Ambassador Shirley Optimistic of Greater Levels of Co-Operation


Ambassador to the United States, Professor Gordon Shirley has expressed optimism for even greater levels of co-operation between the Embassy and Jamaican Diaspora organizations in the U.S., in pursuit of key economic and social development objectives in Jamaica.
The Ambassador’s comment came at last week’s launch of the Embassy’s new community outreach programme, which seeks to mobilize Jamaicans residing in the U.S. to become greater stakeholders in the island’s future and to encourage their active support and participation in current public programmes, particularly in the health and education sectors.
The dinner event, which was held at the Ambassador’s residence in Washington, was attended by Executive members of the Jamaican Women of Washington (JWOW), as well as senior diplomatic officials from the Embassy of Jamaica.
A diverse network of Jamaican professionals, the JWOW is constituted with the expressed purpose of supporting programmes in Jamaica, aimed at improving the health and quality of life of underserved women and children in rural Jamaica, as well as in the more vulnerable sections of the country’s urban areas.
While the group’s leadership boasts several Jamaican women who are physicians in the Washington area, the JWOW’s membership base is also representative of a broad cross-section of Jamaican women in the American capital, drawn from a range of interests and occupations.
In his address to the group, Ambassador Shirley stressed the importance of engaging the “enormous talent pool” that Jamaica has in the United States. He said that many Jamaicans in the U.S. were well-trained, affluent and were willing to play a greater role in enhancing the country’s development, once opportunities for their participation were identified.
Professor Shirley also noted that Jamaicans residing in the U.S. were already making a significant contribution to the country through remittances. “From the estimated 1.6 million Jamaicans who live in the United States, Jamaica has gotten approximately $1.3 billion in remittances,” he added.
Commenting on Jamaican professionals who have been recruited by educational and healthcare entities in the U.S., the Ambassador said this continued interest was testament to the effective training and preparation received by these individuals from the island’s educational institutions.
“Our nurses for instance, are internationally sought after. However, we need to figure out a way to take advantage of this, and endeavour to control a bigger piece of the healthcare market, which is clearly a growth industry. The healthcare field is the best industry to be in now,” he said.
The Embassy’s Community Relations Officer, Janet Madden also encouraged the group to seek new opportunities to make their contributions to the island and to strengthen their ties with American interests and private citizens who are interested in investing in Jamaica. “We need to get the most of what is out there for us and Jamaicans overseas are the best people to sell our country. They are natural ambassadors,” she said.
Dr. Jacqueline Watson, President of JWOW and a Washington physician, also agreed that the country could benefit from providing needed healthcare alternatives to the aging American population.
Using India as an example of a country that is aggressively marketing affordable medical services to Americans, that would otherwise be exorbitant in the U.S., Dr. Watson said that Jamaica could also fill this niche if a comprehensive approach is adopted.
She argued that adopting an integrated plan would serve to leverage the strategic advantages that Jamaica enjoyed, such as its close proximity to the United States, as well as healthcare costs, which are appreciably lower, particularly with respect to invasive medical procedures.

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