JIS News

New initiatives aimed at encouraging increased investments in the island by Jamaicans living in the United States (US), as well as American companies and private citizens, will be the focus of discussions this weekend in Washington by the Board of the National Association of Jamaican and Supportive Organizations (NAJASO).
A non-profit organization, NAJASO is the umbrella entity in the US, which seeks to bring together a range of Jamaican membership associations, social organizations, and charitable groups to fashion a common annual agenda focusing on key areas, such as the Jamaican economy, health care and education.
Deliberations at the Board meeting, which will involve the central leadership of the organization, as well as representatives from specific member organizations, will set the agenda for this year’s National Annual Convention to be held from June 30 to July 3 in Detroit, Michigan. NAJASO is headed by Vernette Byron.
NAJASO’s local Washington representative, Jennifer Asher, told JIS News that the organization’s leadership was committed to encouraging Jamaicans residing in the U.S., as well as American corporate interests to renew their focus on Jamaica.
“It is important that new opportunities for investment be communicated to the Jamaican public at large and to those in the American business sector who have an interest developing economic partnerships with local players in the Jamaican marketplace,” she said. Miss Asher noted that NAJASO’s push to increase its membership base would also serve to engender greater interest on the part of the Jamaican expatriate community in the United States in exploring local investment opportunities.
“Our new emphasis in expanding our membership outreach is indeed key to our ability to increase the awareness of Jamaicans across the U.S. about possible investment prospects. Our challenge is to find ways to begin interacting with target groups of Jamaicans who are not necessarily members of local Jamaican groups or organizations but who, nonetheless, have a strong interest in the country’s economic and social development,” she explained.
Miss Asher also informed that in addition to facilitating trade and investment, a primary focus of NAJASO would also be in the educational arena. “This has always been one of our primary areas of emphasis. Since 1988, NAJASO has funded at least 15 scholarships in higher education at the University of the West Indies. This contribution has been broad and has never sought to focus on a specific educational sector. The rationale is to make funding available regardless of the academic discipline,” she said.
The scholarships, which average US$2,000 is made available each year to two students who have distinguished themselves academically, but who also present a credible case for financial support.
Former Senator, Janet Madden, who is the designated liaison for the Government with Jamaican community organizations across the United States, also expressed confidence that the meeting would result in a concrete plan of action regarding trade promotion and investment that would be adopted during NAJASO’s upcoming annual convention.
“There are clear and encouraging signs that the leadership in the Jamaican diaspora and community groups are placing the issue of Jamaica’s economic development at the very forefront of their agenda and on-going activities,” she said.
Miss Madden informed that a planned trade fair, which would involve both private and public entities such as JAMPRO, Grace Kennedy and Company, Victoria Mutual Building Society, as well as other major real estate and manufacturing interests in the island, would be staged during NAJASO’s Detroit convention.
“This event will serve to acquaint attendees with current and new opportunities for investment and provide an understanding of how to practically manage the administrative and structural prerequisites associated with establishing a new enterprise or fostering a joint venture arrangement in Jamaica,” she said.
In addition to exploring current economic prospects, Miss Madden pointed out that NAJASO would be working closely with her office at the Consulate in New York, as well as with the Miami Consulate and the Embassy of Jamaica in Washington, to facilitate the creation of several trade councils. The mandate of these groups would be primarily to steer local Jamaican and American business interests to possible investment opportunities in the island.
To date, three such investment promotion groups have been formed. The first, the Jamaican Trade Council of Greater Philadelphia, was initiated in October of 2002 and a second major entity is set to be initiated in the South Florida area this week. In addition, a trade facilitation group has also been constituted in Richmond, Virginia, which has already sponsored a trade mission to Jamaica.
The organization’s push to establish additional trade councils has also been prompted by a desire to increase US investment in Jamaica’s tourism sector, which remains the island’s primary foreign exchange earner.
The group will also be apprised of current efforts being undertaken to expand an existing U.S. government ‘guest worker’ programme, which now allows Jamaicans to gain essential experience in the US hotel industry.
In addition to discussing matters of economic and educational importance, the NAJASO leadership will also receive a commissioned report which will outline ways in which the organization can assist the Congressional Black Caucus, and Congressman Charles Rangel of New York in particular, in advancing a bill tabled during the 108th Congress, which is aimed at exonerating Jamaican National Hero Marcus Garvey, from a federal mail fraud conviction.

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