Thursday 18 July, 2019

Jamaica missing out big on fully tapping Diaspora possibilities

Shanike Smart, Research  Officer at CaPRI.

Shanike Smart, Research Officer at CaPRI.

Jamaica has missed out on approximately US$3 billion in unrealised value from the Diaspora, the recent findings of a study by Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI) revealed.

The amount accounts for about 11 per cent of Jamaica’s GDP.

The study sought to look at the data to determine the impact of the realised value of the Diaspora, said CaPRI research officer, Shanike Smart.

Smart revealed the findings of the study that was undertaken by CaPRI and the Jamaica Diaspora Institute (JDI), with support from the Jamaica National Group, on Friday at the University of the West Indies.

“So, having this data leads us to ask: is there impact on realised value, and what are the policies needed to realise those values that exist?” Smart asked.

The study looked at the areas of tourism, remittance, export, investments and philanthropy, with investments found to be representing the field with the most untapped economic potential.

The value of investments from the Diaspora currently amounts to $1.16 billion, below the $2.56 billion potential from the area, the findings revealed.

Remittances, on the other hand, has surpassed its potential of $2.1 billion, accounting for $2.2 billion.

Looking at the area of tourism, the country currently realises some US$89 million from the Diaspora, compared to a potential value of US$126 million or 14 per cent of GDP.

Smart suggested a targeted approach to market Jamaica’s tourism product to the Diaspora.

“They are different, they have different needs. There is a possibility to increase the Diaspora spend and visits through targeted marketing campaigns,” Smart said, adding that there is potential to have Diaspora members act as brand ambassadors and promoters of brand Jamaica.

Dr Damien King is CaPRI's Executive Director (foreground) and Shanike Smart, research officer at CaPRI.

Exports account for $89 million, with a potential of $126 million, while the value of philanthropy accounts for $17 million, with a potential of $559 million.

“Many of the big players, the GraceKennedy, the National Bakery and so on, got into the export markets through Diaspora engagement,” Smart said.

The study also assessed the institutions and polices that exist for the Diaspora, as well as the shortfalls.

As for the current Diaspora initiatives, Smart said there seems to be a lack of clearly defined strategy, despite the drafting of a Diaspora policy.

“So what we find is that you have the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - all reaching out to the Diaspora independently, and setting up institutions independently to access their own individual needs,” Smart said.

Other findings show that there was no systematic measurement and evaluation of the activities; no widespread knowledge of the institutions to support the Diaspora; ambiguity around the role of the state, formal Diaspora institutions, financial human constraints, and negative perceptions locally and in the Diaspora.

“Outside of the reservoir of capital that we revealed here today, the Diaspora’s relationship and their expertise multiply these figures significantly,” Smart said.

The CaPRI study also looked at other markets, such as Ireland, Israel, India and the Philippines, that have successfully used their Diaspora to contribute to their respective economies.

The deposit accounts from non-resident Indians had brought home over US$40 billion by the end of 2008. That country also earns some US$11 billion through Diaspora bonds.

Similarly, Israel has raised some US$26 billion from the Diaspora for different infrastructure projects in the area of technology.

These countries, according to Smart, have implemented Diaspora engagement strategies, such as symbolic nation building polices, which look at setting up conventions, observing national celebrations and cultural events, and teaching national languages and history.

There has been the implementation of capacity-building policies, with Ireland dedicating an entire ministry of the Diaspora.

Additionally, there are policies for extending certain rights to members of the Diaspora, such as special membership concessions, political representation and voting rights.

Smart therefore laid out the following recommendations: assess and rationalise existing institutions; improve (initiate) data collection efforts; create a sustainable financial plan; build, monitoring and evaluating capacity; invest in the implementation of a national Diaspora bond; and build monitoring and evaluating capacity.

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