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OCHO RIOS — Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Hon. Audley Shaw has called on members of the Jamaican Diaspora to join with the government to further drive the economic and social development of the country.

Mr. Shaw said with the country’s economy stabilised, it is time for the Diaspora to think of ways it can assist the government to accelerate Jamaica’s growth.

“Jamaica’s debt profile does not allow us the luxury of re-arranging our way out of debt. Jamaica must grow its way out of debt…and the Diaspora has an important role to play,” argued the Minister.

He was addressing members of the Diaspora at the fourth Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Convention 2011, held at the Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort in Ocho Rios in St. Ann, today June 16.

He further noted that the Diaspora movement is one with great influence that can significantly bolster the government’s efforts to bring growth to the economy, further arguing that no country can significantly transform its economy out of debt without the active engagement of its Diaspora.

“I think that the Jamaican Diaspora is like a bull that has not quite recognised its strength. Foreign Direct Investments from connected sources is particularly valued…you cannot be replaced,” he said.     

“I need members of the Diaspora to take that leap of faith to have confidence in the future of your country. It is now time for us to herald and to welcome a new era of an inward migration of capital of all kinds – skills, technology and of course money – but we need that inward migration. We have set the stage, and we have set the background,” he implored.

The Minister emphasised that now that stability has been achieved, the economy is now ripe for investments.

“I’m urging you to think about ways that you can assist Jamaica to accelerate growth. Let us not allow any kind of politics of any sort to interfere in the considerable value that is inherent in the Diaspora movement. We need to take away the politics from the Diaspora…and we need to start putting Jamaica first. We have to set aside our differences and we have to get Jamaica back on a path of growth,” Mr. Shaw said.

He pointed out that the Government, led by Prime Minister Bruce Golding, is now focused on priorities, including the challenge to correct the structural weaknesses that remain in the economy, as well as continuing the programme of institutional strengthening.

Mr. Shaw said the government has worked overtime to stabilise the Jamaican economy, placing it in a position for growth. He said the calendar year 2010 was one of the most eventful, important and successful ones in Jamaica’s economic development.

“I can indicate to you now that perhaps for the first time in a very long time, all of the ducks of micro-economic importance have been lined up and they are all performing well,” he asserted.

Among the successes, Mr. Shaw noted, is that the country has been able to achieve a stable exchange rate; single digit inflation; a record available Net International Reserves (NIR) and gross foreign exchange reserves; and an interest rate which is now at a 40-year low.

“We have had an exchange rate that has not only been stable for almost a year and half, but has in fact, seen a re-evaluation of almost five per cent in that period. We also have record available Net International Reserves (NIR) and gross foreign exchange reserves totalling at least 21 weeks of imports at this time, and over US$3.3 billion are in the reserves,” he informed.

“For the last two months, including April and May, we have had inflation rates of 0.5 per cent and 0.7 per cent, respectively, well below the target for those months in the fiscal year. The last time the BOJ went out at 6.75 per cent on the open market operations and auctions of Treasury Bills are in the 6 per cent range as well,” the Minister added.

Over 300 Jamaicans, mainly from the North American and European Diaspora are attending the three-day Convention, which is being held under the theme, ‘One Nation: Jamaica and its Diaspora in Partnership’. It is being hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.

 

By ATHALIAH REYNOLDS, JIS Reporter