The Most Hon. Andrew Holness ON, MP,
Official Opening of Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference
July 23, 2017
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, good evening.
Before I start, let me say that the first time that I addressed the diaspora conference was when I was the Minister of Education; that was some time ago and I came prepared with a written speech and I delivered the speech and I was certain that I delivered the speech well but everyone was stoic. And then someone from the Ministry of Culture came on and he started ‘to sing’ and the entire conference erupted and I learned my lesson then because when people come back home, yes they want to hear speeches what the government plans to do but they also want to reconnect with the culture, with the roots; they want to feel at home. And so it is my distinct pleasure to welcome you all back home. Welcome home!
As you would’ve realized I’m not able to welcome you in song but from the bottom of my heart welcome home. I’m delighted to be here this evening to open the Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference. I must give special commendations 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 month in organizing this conference. This is truly a great example of public private partnership at work.
To our diasporans who have travelled from Africa, the Asian 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 travels to your 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 your nation’s affairs.
I know that your heart also swells with pride as do ours when our sports men and women fly Jamaica’s flag high every time they represent this great nation. We continue to demonstrate to the world “wi likkle but wi tallawah.”
I take this opportunity to reaffirm that the government is cognizant of the fact that you’re our diaspora members are among 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 facilitate your activities, your involvement in every facet of the country’s socioeconomic development. We’re pleased to see that the engagement process has evolved over the thirteen years of philanthropy to one where the diaspora is fully onboard.
It would be remiss of me not to recognize significant contribution often times 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 a 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 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 fifty-fifth year of our independence to normalize economic growth and prosperity thereby reversing years of low growth.
We commit to increasing job opportunities for our people and releasing their true entrepreneurial energies. Continued business and consumer confidence and declining unemployment rates shows 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 we build a strong and symbiotic relationship amongst Jamaicans across the globe.
One of our principal objectives is to make it easier for prospective investors, including 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 investments. 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 macroeconomic stability and pursuing debt reduction, pursuing bureaucratic reforms, stimulating greater asset utilizations and harnessing the power of the diaspora. However, and I’m 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 at this time for my government. We have passed a groundbreaking piece of legislation which with others to come, and other initiatives to be announced will for the first time since our independence 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 to 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 for the overall plan for growth and prosperity and I know Senator The Honourable Kamina Johnson-Smith will provide more details of the National Diaspora Policy and its status, but I want to emphasize that we’re serious about strengthening the relationships between the diaspora and Jamaica in every aspect and so we’re 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’m pleased to note, there will be a special growth forum which will highlight the potential areas where you can become involved. This is inclusive of 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 relationships 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 fifty-fifth 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 truly and dearly.