Category Archives: Things Jamaican

Engaging the Jamaican Diaspora

So many exciting initiatives are taking place in the Caribbean and I have had a virtual information feast finding out about it all from coast to coast! I am excited to share information on a Conference that will be taking place in Jamaica  around better engaging the Diaspora population to contribute to the development of the country.
This proud Jamaican displays his merchandise. Taken at Cross Roads, Kingston
This proud Jamaican displays his merchandise. Taken at Cross Roads, Kingston

The MacMillan dictionary defines Diaspora (/daɪˈæsp(ə)rə/) as, the movement of a large group of people from their home country to other countries in the world

Statistics seem to show for instance that the numbers of Jamaicans and Guyanese living in the diaspora is probably equal to, if not more than the population living within the country. In fact the IOM (International Organisation on Migration) is currently (Guyana) or will be supporting (Jamaica) these two countries’ efforts to map the skills and investment interests within their diaspora populations. (For more on these two initiatives, please visit these two links: Jamaica to establish database of overseas professionals & Guyana Diaspora Project).

Well here is information for an upcoming fora where the Jamaican diaspora can get involved:

Looking on in Half Way tree Jamaica
Looking on in Half Way tree Jamaica

Jamaica Diaspora Conference 2013 (June 2013)

The Biennial Jamaica – Diaspora Conference, convened by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, is the global forum that connects Jamaicans from all over the world with Jamaicans in the home country every two years. The event seeks to strengthen existing linkages and networks, and to build alliances for Jamaica’s development and standing in the world (Extract from website).

Why, you may wonder, all this attention to the diaspora population? Well it is estimated that remittances make up some 17% of GDP and diaspora tourists may constitute some 11-15% of overall visitors. Further Professor Neville Ying, Executive Director of the Jamaica Diaspora Institute (JDI), estimates that there are possibly more than 187 Diaspora organisations that make significant contributions to Jamaica in the areas of health, education, sports, investment etc.

It is precisely because of the recognition of this value and potential that the Jamaica Diaspora Foundation and its operating arm – Jamaica Diaspora Institute was established in 2009. Visit Maximising the value of the diaspora to Jamaica’s sustainable development for more.

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Jamaica and the IMF: The Proof is in the Pudding

Over the past few months this lovely island of Jamaica has been abuzz with news of the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and its pending agreement with Jamaica. Without intending to oversimplify the challenges, here’s a few points to sum up the Jamaican context:

  • Jamaica’s debt-to-GDP ratio is around 140% with a public debt of 1.75 trillion
  • Debt servicing interest charges are approx 130 billion and there is a current budget deficit of about 65 billion
  • GDP real growth rate ranged from approx -1.5% (2010) to 0.9% (2012) with unemployment just over 14% and 16.5% living below the poverty line (2012 est)
  • Statement by an IMF mission to Jamaica in January 2012 summed the challenges up as: “The Fund team and the authorities have a concurring view of the key challenges facing Jamaica, arising from the high public debt and low economic growth, and agree on the need for a strong policy response.”
All Rights for Image to Jamaica Gleaner Newspaper
All Rights for Image to Jamaica Gleaner Newspaper

What this has meant is a series of measures coming out of  a Staff-level agreement with the IMF. Tax, tax and more tax! A second debt exchange, increases in education tax, stamp duty, transfer taxes, taxes on dividends paid to residents. The National Housing Trust will also be paying 11 billion a year to Government coffers. This particular measure has sparked much debate given the NHT’s mandate and source of funds.

The situation is not encouraging and one is left to wonder how it will affect the most economically vulnerable in society. The working poor and those who manage to live barely above the poverty line. One cannot also forget that likely the need to review spending may take its toll on basic social services and infrastructure. Still the IMF agreement thus far seems to have addressed this (Section iv):

“This involves implementing a coordinated set of reforms to: (i) strengthen public finances, including through comprehensive tax reform, expenditure rationalization, and improved public debt management and public financial management; (ii) enhance the resilience of the financial sector through strengthened supervisory, regulatory, and crisis management frameworks; (iii) improve growth-generating efficiency through enhancements to the business environment, increased competitiveness, and strengthened institutional capacity and governance (including through a broad legislative agenda); and (iv) protect the most vulnerable and promote economic self-reliance, including through the establishment of a floor on social spending, maintaining the real value of PATH (Program of Advancement through Health and Education) benefits, and expanding re-certification and the Steps-to-Work program.” [Extract from IMF Mission and Jamaican Authorities Reach Staff-Level Agreement on Key Elements for EFF-Supported Program, Press Release No. 13/51]

I think the proof will be in the pudding – assuming of course I can still afford pudding after these reforms, measures, cuts and chops!

Cartoon courtesy
Cartoon courtesy

Will these measures actually work? The Caribbean Policy Research Institute – an economic policy think tank at the University of the West Indies has tested the probability of the IMF model generating the reduction of debt as forecasted. The result? It is possible but dependent on the government following the prescription and with no external shocks thrown into the mix. However the country would still have a high debt to GDP ratio so it certainly would not be the end to this historical problem.

For more perspectives see newspaper article:  “Until death do us part” and “Is Jamaica the Greece of the Western Hemisphere?”

Well one thing I know – I’ll probably be eating out a bit less and taking myself back to the kitchen. What does this mean for you? A few more culinary surprises! Keep looking out!

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