projects taking place, however the basic infrastructure needs to be done. When can we see improvement in the infrastructure if you are seeking to attract UK and other parties of the Diaspora to this country, they need to know that they can get around the city and know where they are going to go, know that street signs will tell them where they are. They may have a amp but if there are no street signs, it is no use. It is basic improvement and I would like to know when can we see that improvement.

 

MR. P HYLTON:

There were four questions addressed, not specifically to me, but I know that they were assigned to me.

The first one was by Mr. Basil Hylton from the UK, and he asked about the structure to maximize investment by the Diaspora in Jamaica and if the Government of Jamaica is willing to financially support investments by the Diaspora.

Perhaps that is a question more appropriately asked of a Government representative but let me say this. The Government of Jamaica has in place a number of mechanisms to facilitate investments by the business community. This is through the Development Bank of Jamaica and through the various Government agencies. I do not believe there is any discrimination against people in the Diaspora that is, they have made a requirement for you to register an operation in Jamaica to have that functioning in Jamaica, In any event, let me say a couple of things.

One is that, if financing can be gained externally to come into Jamaica, then there are certain benefits. Quite apart from that, there are a range of Jamaican financial institutions, of which I am a member of one, which are willing and able to facilitate the financing of good investments in Jamaica. Investments that can stand on their own.
The second question from Mr. Harrison from the USA where he spoke to the question of free trade versus fair trade.

Let me say in my little discourse, I was not seeking to be an advocate of one position of the other. What I wanted to do was to recognize a reality, the reality being that to the extent that there are free trade arrangements and mechanisms in place and to the extent that these mechanisms facilitate the free flow of money and financial resources, it behooves us as a country and it behooves u s as Jamaicans to participate in them and to take advantage of them. So that to the extent that they are available and to the extent that they are free and uninhibited flows, I am saying that we should utilise them.

The question as to whether trade is really free and fair is something we can talk about for a long time and maybe we can do that over drinks.

The third question to me was about what is the private sector doing to attarct retirees to return to Jmaica. Let me spek of four things.

Let me speak first to the financial sector and aumber of our institutions, have publicly indicated that we ar eon a ourney to build and forge greater linkages with the Diaspora including retirees. To provide for them safe investment vehicles, safe vehicles through which they can, not only maake invvestment but through which they can re-enter or re-engage with the Jamaican market and enjoy their retirment if they want specifically to relocate to Jmaica by virtue of the benefits they can derive fro those investments.

Sancia Templer spoke about the new initiatives as regard to health and tourism and the fact that we know many of the people are
coming out of societies where health care is at a certain standard. I am ware of atleast one, if not more, initiatives that re in place to build
specialised health care facilities directly associated witha strtegy that recognises te baby boomers and the advent of the baby boomers coming to retirement and the propsect of many of them returning to Jamaica and to this region.

by DELANO FRANKLYN
Senator, Minister of State
Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade

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