Economic Growth Council Engages Service of Bonds Expert

Photo: Dave Reid Economic Growth Council (EGC) Chairman, Michael Lee-Chin (at podium), addresses its quarterly briefing on January 26 at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston. Seated (from left) are: EGC Deputy Chairman, Ambassador Nigel Clarke; and members, Adam Stewart and Pat Ramsay.

Story Highlights

  • The Economic Growth Council (EGC) has engaged the service of Israeli Bonds Director, Gideon Sitterman, to assist with the Government’s undertaking to lobby greater Jamaican Diaspora support for the country’s growth agenda.
  • EGC Chairman Michael Lee-Chin said he met Mr. Sitterman during his recent visit to Jerusalem, Israel, where they discussed the possibility of leveraging the latter’s expertise to assist with Jamaica’s development of bonds targeting Jamaicans residing in the United States, Canada and United Kingdom, as obtains for the Jewish State.
  • Noting that the Israeli Bonds entity “is the most successful Diaspora financial services organisation in the world,” the Chairman said within a short time after meeting Mr. Sitterman he invited him to Jamaica, as there are similarities between Israel and Jamaica, in terms of the Diaspora community.

The Economic Growth Council (EGC) has engaged the service of Israeli Bonds Director, Gideon Sitterman, to assist with the Government’s undertaking to lobby greater Jamaican Diaspora support for the country’s growth agenda.

This could be done by investing in special bonds to be developed, targeting Jamaicans overseas, among other initiatives.

This was disclosed by EGC Chairman, Michael Lee-Chin, during the Council’s first quarterly report delivered at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston, on January 26, where Mr. Sitterman was introduced.

Mr. Lee-Chin said he met Mr. Sitterman during his recent visit to Jerusalem, Israel, where they discussed the possibility of leveraging the latter’s expertise to assist with Jamaica’s development of bonds targeting Jamaicans residing in the United States, Canada and United Kingdom, as obtains for the Jewish State.

Noting that the Israeli Bonds entity “is the most successful Diaspora financial services organisation in the world,” the Chairman said within a short time after meeting Mr. Sitterman he invited him to Jamaica, as there are similarities between Israel and Jamaica, in terms of the Diaspora community.

“We will now have a plan that’s based on the work with someone whose expertise we can leverage,” Mr. Lee-Chin added.

Israel’s Government first floated bonds in 1950 during the tenure of the Jewish State’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, in the aftermath of that country’s War of Independence, which devastated its economy and wiped out more than one per cent of the population.

The fledgling nation’s woes were further compounded by dire economic demands unique to the new state, consequent in part on the arrival of hundreds of thousands of immigrants from post-World War II Europe and the Middle East.

In light of this, Mr. Ben-Gurion convened a meeting of American Jewish leaders in Jerusalem in September 1950 where he proposed issuing bonds to help in providing Israel with a more secure economic foundation.

The proposal’s endorsement yielded out-turns of US$52 million at the end of the first year of subscription in 1951, more than double the initial projections. Total global sales of Israeli Bonds are currently close to US$40 billion.

Mr. Sitterman said in addition to the EGC’s request, he was asked by the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office to assist, “based on mutual respect that both countries have for each other and the good relations that we have with Jamaica.”

He noted that in addition to the economic benefits, the bonds concept was intended to build a bridge between Jews in Diaspora and those in Israel.

Mr. Sitterman said the development of the bonds represents “an opportunity for the Diaspora and Jamaica” to further strengthen their relationship.

“Around 20 per cent of the income of Jamaica is remittances coming from families abroad. So, be partners of a new era in which you are participating in creating wealth for Jamaica, for your families, for yourselves and, maybe, for the next generation of Jamaicans living in the Diaspora,” he urged.

“They will have the chance to come back and be part of the new approach to get growth,” he said.

Mr. Lee-Chin, who described the gesture as historic, expressed gratitude to Mr. Sitterman for “having the faith and trust in us” to offer his assistance.

Meanwhile, the EGC Chairman indicated that the Council will seek to develop and implement an outreach programme targeting the Diaspora.

Arguing that the Diaspora, of which he is a member, “is a most important group of Jamaicans who we have ignored up until now,” Mr. Lee-Chin said the EGC plans to convene meetings with members to keep them “fully apprised of what is happening in Jamaica.”

“Given the fact that there is a natural emotional connection, and given the fact that (persons like me) are investors and entrepreneurs in business in Jamaica…we will invite them and give them vehicles that they can invest in and be confident that they will get protection of their capital and growth of their principal,” he added.

For her part, EGC member, Paula Kerr-Jarrett, underscored the need to lobby the support of Jamaicans in the Diaspora, particularly those heading major companies, by providing channels, such as the bonds, to facilitate them.

She suggested that portions of the earnings generated from these, along with remittances, could be utilised for constructive projects, particularly in inner-city communities.

Noting that 84 per cent of tertiary graduates migrate in search of better economic opportunities, Mrs. Kerr-Jarrett emphasised the urgent need to address this, emphasising that only growth will make Jamaicans stay.

Additionally, Mrs. Kerr-Jarrett reiterated the need to enhance safety and security which she pointed out “will encourage some of those in the Diaspora to return.”

“We need to make Jamaica safe for every Jamaican…those here and those who want to come back,” she said.

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