EYE ON DIASPORA

People’s National Party (PNP) president and Opposition Leader Mark Golding on Sunday promised that should he become Jamaica’s next prime minister, stronger partnerships and synergies with people in the diaspora will be forged.

Outlining a raft of promises, Golding said he will ensure a smoother pathway for members of the diaspora to undertake philanthropic escapades to boost Jamaica’s economy.

He touted the creation of a diaspora development fund as well as the integration of the diaspora in active politics and policy making.

The PNP president made the announcements while addressing thousands of party supporters at the organisation’s 84th Annual General Conference inside the National Arena in St Andrew. He defended people who leave Jamaica for overseas destinations, saying that they emigrate to seek opportunities of advancement and most times do not turn their backs on Jamaica.

“We will find more effective ways to include the diaspora in our democracy and national development. As first steps, we want to expand the Senate to include diaspora representation and we want to include them on public boards where they have the skills and experience to add value to the governance of public institutions and improve national life and nation building.

“We will also make it easier for Jamaicans overseas to undertake philanthropic work here at home, cutting through the frustrating red tape that makes it so hard for Jamaicans abroad to do good things at home. Time come to create a Jamaica Diaspora Development Fund to support social investments and finance new economic opportunities in Jamaica. It will be a robust and transparent governance structure to encourage Jamaicans abroad to invest,” he said.

Arguing that the diaspora is very much a part of the Jamaican family, Golding said the PNP will find structures, ways and means of integration.

“For Jamaica’s future to be filled with hope, there must be radical change for the better. This status quo is leading down a road towards an increasingly insecure fate,” he said.

Golding also laid out plans for greater investment in farm roads, irrigation networks and storage facilities so farmers won’t have to suffer massive losses in times of glut. He also said he would revive and expand the People’s Co-operative Bank to provide flexible credit lines for production.

“So many small farmers are bawling for credit and can’t get it. We will ensure that Jamaica’s remaining arable lands are not misdirected into other uses, undermining the future of our people because they can’t grow food. We will encourage larger producers to partner with small farmers in production ecosystems, building relationships to transfer technology and improve the efficiency of our farmers,” he said.

“It has been successfully done in the poultry industry and we think it should be done in every aspect of agricultural life. Urban farming will be given greater attention and support. Urban farming provides employment, relieves poverty and improves nutrition in inner city communities.”

Not pleased with the current pace of growth in the local ganja industry, Golding said it is time for the country’s large and small farmers to start making big profits from it.

“It is time for us to move beyond the decriminalisation of ganja, which I championed and brought to reality in our last administration. The potential of this industry is vast, but the Government does not seem to understand or believe in it. Time come to proactively empower and include small farmers in the ganja industry. They are the ones who built and protected our knowledge system on ganja over a century of prohibition, enforced by international interest. We must give them a chance to be part of the industry… so that they can make money for this country and for themselves,” the PNP president said.

“The next PNP Government,” he vowed, “will make the ganja industry fully inclusive. We will facilitate home-based production, integrating with licensed processors. We will lower the bar for small farmers to come into the formal industry. We will incentivise commercial and knowledge sharing relationships with the well capitalised processors to achieve win-win outcomes for large and small producers. We will aggressively pursue export markets for quality Jamaican medicinal ganja and we will legislate to create a comprehensive, lawful, ganja-based economy for the Rastafari community and the Maroons. They must be liberated to use and produce the ganja that they use as their sacrament.”

Golding also lamented that people in informal sectors of the economy are in a precarious position and promised that the next PNP Government will design a user friendly ecosystem, tailored to the needs of the informal sector, to provide a pathway to which micro and small businesses can access the benefits of formalisation including access to finance.

“The informal sector includes many of our entertainers and other cultural creative practitioners. The PNP recognises their importance to economic development and their capacities must be transformed by sound policy. It was the PNP that established the entertainment board, which led to the duty free importation of the equipment and tools of trade of the entertainment sector. It was the PNP that created the National Cultural and Creative Industries Commission that led to a focused plan for the development of the cultural and creative industries,” he said.

“We did significant work — and that was when Damion Crawford was minister of state with responsibility for entertainment — to create a registry of practitioners and producers and a well-balanced system of entertainment zones where night noise rules would not apply. But since 2016 there has been no policy and little movement to move the creative sector forward. The staging of celebratory concerts and events is well and good but it will not fundamentally transform the industry to achieve its great potential for Jamaica,” he said, adding that any government led by him will modernise the night noise law and establish entertainment zones.

Added Golding: “We will support the indigenous craft industry and its integration into the tourism industry. We will establish a musical heritage museum in Trench Town to honour the Wailers, Toots Hibbert, Alton Ellis, the Melodians and all the other icons of Jamaican popular music to emerge from that cultural mecca.”

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