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PERSPECTIVE: THE LACK OF A CONSTRUCTIVE AND STRATEGIC FOREIGN POLICY FOR SOME 3.0 MILLION JAMAICANS OVERSEAS IS STALLING JAMAICA’S ECONOMIC GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT
December 11, 2017

PERSPECTIVE: THE JAMAICAN DIASPORA SHOULD BE AWARE OF HOLNESS’S CARROT AND STICK DIPLOMACY

Photo of Silbert Barrett


According to Andrew Holness “To be Jamaican, he said, was less about where one was born but more “a state of being.” But I do hope he understands the consequences of “de-nationalizing every Jamaican citizen living overseas as this is the classic argument or let say narrative of the true intent of the JLP government while telling you they want your investments.

This is my warning to both JLP and PNP your carrot and stick approach to Diaspora Engagement will failure like all your economic programs as the only true value-added transfer of wealth to Jamaican is Direct Remittance Investments; it is more than just sending money to families according to recent studies. “Remittance investments are the only value added transfer of wealth into Jamaica. All other investments are wealth exporters”.

Yet we have governments who continue to undervalue the contributions of Jamaicans Investing in Jamaicans and taken on investments which are loans “Chinese Phantom Loans” and forces Jamaicans at home and abroad to pay taxes to subsidize Chinese take over of the island as alleged by a member of the opposition Peoples National Party (PNP).

It is not building a shared interest with Jamaicans overseas when the Prime Minister appears to be making promises of a diaspora vote as a “Carrot” on a “Stick” which is the so-called Diaspora Engagement for the sole purpose of soliciting investments from the diaspora while formulating policies like the Global Diaspora Card and the New National Identification Card (NIDS) to undermined the legitimate rights of Jamaicans to Vote.

“You are a powerful voice,” Holness said, conceding that “we have not found the right mechanism to leverage that voice.” The night’s biggest applause came when Holness said he favors changing Jamaica’s constitution to allow people living in the U.S. and elsewhere to vote or run for office: “I think that would be a very progressive step in terms of Jamaica’s own development.”

It is not building a shared interest with Jamaicans overseas to suggest that a Constitutional Amendment was necessary to facilitate voting from overseas. That is not true. All the government needs to do is to issue a formal ministerial order to appropriate funds to facilitate electronic voter registration and balloting on computers at consulates and embassies around the globe.

This ministerial order would signal to the Office of the Electoral Commissioner of Jamaica (ECJ) that the government is prepared to allow diaspora voting as the ECJ is considered to be an independent body but without the funding, they cannot undertake the process. The system for diaspora online registration and voting is already in place.

The Electoral Commission of Jamaica has the infrastructure in the form of electronic voter registration and balloting systems, they are not making it available to the public at large and to the Diaspora. “Jan 18, 2015 — A review of the Electronic Voting System under the control of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica: Elector Registration System (ERS) and Electronic Voter Identification and Ballot Issuing System (EVIBIS) by the Auditor General. “ 

Why should Jamaicans overseas investment in Jamaica when they have to in turn pay taxes to subsidize the presence of Chinese businesses in Jamaica which competes directly with local businesses and those of diaspora investors? The Jamaica diaspora should not have to live with the consequences of corrupt governance in Jamaica. Without the rights to vote the Jamaican diaspora would not have any recourse to protect its investments.

Therefore, the Diaspora Vote is the only way to protect your investments from unfair competition and the corrupt practices of the government. We must continue the advocacy for the rights of the Jamaicans overseas to vote and the progress we have made must continue to take shape in the form of an independent movement, I do hope Mr. Holness had gotten the message during his address to the Jamaican American Bar Association in Florida when; “The night’s biggest applause came when Holness said he favors changing Jamaica’s constitution to allow people living in the U.S. and elsewhere to vote or run for office: “I think that would be a very progressive step in terms of Jamaica’s own development.” This also signals that our advocacy for Diaspora voting is having tremendous success and the tide is changing and Jamaicans overseas are becoming impatience with the pace of reform.

Jamaica doesn’t have a Crime Problem, we have a political problem. The exposure of Jamaican diasporans to other countries systems of governance does make a difference to how they may view their own country’s system of governance. It is a complete manipulation of people when the voting that takes place in Jamaica on election day is one that is determined by how many persons the ‘Dons’ in the inner cities can threaten or bribe out their homes to vote in one way. That is not democracy that is ‘political thuggery’ and does not allow the best and brightest minds to run a country.

Diaspora Voting Rights will strengthen our democratic institutions and shift the political dynamics away from Garrison politics to allow for the repatriation of economic and human capital to Jamaica for economic development. Economic integration cannot be achieved without political and social integration.

By Silbert Barrett

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