Your Excellencies the Most Honourable Sir Patrick Allen, Governor-General and The Most Honourable Lady Allen
Dr Peter Phillips, Leader of the Opposition
Senator the Honourable Kamina Johnson Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade
The Hon. Olivia ‘Babsy Grange, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports
Other Colleague Cabinet Ministers
The Most Honourable Professor Sir Kenneth Hall, Former Governor General and the Most Honourable Lady Hall
The Honourable Chief Justice, Zaila McCalla
Members of the Diaspora Advisory Board and Members of the Diaspora
Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps
Major Partners, Legacy Sponsors and other Sponsors
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
I am delighted to be here this evening to open the Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference. I must give special commendation to Minister Johnson Smith and her team at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, as well as the entire Preparatory Committee led by Mr. Earl Jarrett for the tremendous work they have undertaken over the last months, in organising this Conference. This is truly a great example of public private partnership at work.
To our ‘Diasporans’ who have travelled from Africa, the Asia Pacific region, Europe, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and North America, and indeed far and wide; on behalf of the Government of Jamaica, we welcome you and acknowledge your commitment to deepening the relationship between the Diaspora and Jamaica through your presence here at the conference. Your presence is a clear indication of your unwavering loyalty and commitment to your homeland.
I have personal knowledge from my own travels to many Diaspora Communities that your heart strings are firmly attached to your roots in Jamaica, Jamaica land you still love! And I know from the many emails and the many letters and the many social media posts that you still remain interested in the nation’s affairs. I know that your hearts also swell with pride, as do ours when our sportsmen and women fly Jamaica’s flag high every time they represent this great nation. We continue to demonstrate to the world that “wi likkle but wi tallawah”!
I take this opportunity to reaffirm that the Government is cognisant of the fact that you, our Diaspora members, are amongst our “best assets”, sharing your skills, creativity and boundless ingenuity and we must use this to our nation’s benefit. Further, this administration pledges to continue facilitating your active involvement in every facet of the country’s socio-economic development.
We are pleased to see that the engagement process has evolved over the thirteen years from philanthropy to one where the Diaspora is now fully on board.
It would be remiss of me not to recognise the significant contributions oftentimes at great sacrifice that the Diaspora makes to communities, schools and health facilities across the island. Let me express my profound appreciation on behalf of a truly grateful nation.
This year’s Conference is aligned to the strategic national plans for development in the sectors of health, education, tourism, in addition to the cultural and creative industries. Of equal importance is the synergy with the growth agenda.
Over a year and half ago we embarked on a plan to create prosperity for all Jamaicans. A critical objective of this policy thrust is the attainment of economic growth and job creation. We are of the firm belief that it is only through sustained growth that we will be able to provide the kind of services that our people so richly deserve. Consequently, we set ourselves a target of meaningful growth and job creation. We have an opportunity in this 55th year of our Independence to normalise economic growth and prosperity thereby reversing years of low growth. We commit to providing jobs for our people and releasing their entrepreneurial energies. Continued business and consumer confidence and declining unemployment rate show that we are on the right path.
I invite and encourage you, the Diaspora to participate in this process. The Government simply cannot do it alone. We need the participation of all our citizens, whether at home or abroad. It is therefore imperative that we build a strong and symbiotic partnership amongst Jamaicans across the globe.
One of our principal objectives is to make it easier for prospective investors, inclusive of the Diaspora, to conduct business in and with Jamaica. I know many of you here have expressed strong concerns about the bureaucratic processes that hinder investment. Our aim is to streamline the work of critical agencies and procedures to avoid duplication thereby creating a more favourable business environment.
Work continues in terms of pursuing the growth initiatives such as maintaining macro-economic stability and pursuing debt reduction, improving citizen security, pursuing bureaucratic reform, stimulating greater asset utilisation and harnessing the power of the Diaspora.
I am sure you will agree with me that the greatest growth stimulating activity is to make Jamaica safe and secure. Improving citizen security now, at this time, is priority number one for my Government. We have passed a ground-breaking piece of legislation, which with others to come and other initiatives to be announced, will for the first time since our independence, will empower our Government to confront the breakdown in law and order and public safety in our country and to return Jamaica to the place of choice for you to come home, choose to live here, raise your families here, do business here and retire here in paradise safe and secure.
How to optimally engage you, members of the Diaspora, is a critical component of the overall plan for growth and prosperity and I know Senator Honourable Kamina Johnson Smith will provide more details of the national Diaspora policy and its status, but I want to emphasize that we are serious about strengthening the relationship between the Diaspora and Jamaica in every aspect, and so we are allocating the necessary time and resources to ensure that the national Diaspora policy adequately represents the level of commitment we ascribe to building this relationship.
On Day Two of the Conference, I am pleased to note that there will be a special Growth Forum which will highlight the potential areas where you can become involved. This is inclusive of the business opportunities in logistics, business process outsourcing, nutraceuticals and agriculture. Our Diaspora must be increasingly engaged in the business prospects of Jamaica. This is yet another element of our resolve to strengthen our relationship with the Diaspora.
I implore the Diaspora to take full advantage of the opportunities that will be presented at the Diaspora Conference so that there will be concrete plans and opportunities for future engagement. The Conference represents a springboard for furthering the relationship between Jamaica and its Diaspora. Let us continue to “Connect and Partner for Growth” in this mutually rewarding engagement.
I do hope that as many of you as possible will be here with us for the upcoming celebration of Emancipation and our 55th anniversary of Independence. We have a great cultural programme in store for you and encourage you to participate and enjoy it fully.
God bless you. God bless our beautiful island Jamaica, land we love dearly and truly.