VMBS head says Diaspora crucial to economyWASHINGTON D.C — President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Victoria Mutual Building Society (VMBS), Richard Powell, says increased collaboration between Jamaica and its Diaspora is crucial, if the country is to achieve economic development and growth.

Delivering the main address at the 34th annual awards banquet of the National Association of Jamaicans and Supportive Organizations (NAJASO) at the Marriott Renaissance Hotel, Detroit, Michigan, Saturday July 16, Mr. Powell said Jamaica stands to benefit greatly if the collaboration is forged.

“Many of our brothers and sisters who reside overseas are of the opinion that Jamaica is only concerned with what the Diaspora can do for the country, and not what the country can do for the Diaspora. Another school of thought is that the country is only now showing an interest in the Diaspora, because of the steady increase in remittance inflows and the importance they play in Jamaica’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP),” he said.

He said the potential contribution of the Diaspora goes far beyond remittances, stressing the need to tap into other areas to achieve “true economic development and growth”. He pointed out that the Diaspora could play a crucial role in improving Jamaica’s economy in the area of trade, by providing Jamaican exporters with meaningful market information and intelligence, and identifying lucrative markets, potential buyers and distributors and facilitating the referral and matching of suppliers with exporters.

He said that one area of great potential is when members of the Diaspora “buy Jamaican”, thereby creating a greater demand for Jamaican products and services, which provides a much needed stimulus for the development of manufacturing and export industries.

He suggested that the Diaspora could make a difference by helping to increase investment flows into Jamaica, through direct investment in the economy, as well.

“Members of a Diaspora are more likely to take risks in their country of origin than other investors. This is because they are better able to evaluate investment opportunities, cultural nuances and may already have the necessary contacts to facilitate the process,” Mr. Powell said.

The transfer of knowledge, technology and skills is yet another area that could assist in Jamaica’s growth and development, and the Diaspora can be an important catalyst and facilitator in this area, he also noted.

Mr.Powell, who was presented with NAJASO’s 2011 Lignum Vitae award for his contribution to Jamaica’s economic development,lauded the organization for its foresight in providing a vehicle for communication and co-operation between those committed to the development of Jamaica.

He said that the organization has impacted the lives of countless Jamaicans, not only in the United States, but also in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean.

NAJASO’s President, Roy Davidson, who was just elected to a second term, said his organization is committed to encouraging Jamaicans residing in the United States, as well as American corporate interests, to renew their focus on Jamaica.

“It is important that new opportunities for investments be communicated to the Jamaican public at large, and to those in the American business sector, who have an interest in developing economic partnerships with local players in the Jamaican marketplace,” Mr. Davidson said.

In addition to facilitating banking relationships, trade and investments, the organization’s mandate is education and health, he stated.

Mr. Davidson also noted that, in order for Jamaica to succeed, there was a need to involve and empower the “next generation of Jamaicans” in all facets of development.

The three-day NAJASO conference, with the theme “Remembering the Past, Impacting the Future”, brought together delegates from various Jamaican organizations in the United States and Bermuda. Activities included health, education and business seminars and election of the board.

Also elected to serve for the next two years were: Vice Presidents, Rick Nugent (East USA), Leoine Cater and Vieta Dennis (Mid-West USA), Marlene Flynn-Carty (Bermuda and the Eastern Caribbean), Dr. Channer Watson (Jamaica, Southern Caribbean), Dr. Judith Thompson (Eastern USA); Recording Secretary, Claudette Henry; Executive Secretary, Janice Wisdom; Treasurer, Derrick Harvey; and Chairman of the Board, Dr. Richard Constable.