BY JELANI GRANT
The entire second day of the Jamaica Diaspora Conference forums, focused on examining various methods of increasing Jamaica’s economic status. Delegates looked at expertise in agriculture, job creation, expanding the outsourcing sector, attracting global investors and investments in medical marijuana.
The morning began with remarks for the job creation forum, mediated by Jamaica National Group CEO Mr. Earl Jarrett. MP Daryl Vaz of the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Economic Growth Council Chairman Michael Lee-Chin, EGC Diaspora Task Force Chairman Dr. David Panton, and CaPRI (Caribbean Policy Research Institute) Research Officer Shanike Smart. MP Vaz and Dr. Panton ended their remarks by giving out their numbers and e-mails to the entire diaspora as an example of the transparency they aim to foster in the future of Jamaican diaspora growth.
After lunch, delegates approached methods for utilizing the beautiful land. To discuss agriculture, the forum was made by the Minister of Industry Karl Samuda, Farm Up Jamaica CEO Neil Curtis, President of College of Agriculture Science and Education Derrick Deslandes, Farm Up Jamaica Executive Director of Operations Dr. Julius Garvey. Minister Samuda presented strategies that could be used to increase the efficiency of the agriculture market such as targeting areas that don’t rely on exports outside of the country in order to tighten the hold on Jamaican income is circulated within the economy. He told the audience about the growth opportunities that have arisen in agriculture and how keeping money circulating within the local business has caused market growth. He said the growth was achieved by “supporting our farmers to produce all of the Irish potatoes in this country we consume in this country. We have taken on onion and we’re going to take an additional crop”.
Almost opposite to Samuda’s remarks, though, was the idea of potential expansions to Jamaica’s outsourcing sector presented by Sutherland Global Assistant Vice President Odetta Rockhead Kerr. Curtis presented the economic benefits that could be achieved through the development of a logistic hub. “Based on the info I have researched, a logistic hub will create lots of jobs, there will be significant economic growth, it will make Jamaica a prime location to live and do business”, he said. A logistics hub would bring better organization of goods distribution internationally and locally, allow all of the agricultural works to be handled and carried out in a specific area.
A roundtable was held with JAMPRO President Diane Edwards, Director of Jamaica Exports Association Paul Lewis, SportsMax CEO Olivier McIntosh and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Kingsley Chin, with GraceKennedy Group Chairman Senator Don Webly mediating the facilitation of Diaspora Investments.
For the first time in the conference’s history, medical marijuana was discussed as a new industry, mediated by University of the West Indies professor Wendel Abel. UWI professor Wayne McLaughlin, Cannabis Licensing Authority Jamaica Chairman Hyacinth Lightbourne, University of Technology Dean Dr. Ellen Campbell-Grizzle and Courtney Betty of Timeless Herbel Care discussing the various health benefits marijuana has presented in cancer patients as well as its ability to substitute pain medications.
A point that was regularly brought up by the delegate audience and panel members was the need for investment from the overseas diaspora. During his time on stage, Lee-Chin reminded the diaspora of the benefits of contributing to more than one country. He used the example of having dual-citizenship and how that makes business and property ownership much easier as some countries restrict land ownership to citizens only.