Spokesperson for the Caribbean Diaspora Business in the UK Denis St Bernard discussed initiatives for greater collaboration with the Diaspora in meetings with leaders of the Private Sector of both Jamaica and Trinidad earlier this month.
“It is clear that the timing is right for this conversation for our region which is now experiencing unprecedented economic and social challenges, from record unemployment, underemployment, failing to meet growth targets and falling foreign direct investment” said St.Bernard.
The discussions follow the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding by the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) and the United Kingdom-based Caribbean Enterprise Network (CENUK), of which Mr. St. Bernard is one of the founders. That agreement is expected to result in millions of dollars in investment flowing into the JSE from the Jamaican Diaspora in the United Kingdom.
“Our aim is to strengthen business relations on both sides of the Atlantic.The intention at this point is the development of a Jamaica Business Diaspora Network,”stressed St Bernard.
The meeting at the PSOJ offices in Kingston was to explain the concept of developing an organization to link businesses and investors across the global Jamaican and Caribbean Diaspora, he pointed out.
“If the Diaspora became properly organized along business lines, it could play a part in mitigating the current fallout in foreign direct investment in Jamaica,” he stated.
The Diaspora spokesman said that the required investment funds existed within the Diaspora and what was needed was the mechanism to channel those funds.
“The PSOJ talks looked at leveraging CENUK contacts for PSOJ members.We looked at issues such as joint networking meetings and partnerships between members of both organisations for major contracts.”
“We have established a linkage and an agreement to collaborate,” Mr. St. Bernard explained. “This is an opportunity to harness Diaspora capabilities with Jamaican opportunities.”
St Bernard later met with Catherine Kumar, President of the Trinidad& Tobago Chamber of Commerce where he pointed out the need to embrace opportunities now presented by emerging Diaspora businesses. Kumar also expressed great interest in the idea of T&T looking at creating a Junior Stock Market , along the lines of Jamaica, which is now experiencing tremendous success with its junior stock market. Many SMEs in Jamaica are seeking equity funding to start and grow their businesses and are increasingly turning to the junior stock market.
In encouraging Trinidad & Tobago to take a leaf from the Jamaican initiative, St. Bernard explained that not only does the growth of SMEs reduce unemployment, create and distribute wealth, but it has been shown to be a great social stabiliser. In fact some Jamaican investors are now seeing returns as high as 200 per cent, he declared.