Knight Urges Overseas Jamaicans To Become Stakeholders In Country’s Future


The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, K.D. Knight, has encouraged Jamaicans in the Diaspora to “become true stakeholders in Jamaica’s economic and social development”, while also examining ways to make even greater contributions to the country’s growth and economic progress.
Mr. Knight’s comments came during a meeting on Wednesday (Oct. 15) with the leadership and members of several community organizations in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, and representatives from several Jamaican philanthropic and service organizations in the Washington capital area, as well as groups from Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland.
The meeting was a collateral component to Minister Knight’s formal engagement in Washington, which was a three-day round of high-level consultations with international aid organizations, including the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
The discussions between the aid agencies and CARICOM Trade Ministers, as well as other regional trade experts, were aimed at securing increased funding support for building regional capacity in the area of international trade negotiations. During his visit, Minister Knight also met with diplomatic personnel and staff at the Embassy of Jamaica in Washington, as well as the Permanent Mission of Jamaica to the Organization of American States (OAS).
In his submission, Mr. Knight thanked Jamaicans overseas, particularly those residing in the United States, for their long-standing support for philanthropic causes in Jamaica and recognized their role in promoting economic stability in the island, through their remittances amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars. “But while we remain grateful for this activity and support, there continues to be a need for even greater levels of participation in our economy, through direct investment,” the Minister noted.
Arguing that the term ‘foreign investment’ did not exclusively imply “investment only by foreigners,” Mr. Knight pointed out that overseas Jamaicans were welcome to explore opportunities for investment in a range of sectors including tourism, information technology and manufacturing. “There are many opportunities that continue to exist for you to own your own piece of the rock,” he said.
He also informed the gathering that in addition to the Ministry’s new thrust to increase contact with the Jamaican expatriate community, plans were also under way to expand a new model, which would facilitate higher levels of participation in the nation’s economy by Jamaicans residing overseas. Mr. Knight cited the work of the Jamaica Trade Council of Greater Philadelphia (JTCGP), as an example of this new model, which sought to encourage both expatriate Jamaican businessmen and their American counterparts to explore venture opportunities in the island.
The JTCGP was constituted after a visit last November to Philadelphia by the Minister, where he met with key Jamaican and local business interests in the City of Philadelphia, who expressed a desire to initiate and to strengthen commercial links with counterpart businesses in Jamaica. Since March 2003, the JTCGP has embarked on a broad agenda, seeking to promote and expand trade and investment in Jamaica, particularly with industries in the City of Philadelphia, as well as exploring new joint venture initiatives between Jamaican interests and Pennsylvania businesses in general.
Turning to the importance of the Jamaican overseas community’s key role in helping to influence action in the U.S. Congress that would serve to benefit the country’s economic interests, Minister Knight observed that the voice of groups like the JTCGP were proving to be significant assets in acquainting U.S. lawmakers with the considerable pressures facing small developing countries like Jamaica, in a rapidly evolving globalized trade environment.
The Minister noted that the JTCGP was helpful in pointing out the “potential for an even greater decimation of our agricultural sector given the continued practice of extending of subsides to farmers in the United States and other developed countries”.
Mr. Knight also stressed that Jamaica was increasingly “thinking outside of the box” in approaching its developmental challenges and also seeking to “build on its strengths.” In this vein, he noted that the quality of Jamaican teachers, notwithstanding resource issues, remained high, which accounted for their steady recruitment by U.S. school districts, as well as education boards in the United Kingdom. “This reality in turn mandates that we look at the issue of increased and improved training and resource development with added urgency. As we look at expanding our trade in services, trade in educational services is a key component of this strategy,” the Minister noted.

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