CaPRI Launches Study on Value of the Diaspora

Photo: Donald De La Haye Executive Director of the Jamaica Diaspora Institute, Professor Neville Ying. (FILE)

Story Highlights

  • A study to examine the value of the diaspora to Jamaica’s development will be launched on Jamaica Diaspora Day (June 16), which is celebrated annually in Jamaica and abroad.
  • This culminated in the issuance of a proclamation on June 14, 2005, by the then Governor-General, the late Sir Howard Cooke, for the day to be celebrated annually on June 16.
  • Persons who wish to contribute to the study or need more information can call CaPRI’s office at 970-3447 and 920-2910 or email researcher@capricaribbean.org.

A study to examine the value of the diaspora to Jamaica’s development will be launched on Jamaica Diaspora Day (June 16), which is celebrated annually in Jamaica and abroad.

Some of the results will be revealed at the Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference to be held in July.

The designation of Diaspora Day emerged from one of seven Resolutions put forward at the first historic Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference held in Kingston from June 16 to 17, 2004.

This culminated in the issuance of a proclamation on June 14, 2005, by the then Governor-General, the late Sir Howard Cooke, for the day to be celebrated annually on June 16.

The proclamation requested the support of Jamaicans at home and abroad for the activities of the Jamaican diaspora.

The launch is being jointly undertaken by the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI) and the Jamaica Diaspora Institute (JDI), with support from the Jamaica National Group.

Executive Director of the JDI, Professor Neville Ying, and Co-Executive Director of CaPRI, Dr. Damien King, will be the main speakers at the event, scheduled to take place at the Jamaica National Financial Centre, 2 Belmont Road, starting at 7:30 a.m.

Research Officer of CaPRI, Shanike Smart, says some of the findings of the study will be shared at the upcoming seventh Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference, slated for July 23 to 26 at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston. It is one of the main events to mark Jamaica’s 55th anniversary of Independence.

“We will be presenting our findings on one of those days, especially where we are at in terms of the survey. We are hoping to wrap up the entire research within the following month or two,” she says, adding that CaPRI will be working overtime to meet the deadline.

Explaining the reasons behind the study, Ms. Smart notes that there is need for a comprehensive collection and representation of the true value of the diaspora.

“I think the information existing is very inadequate and mostly anecdotal… . I find that persons just have a little bit here and a little bit there,” she says, adding that if people do not understand the magnitude and significance of the diaspora, the value will be underestimated.

“We want to add evidence. We want to empirically justify the perceived value. Persons do believe there is value, but we want to put a number on that,” she continues.

Ms. Smart points out that the data will show whether there is economic value that the Government is not exploiting and what can be done to get the value that exists, and the best strategy to get this.

“Rather than just speaking from the top of our heads, or from where we think we are, we want to empirically add to the discussion and allow for a more informed discussion,” she emphasises.

Ms. Smart, who is the lead researcher on the project, says survey questionnaires have already been issued in the diaspora.

“We are hoping to have a minimum respondent rate of 400 individuals. That’s a good representative sample of what the estimated diaspora stock is,” she explains, adding that CaPRI will request data from companies and offices where information exists.

According to Ms. Smart, companies will be given the option of leaving their names off the questionnaires. Individuals will not be asked for their names.

“This is for the safety of the respondent and to ensure that the sealed information is used for the intended purpose. We are definitely not including the names of diaspora members,” she tells JIS News.

The survey seeks information about the impact of the diaspora on individuals, organisations and countries.

Professor Neville Ying says countries which take diaspora engagement seriously, like India and Israel, have significant benefits.

“The deposit accounts from non-resident Indians have brought home over US$40 billion by the end of 2008. The diaspora assisted India to be the dominant country in terms of diamond cutting, where India now accounts for 55 per cent of the global net export of cutting and polishing diamonds,” he notes, adding that the country also earns some US$11 billion through diaspora bonds.

Similarly, he says Israel has raised some US$26 billion from the Diaspora for different infrastructure projects. In the area of technology, Professor Ying says the diaspora engineers in Silicon Valley in California, have helped to establish India “as one of the leading countries in information technology”.

The Professor suggests that the statistical and financial data garnered of the value of the diaspora can also inform the Government in terms of finalising the new National Diaspora Policy.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade is in the process of developing a National Diaspora Policy that will provide a framework to maximise the contribution of overseas nationals for Jamaica’s development.

He points out that as part of Jamaica’s journey to development, the country will need to harness the power of the diaspora, which he says makes a significant contribution of some US$2.1 billion per year.

“If we capitalise on what the diaspora has to offer, you will see how it will assist the growth agenda,” he adds, noting that the diaspora makes contribution in three primary areas – philanthropy, human capital and investments.

He points out that the most consistent contribution of the diaspora has been in the areas of health and education, noting that more than 200 missions visit Jamaica annually to provide healthcare services all across the parishes.

“So, it is very important to interact with those persons to let them know that we acknowledge the importance of their contribution,” he says.

Persons who wish to contribute to the study or need more information can call CaPRI’s office at 970-3447 and 920-2910 or email researcher@capricaribbean.org.

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