Tighter COVID restrictions for Jamaica-August 10, 2021

Media briefing by the PM last night covered a wide range of COVID-related issues:

COVID trends have worsened, as I noted in my post yesterday:

Curfew hours are to be lengthened from August 11 through 31. Gathering restrictions will be tightened, including beaches, rivers, places of worship, and gyms.

No permits will be given for entertainment events.

Schools reopening will depend on what happens in next 3 weeks.

Brexit still bubbling and boiling out of the pot 5 years on-June 26, 2021

How’s Brexit dealing with Britain, which is not so great, at the moment?

Five years on from the referendum, things looks messy:

Puffins and overfishing issues:

Pigeon fanciers’ feathers ruffled:

Computer glitch and jobs for EU women:

British TV not good for EU folks to watch?

Tinned tomatoes and inflation:

Sausages, anyone?

Northern Ireland snaggled:

Steel being stolen:

Touring artistes’ woes:

Holness points to light at end of #COVID19Life tunnel by major easing of curfews-June 23, 2021

PM Holness announced yesterday some major relaxation of Jamaica’s COVID restrictions, notably easing curfew hours to 11pm to 5am for Mondays to Saturdays and 6pm to 5am on Sundays.

The measure will run from July 1 to August 11.

The Opposition were quick to point out that our situation is still highly vulnerable despite improving trends but with a woefully low level of vaccination.

In summary, the other changes from July 1 are:

Churches and Cinemas

* Places of worship – current limit of 50 to move to a capacity-based system. This is where churches can use a measurement of one person for every 40 square feet or 70% of their capacity to conduct services.

* Indoor theatres and Cinemas – These places of amusements are to be allowed to open. They can use the measurement of one person for every 40 square feet or 70% of seated capacity, whichever is lower.

* For drive-in – vehicles should carry no more than the number it is registered to carry.

Controlled Re-entry

* COVID-19 testing – Persons must continue to present a negative test three days before arriving in Jamaica.

* 14-day quarantine remains in place.

* Fully vaccinated persons – eight-day quarantine remains in place.

* Effective July 1, 2021, persons who are fully vaccinated and return a negative PCR test after arriving in Jamaica will be released from quarantine.

Travel restriction

* Travel ban on South American countries as well as the restriction on Trinidad and Tobago and India extended to August 10.

Stay-at-home

* Persons 60 and over must remain at home until August 10. Individuals who are fully vaccinated are exempted.

Funerals and burials

* Services will now be allowed with a maximum of 30 mourners.

* Burials will now be permitted with a maximum of 30 people up from 15.

* Burials may now take place from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Mondays to Fridays only.

Markets

* To operate from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday to Saturday. Closed on Sundays.

Beaches, Rivers, Zoos and Water attractions

* To operate from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday to Saturday.

* 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sundays.

Parks, Gyms and Bars

* Must close one hour before the start of the curfew.

Amusement arcades

* These entities are allowed to reopen effective July 1.

Events and entertainment

* Organisers of small outdoor events such as parties, concerts, round robins, festivals, corporate mixers will be allowed to apply for permits to host no more than 100 people (50 for public sector)

* For indoor events, no more than 60 per cent of the capacity of the venue.

* Organisers of large events like stage shows, church conventions, festivals, general and special meetings will need to satisfy an approval process through the Ministry of Culture and the Office of the Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management.

* Gov’t will waive rental fees for its venues for large events. Other charges will apply.

I’ve been everywhere, man, but did I like being there? Barbados-June 22, 2021

My wife and I are both from islands within Caricom, but never lived on another one besides our homeland. I nearly went to live in Barbados when I was ready to leave the Bank of England in the late-1980s, but the offer to join the Caribbean Development Bank as an economist didn’t make financial sense. The interview visit had been an eye opener because I had assumed all islands were like Jamaica, not least with significant high points. Barbados is relatively flat, and you can see almost all of the island from its high points. But, some good things hit me on that brief weekend visit. Barbados has monkeys: I saw them on the beach. It’s visually appealling, especially seeing pretty sandy coastlines from almost every high point. I was also struck by the Bajan accent. 🙂 It was ironic that my wife’s job took us there, nearly two decades later. What did living there show me better?

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Bus service island-wise: You never really had an excuse for taking a bus in the wrong direction because bus signs were marked ‘Into city’ and ‘Out of city’. Good thing, too, that the island is small enough to make a round trip by mistake no bad thing 🙂

Pudding and souse: I’d never give Bim’s food high marks compared to the rest of Caricom, but pudding and souse is worth the try and has its important place in social activities at weekends, when one could lime happily around eating this cold pickled pork dish, drinking and chatting aimlessly or fulsomely.

History matters: Barbados has a complicated slave history, like all of the Caricom countries, but for me have tried to manage the realities of that by not discarding historic relics. It has many preserved features of slave and plantation life, such as mills and some great houses and enough trappings to let people see how the country once was. You need that to tell the story, properly, in my mind.

Well-run, on the surface: Most things in Barbados appear to work well, and the country’s PR is great at pushing that message. But, it’s got some issues that would make you pull out your hair, in part because despite its progress, it’s still a small island in the Caribbean. It took months to get our new car, which we were told “Is on the water”! Opening a bank account and dealing with public sector agencies is still mired by that Caribbean brand of bureaucracy and redundancy.

Brighton Market: If we were caught in an odd place, it was enjoying going to the farmers’ market at dawn most Saturday mornings. This could have been a trip to an English village field, but it was set in the grounds of a working sugar cane farm. It offered ambience hard to beat and was a safe space for children to roam freely. The best fresh coffee on the island and nice food to go with it, whether fish cutters or occasional yummies of other kinds, and fresh fruit and vegetable to buy, plus some crafts, occasionally. Yes, it was mainly frequented by white Bajans and expats, but it was a great start to any weekend, and we often headed to Lemon Arbor for pudding and souse, after.

Dislikes

‘Little Englanders’: Bajans have a reputation amongst other Caribbean countries for being either ‘Little Englanders’ because of their close historical association with the UK and the constant flow of Brits who decide to take holidays there, bolstered by daily flights provided by British Airways. But, it shows up also in a clear distaste for other black Caricom citizens. We were dissed too many times in favour of British tourists for it not to be noticeable and a chilling ‘welcome’ at the airport was not what we liked.

Bajans love sticking it to Jamaicans how well they’ve done: I think I would have minded less if I had arrived in Barbados at a time when economic signs were pointing in a clearly good direction, in 2007, but I didn’t. Sadly, I pointed out what seemed like a glaring fiscal problem. That came to buck a decade later with (for Bajans, a dreaded IMF program in 2018). But, don’t mention that I told you so. I was not offering popular opinions on the radio call-in programme, ‘Down to brass tacks’. 🙂

Travel: It’s harder to get there than it should from anywhere in the Caribbean. I think that reality might have been worse on another island, but it’s still a major chore to have to duck in and out of a few islands on an air ‘milk bus’.

Polarized politics: I didn’t know it at the time, but living in Barbados was a good primer for life in Jamaica, where many issues are reduced to the colour of the party you’re assumed to support. My points about the economy labelled me as part of the ‘opposition’. What was ridiculous was that my point was valid when Barbados Labour Party (red) were in power and equally valid when they ceded power to the Democratic Labour Party (yellow). So, I was always one of the opposition!

Racial polarization: Black and white people don’t mix that much in Barbados. At a macro level, whites own the economy and blacks own the politics; that’s the ‘devil’s bargain’ that’s been struck. They races sort of co-exists, but the separation is pretty clear, no more so for things like Kadooment, during Crop Over, where there’s a (near) all-white troupe, named ‘Blue Box Cart’, who go out first each year. Nuff said!

Jamaica’s vaccination blitz catches cold and needs to correct a fiasco-June 21

However, you want to look at it, Jamaica’s vaccination programme hit a road block this past week. Depsite recent reassurances that enough doses were in available to give those needing their 2nd doses, we’ve had a week of people being told that was not so, and having scheduled appointments cancelled, pending supply arrivals.

We had chaotic scenes at the National Arena last Saturday, when people crowed outside the venue and it had to be closed early, with further doses only going to those over 50.

Part of the problem was total supply, but some problems were to do with vaccines being not distributed well across the island, with some rural sites nearly empty, according to eyewitness reports. Some wondered if JDF helicopters couldn’t have been used to help redistribute supplies over the weekend.

Unfortunately, much confusion happened as confirmed appointments were cancelled and people were struggling to rearrange their movements and policy decisions were being reversed quickly.

Ir’a not realistic for people to be online all the time and be ready to switch around at a moment’s notice. So, something will have to be done to honour commitments, within a day, at least.

I was called a week ago by RJR to talk about ‘vaccine hesitancy’ amongst Jamaica’s senior citizens. I was adamant that my view was that access was the major problem, not relucance to take vaccines (real hesitancy). I thought this was especially true in rural areas. Minister Tufton reiterated that access point, but now we will have to see the fall out from the weekend’s debacle and if it makes people less trustful of the vaccination processes and generate real hesitancy.

I’ve been everywhere, man, but did I like being there? Guinea-June 20, 2021

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Simply, back to Africa: The cultural and sociological significance of making the reverse journey across the Atlantic from the Americas should be clear. Much flows naturally from the Gulf of Guinea westward. Lucky for us to visit slave transhipment points like Ile de Goré in Sénégal to see the horrific departure point for many slaves.

Kind and gentle people: Both Guineans and expatriates living there create a rich network of caring and wonderful friends whom I’m glad to still count on today. A country that’s 90% Muslim but celebrates Easter and Christmas? Says it all, for me. People with little who’d provide you with food for days simply because that’s how visitors should be treated.

Beautiful landscape: Few places beat the simple beauty of the Fouta Djallon and its mountains, or the Nimba Mountain range, of which I can say gladly I got to the top of the mound of iron ore. Wonderful waterfalls and rivers and people who live by them.

Best work set-up: It was nice to have my own office in a separate building within the central bank complex, with my own staff, and being able to choose how it looked and worked. It was the first time to set my stamp on how it should all be, from our work ethos, to how it was decorated and who could come and go-my close contacts at any level always found my door open. Having a sofa was a dream, and as a long-time believer in naps, it got good use. But, working with a new born on the scene was better for being able to start and stop when I wanted, so going home for lunch was more norm than rarity, so was working from home most afternoons The time difference between Conakry and Washington DC really helped.

House by the sea: As accidental outcomes go, we landed on our feet finding a house destined for the proprietor of the housing complex. A lovely villa in the middle of three, with the ocean inlet being at the back fench. A new house with new garden that we could enjoy seeing grow, groomed by a gardener who cared so much. We lived and ate outside a lot and our youngest had the best days being able to run around freely, inside and out.

Dislikes

The curse of riches in plain view: Guinea should not be a poor country, based on its natural resources, water, mineral riches (gold, diamond, bauxite), fertile land, geographical location. But, politics and bad management got it there, added to its neighbours’ willingness to keep fighting within their national borders and seeing citizens flee to Guinea. Guinea should have been a leader in hydroelectric power. Instead, it was plagued by inefficient power generation for most; life couldn’t go on without a diesel generator for back-up.

Hardest country from which to fly: It was often easier to fly to Europe then on to get to a neighbouring country because Guinea has few direct flights, except to Paris and Brussels. I had to do it enough times to reach Sierra Leone to Guinea’s south. Otherwise, it was tough road drives or getting a flight on a UN helicopter.

Corruption in plain view: Wont say too much beyond suggesting some reading about major acts of malfeasance that were untaken in the name of President Conté and his supporters.

Harmattan/Sahara dust: The Harmattan is a season in West Africa, which occurs between the end of November and the middle of March. It is characterized by the dry and dusty northeasterly trade wind, of the same name, which blows from the Sahara Desert over West Africa into the Gulf of Guinea. Its residue finds its way across the Atlantic, so we still get to ‘enjoy’ it in Jamaica, with the hot air that it also brings.

The rainy season: Guinea is one of the wettest countries in West Africa. The monsoon season with a southwesterly wind lasts from June to November. It’s notable for the dampness that is everywhere, lingering for months, so that mould growing on clothes is more norm than exception. Don’t leave you home unoccipied for a couple of weeks during this time but have someone who can keep it aired. Driving rain, like hurricanes is also part of the season. That moisture, too, finds its way across the Atlantic to form the Caribbean’s annual hurricane season.

I’ve been everywhere, man, but did I like being there? USA-1-June 19, 2021

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The customer is always right: A revelation to the average person coming from the UK is that questions are hardly ever asked when customers have complaints. I got it on my interview visit to the IMF when I ordered a pizza and when it arrived the delivery man apolgized for its being late–I never realised–and had brought a 2nd pizza as compensation! Then, after an early shopping trip during a sale, a friend told me that prices had fallen further and I could go back to the store and get the difference as an extra bonus! What was this sorcery?

The South isn’t all dread for black people: You could have knocked me down with a feather if you thought I’d take a driving tour through the USA’s southern states and end up feeling that I ought to move to South Carolina. But, that’s how it looked after ending up en route from Florida to DC and stopping in Savannah and Charleston.

Football aka soccer: Were my finest hours really being involved with football (soccer) in the USA? Playing, coaching and refereeing, with mainly good memories is what it should be about. Getting licensed to coach and refereeing were never on my radar in England. That I ended up coaching girls was astonishing. That the team won its first ever tournament was dream-like, and those 9-year olds will forever have that trophy-winning moment in 1996.

The West Coast and Pacific North West: Fewer coastal areas are stranger than these, with rugged edges and massive falling trees on beaches.

Buying a car: In the UK, it could easily take weeks to complete a purchase and take away the vehicle. In the USA, it takes hours and you will leave the lot in your car. It’s not a great process, with the faux haggling, but it’s really a sign of totally different outlooks to consumerism.

Dislikes

Urban freeways: It took some getting used to how US roads and urban areas are constructed. I remember looking for a store and being able to see it from the freeway but not being able to figure out how to get to it. I went past and looped back and saw it passing below me, for several tries. Eventually, I discovered the exit and located the store. The other big difference was being told my destination was up the road and 2nd left. When I told the man I was walking, he was stunned. “Up the road” was about 10 miles along the freeway, and “2nd left” was the 2nd exit. Different strokes…

Disenfrachisement: It was fine being a foreigner with a special status, but not having the opportunity to vote isn’t fine, irrespective of what you want to do with your vote.

Absence of extensive public transport: Like many major US cities, the greater Washington area doesn’t have an extensive public transport network. DC and near suburbs are not badly covered by underground trains and buses or and overground lines cover some areas, but it’s really motorized transport that rules. Belatedly, plans to extend the Metro lines into Northern Virginia have gotten underway, but has still not reached a natural major end point at Dulles International Airport. The nearer airport, Reagan National, is easily reached by Metrorail.

Tipping: European attitudes to paying for service are completely at variance with those in the USA. It’s simplest in European countries where a bill is rounded and that’s it, and change that remains goes to the server. None of this decision making over a percentage and better still not attitude about the tip not being big enough. Pay the people the right wages!

Easter and Christmas are not one-day affairs: I’ve never worked during either Lent/Easter or Christmas, both of which are long holiday periods in the Caribbean and UK. So, these not being more than a day’s holiday, at most, was and is shock; we took the full time as holidays every year, including the 12 days of Christmas.

Taxi! All hail, Uber? Jamaica needs a public transport shake-up-June 18, 2021

In a brewing story, it seems that Uber has started operatiing its ride-sharing business in Jamaica. The brew is that it’s not clear this has begun with full authorization from Jamaica’s transport regulatory body. Still, several people have been excitedly sharing their early experiences with Uber-easy booking, lower fares, apparently safe door-to-door service, on time, etc. Most views are that this is a needed shake-up in the Jamaican public transport environment, which is plagued by an inefficient and debt-ridden public bus operation in the Kingston Metropolitan Area, by a range of mainly crazed and often lawless minibuses and taxis in the same area, plus similar private operators in the rest of the country.

Uber has been a disrupter whereever it has begun operations. I can’t see things being different in Jamaica.

Simply put, in Jamaica, minibuses and taxis are the bane of many people’s lives and despised and distrusted in great measure. Many believe this private sector activity is a cover for much criminal activity and safety issues, especially for females are a major concern. But, the partial sigh of relief heard in Jamaica this week made me think about what taxis and taxi drivers represent in other countries. On a scale of 0 (horrible) to 10 (wonderful), where do some stand?

Jamaica (0): Taxis/minibuses-worst-driven vehicles on the roads; taxi drivers-often referred to a ‘germs’; despised distrusted, though on-demand services can be good. Situation worsened by rampant illegal or not-fully authorized operators, without designated licence plates-commonly called ‘robots’. Too often, we find taxis and minbuses as part of accidents or other infractions, including fights with police or other law enforcers. They are often over crowded and generally are not for single person use. They generally observe few if any rules of the road, stop anywhere to pick up and drop off, and tend to make parking ‘stands’ where they like, especially at/around petrol stations. Things like meters and identification credentials are as rare as a vehicle that is pristine and inviting. No distinguishing features, other than red licence plate for authorized operators-no taxi signs, no standard colours but should carry a chequered stripe (Jamaica used to have yellow cabs and cabs with checkered marking into the 1960s.) Now, most are idenfiable as white Probox cars. Passengers can sit anywhere, including in the trunk/boot. Taxi operations are cut-throat and driver behaviour reflects a common outcome for such situations-survival of the fittest. (We’ll put aside the issues of ownership and whether association with law enforcement or criminals are key factors in how businesses are run.)

England (10): London is renowned for its ‘black’ taxis and to be a driver means passing the toughest street knowledge test (‘The Knowledge’) that requires about 2 years of training to master how to get between any two points in an area of about 25,000 streets, whic requires all cabbies to navigate between any two points in the city entirely from memory. Created in 1865 for horse-drawn carriages, the Knowledge has survived the automobile and London’s explosive growth into a global city. These days, though, technology is presenting the Knowledge with new challenges, with GPS commonly in use by other types of carriers (including Uber). I’ve never know taxis to be driven as if by Kamikazes, or being serial law breakers. Fares are never an issue as all rides are metered. Private for-hire services are also common all over the UK and are generally also of good service quality and safety. No seat is available for passengers in the front, which has space for luggage, and a glass separator is between driver and passengers. Black taxis in London are custom-made for passenger carriage. (Technically, it’s against the law for you to yell “Taxi!” to get their attention. If you see a cab with a lit sign, just hold out your arm to signal them.)

Germany (10): My first encounter with German taxis left me stunned as a shiny, clean Mercedes pulled up as I waited at a taxi rank. Courteous drivers, with credentials visibly displayed and meter working. Germany is well-organized and stopping anywhere is not the norm, instead uning designated places, including bus stops or taxi stands are stations, hotels etc.

Turkey (3): I was kidnapped by a taxi driver at Istanbul airport. Enough said. When I visited Ankara, I took taxis to get to meetings and was often stunned that my drivers saw no problem disregarding basic road regulations to get me to my destinations. I’ve been driven at speed the wrong way down one-way streets, and a few trips along sidewalks to make the ‘road’ passable.

Brazil (7): All the good things one wants to see, including single colour for taxis, signs, meters, driver ID. Our drivers were always polite and no issues or apparent risks with how they transported people and luggage. Good at respecting requests for later/another pick-up.

USA (8): New York City and its famous yellow cabs are reliable, safe and generally not problematic. All good features like meters, driver ID, vehicles that are fit-for-purpose. Washington DC has several taxi companies operating within the jurisdiction; generally not allowed to operate outside except for trips to airports outside the jurisdiction. Maryland and Virginia have a couple of reliable large taxi companies that operate with same general geogrpahical rules as DC. Dulles Airport is special, as only certian ‘Dulles Flyer’ taxis can routinely carry from the airport (but cannot routinely take fares back to airport after drop off).

Thailand (6): Tuk-tuks are sole mode of public transport in Bangkok and other cities in Thailand. Tuktuks are the successor to the earlier cycle rickshaws, known in Thai as “Sam Lor” (literally ‘three wheels’). Tuktuks are the successor to the earlier cycle rickshaws, known in Thai as “Sam Lor” (literally ‘three wheels’). Sam Lors were introduced to Thailand in 1933, although shortly they were banned from the main streets due to safety reasons. Fun to ride in. Safe. Multicoloured and easy to see. No AC! 🙂

None of these other places in industrial countries have private minibus operators, like Jamaica. Public bus services are the other form of mass public transport on roads.

I’ve noted before that Jamaica’s current situation replicates a stage often seen in industrial countries. It precedes a massive shake up in road transport operations that often has cut-throat operation, including violence to protect routes.

I’ve been everywhere, man, but did I like being there? Wales-June 16, 2021

I headed to North Wales for my first job, after my university studies, to Mold (Yr Wyddgrug, in Welsh), the first main town, heading west from Chester in England. It has a population of about 10,000, tiny by contrast to London (about 6 million). It is the county town and administrative seat of Flintshire County Council, as it was of Clwyd from 1974 to 1996: I arrived there in 1978.

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Snowdonia and hills and valleys: The town was in the shadow of the Snowdon range of mountains and summer evening walks to the top of Moel Famau (about 1800 feet) were always a treat.

Living in the town centre and walking to work: Though housing was an early issue, starting with a holiday let with a corrugated plastic roof (!) in a coastal resort village called Ffynnongroyw, we then got a council house a block from the town centre, in a cul-de-sac; the high street was less than 5 minutes away. I walked to and from work most days, about 20 minutes, and often came home for lunch. The house had only coal fire places for heating. What else in a mining area?

Lock-ins, Sunday drinks, and early drinking: The first time I heard “Last orders!” but saw no one move, I was stunned. By the time my Dad came to visit and have the same reaction, I was a lock-in (after-hours) regular. Order was always kept by having local police as part of the party 🙂 The obverse of this was being able to go to our ‘local’ after home football matches and be let in for ‘early’ drinking. Sometimes, we needed to throw stones at the upstairs window of the landlord to be let in. 🙂

Mold was in a ‘wet’ county, that is, pubs were open every day. It was adjacent to Gwynedd, which was ‘dry’ on Sundays, with pubs closed. So, each Sunday, our pubs were full of those fleeing their dry state 🙂 It was funny to see the pubs near the border jammed packed with thirty folk 🙂

Welsh ‘Labradors’ 🙂 We bought our first puppy in Wales, a ‘Labrador’, whom we named Bella. She turned out to be a mongrel, but mainly Labrador; all came clear as her snout lengthened not remain stubby. She loved digging and was often found with dirt flying out of a fresh hole as she burrowed her way next door or buried bones.

Being the talk of town: Mold had two football teams in different leagues. Win and good things came our way. Our local butcher was always good for a nice pound of sausages after a win 👏🏾👏🏾

Dislikes

Impact of Thatcherism: Mine closures and unemployed friends. It was hard to deal with months of doubt and sense of shame some had at not being able to earn their living. But, we rallied around those in need, as best we could.

Football in osbcure villages: The weirdest had to be Bala, towards the western part of Gwynedd, with far more sheep than people. Good thing I had learned some Welsh, which helped me with my own team mates, but more so in the hostile environment of rural Wales, where it was the first language, much of the time. It was always hostile, not least because it was sometimes tinged with a long-standing distaste for the English (and coming from the north-eastern end of the country, to which many English people from Merseyside had migrated made that easier to apply). We usually arrived changed, played, and left as soon as we could after the final whistle; no drinks, lads. We’d often had to play with crowd who weren’t afraid to tap ankles of players as they encroached on the side-lines. Not nice times.

Cutting bus services: It was the job I was assigned to do, but that didn’t make it easier to see the impact of rural life of dwindling services provided by Crosville.

People thinking all Welsh people are alike: South Walians are quite different that those in the north. The south was really all about coal mining, with its valley towns. Accents and life style are different and love of sport is different; the south is rugby central, football has at least an equal claim in the north, with Merseyside influences strong. Add to that being a Jones in the land of the Joneses: speaks for itself, with the added twist of being a black man who’d learned to speak some Welsh 🙂

Blizzards: Mold was cut off twice while we lived there, as snow storms blocked roads. The upside was a quick community effort to ‘dig out’ the town and cars that were buried in snow drifts. One night, coming from Chester, the storm had been so bad, my car couldn’t proceed and I opted to walk the remaining few miles to Mold. Wise? Well, the next day, I had to dig out a car covered to the roof with snow.

Brief thoughts on a small island being a big nation-June 14, 2021

A brief exchange with a friend yesterday sparked a few thoughts I’ve had for a long time: they concern Jamaica’s diaspora.

My basic view is that Jamaica’s governments have not really known what to do with the mass of Jamaican migrants and their offspring, since the major outflow of the late-1940s onwards.

Here’s the picture I see. Jamaica has an island population of about 3 million. Around the world, mainly in the UK, USA and Canada, there are people born in Jamaica and their generations of offspring, some also born in Jamaica but many more born overseas, which total about the same number. Statistics on that disapora group are a bit fuzzy as they include those born in Jamaica and identifying as Jamaican in some way. (I’m not sure if the data also nuance those born in Jamaica who no longer identify with the country, for a variety of reasons.) But, let’s leave with the idea that ‘Jamaicans’ number some 6 million, worldwide. We know people happily talk about Jam-Brits, Jamaican-Americans etc.

That global total includes a spectrum of people who wish they could have nothing more to do with Jamaica-sadly, some of those actually live in Jamaica, and do much to make life miserable for those who happily live on the island. The other end of the spectrum has people who are not in Jamaica but wish to have as close a link as possible with the island. That leaves a lot of space for indifferent views and views that bounce between the ends of the spectrum.

Simply put, some of those who have left Jamaica only see their future abroad, and Jamaica receding in the rear view mirror doesn’t bother them. They may have no ill-will toward the island, but don’t see active links with it as part of their future. Nothing wrong with that. Make the most of where you are is not a bad principle: feed your energies fully into building the best life you can where you are.

Others who have left, try to keep alive the links they have; this includes supporting relatives, friends and organizations left behind in Jamaica. Alumni groups are a fertile area for support. For some, it means keeping an active physical connection by visiting the island, periodically, alone or with family. Some harness that connection by making claims on the land, through investment in real estate, and by investment in private and public financial assets (especially if they believe recent stock market trends as true reflections of future directions).

So, we can see a significant flow of real and financial assets coming to Jamaica from its diaspora. Much of that we can measure through remittances. But, much cannot be measured so clearly, eg when people visit as tourists and spend substantial sums connected with such travel. That became a bit clearer during the pandemic as we’ve seen ‘remittance’ flows surge and part of that is ‘deferred tourism’ spending as travel restrictions stopped journeys to the island but financial transfers could be made. Ironically, we now have more such flows feeding into measured systems, such as returns from money transfer institutions that previously bypassed such systems. (Economists know that the balance of payments data contain miscellaneous or unidentified flows, whose origins aren’t easily traced, much of which represents goods, services and financial capital that slip through measurement systems, legally or illegally, but account for movements in international reserves, almost as residual items.)

Those flows from overseas can be assessed in other ways to see if they are ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Why bad? Some of that flow is related to criminal activities and I’ll take the view of that being bad as it cuts into a wholesome national fibre that I’d prefer see as less favourable to criminals. Others can disagree on that, not least for simple reasons such as crime creates income of jobs for some who would otherwise have neither. But, my view is not supportive of flows that support imports of guns, drugs and other things that support violent crime, the negative impact of which have generally been to make us poorer. We can debate this aspect for ages.

However, my essential concern is that the diaspora holds substantial assets the ‘origin’ country can exploit. A big part of that asset pool is also human capital.

For the most part, that exploitation hasn’t happened in many systematic ways. I’ve been to diaspora conferences and heard yearning for investments and proposals made and time passed and little to show for the bright ideas. We’ve lost years and money and human talent, in bundles. We’ve not learned much from the successful exploitation of diasporal links shown by the likes of Israel, India, Ireland, Ghana, Nigeria, or countries dotted around the world.

Often, belatedly, Jamaica realises it has a pool of untapped assets in the form of those abroad who were born in Jamaica or have generational links to Jamaica. That’s most evident in sport, where the pool of talent developed and developing in industrial countries makes for a potent addition to national resources. So, we’ve seen attempts to tap that for football, where great talent exists, though much of the best sports people tried to see if they could make it higher as members of national teams in their host countries. Ironically, we see that some of the best talent on show in those countries have clear Jamaican links. But, representing Jamaica has not often been their first choice. Alongside that, is the suspicion or fear that their sense of commitment to Jamaica will not be as strong as those born and raised here. Across a range of sports and countries, I’ve rarely seen low commitment at representational level from so-called ‘imports’. Other problems may exist, including lingustic or cultural differences, or financial considerations, that may only become obvious once people of mixed origins get together.

On the sporting plane, by contrast, Jamaica’s riches from those who have not left the island have been clearest in track and field. In other sports, the untapped diaspora talent is being tapped more and giving positive results. Our men’s and women’s football teams are good examples. But, it’s also evident in less common sports, where Jamaica could excel, anyway, if committed to them nationally, eg rugby or lacrosse.

But, we ought to be looking beyond sport. We also need to be looking in more structured ways. We’ve lost many potential investors by not having a clear policy or instrument to put in front of those now living abroad.

Diaspora bonds are issued by a country to its expatriates. These bonds allow developing countries in need of financing to look to expats (mainly in wealthy countries) for support. Diaspora bonds offer migrants (and offsprings) discounts on government debt from their home countries. India and Israel have successfully issued diaspora bonds:

  • Diaspora bonds are often used for infrastructure projects or crisis relief in developing countries, where more resources above humanitarian aid are necessary.
  • Diaspora bonds have typically been successful with countries such as Israel and India, where expats have strong patriotism and knowledge of their home economy’s prospects.
  • However, these bonds typically carry low yields because of the strong patriotic duties felt by expats to their home countries.
  • Migrants typically receive a discount on the debt from their home countries.
  • Issuance can prove to be challenging at times, especially as migrants have fled oppressive governments in the past.

Many issues need to be resolved when engaging diasporal interests, some of them need time-consuming and individual negotiations, which may make the gains less clear relative to the costs that have to be incurred. Simple case. When, say, a star performer with generational links is sought as an investor that may involve high-level discussion because of their new wealth, status, and other interests that may not sit well with Jamaican interests. With the best will in the world, Jamaica’s negative image abroad can be a deterrent to diaspora interest irrespecitive of any strong patriotism.

We may also need to understand that quid pro quo may quickly rear its head: it’s business and the bottom line won’t be far from the thoughts of bigger investors. We can throw scorn at how they appear lacking in charity, but that’s too bad.

One of the ironies that many see, including me, is when, where and how countries like Jamaica seek to ‘claim’ their diaspora. As I noted with my friend yesterday, with Raheem Sterling, he got ‘national’ recognition (most recently, gaining an MBE in the latest Queen’s birthday honours) from his adopted country well before any such recognition came from the land of his birth. We can discuss why or if we care about such things, but it’s still a fact. Do people feel slighted by such things? Maybe, even if not personally, there’s always the sense of resentment that can come from the entourage.

I don’t see reasons to believe that Jamaica’s engagement with its diaspora will change any time soon. I suspect many have drawn that conclusion over the years and done what they feel fits them best. We can’t prescribe patriotism and how its manifested.

When my parents migrated to England in the 1960s they never thought they would become English. I’m not sure what they thought their son would become, as he grew up in England, whether he would identify more with the new host or the land of birth. This is a common dilemma that swings many ways. I never thought of myself as British (notwithstanding the odd designation of that as a relic of colonialism). No amount of years in England changed that. However, my affinities span support for Britain and/or Jamaica in some situations. If you think code switching is interesting in how people speak, try wrapping your head aroumd having no issue supporting fervently two countries, maybe in the same sport, maybe over different sports, say. When I was growing up in England, I was on track to represent Great Britain (GB) in athletics and England in football. Did anyone in/from Jamaica think they should tap me to be part of its national set up? Let’s say the messages ‘got lost in the mail’. It didn’t matter to me. I looked around my peers who had parents from the Caribbean or were born there and then set on tracks (literally) to excel and represent the new host country. None of my generation got called up for Jamaica, but many went on to represent and win big for GB, England, etc. and are now ‘national’ heroes there. Then, someone would add or note that they were ‘Jamaican born’ or had ‘Jamaican parents’, etc. No slight was meant, and I think few, if any took, umbrage. Britain was where life was being made. Add to that how migrants stop sounding like the countries of their birth and you’ll understand easily that this is a fuzzy area. I still giggle when I hear Wes Morgan (born in Nottingham, England) speaking in his clear English Midlands accent as captain of Jamaica’s football team. He’s described as a ‘Jamaican’ footballer because of his national playing affiliation. By contrast, Raheem Sterling, born in St Andrew, Jamaica, is described as an ‘English’ footballer, for similar reasons.

Some of this mix-up and blend-up gets bizarre, especially when people dig far back to find the connections they want to exploit. I don’t have any issues with people tracing back generations to find what they want. I understand, however, that it’s also part of processeses that then raised issues of nationality and patriotism that are not easy to overcome, personally or in the minds of others.

I’m not proposing any solutions to an area that I think is complex, individually and collectively. But, I’d like to see and hear more thought given to how and when and where we want to embrace our ‘nation’, broadly defined.