SPEAKING NOTES – UDC GENERAL MANAGER,
6TH BIENNIAL JAMAICA DIASPORA CONFERENCE
MONTEGO BAY CONVENTION CENTRE
JUNE 15, 2015
Integrating diaspora skills and expertise, with investment projects, is a topic I believe that was customized for me, on both a personal, as well as professional level. Why do I say this? I have had the distinct pleasure of honing my skills right here in Jamaica, exporting it to the diaspora and specifically to the US. Over the last 34 years I have re-exported/imported/reversed the exportation, whichever is most apt, of my skills, to once more be making my contribution to the development of Jamaica, as general manager of the Urban Development Corporation (UDC).
I am positive that all present will agree, that the rapid advancement of technology has made the world a much smaller place and therefore has brought the diaspora and the extended Jamaican Community that much closer. The much trumpeted phrase of the global village is a reality, with the Virtual Marketplace now taking on even greater significance.
The Biennial Diaspora Conference is therefore a critical vehicle, one which brings together opportunities and investors. So the question now is, how do we not just come together, but align skill sets with the opportunities that will advance our beloved country closer to the Vision 2030 Plan of making Jamaica the place of choice to work, play, live and raise a family?
The most effective way for me to address this topic of Integrating Diaspora Skills with Investment Projects, is to do so, in the context of the agency that I head up, to look at our role and mandate, to indicate what our programmes and projects are and, from a practical perspective therefore, identify the required skills which exist in the diaspora. In so doing, lay the platform for the integration of both.
The Urban Development Corporation is a post-independence institution, established by the 1968 Act of Parliament. The Corporation has been mandated to make development happen when and where needed in the context of national priority. As the Government’s primary development agency, the Corporation has implemented projects across sectors and regions of the country, inclusive of infrastructure, housing, development and management of attractions, restoration of sporting and cultural facilities; construction or renovation of health, education, security and of course, tourism facilities.
Jamaica in 2015 is a country of vast potential but also one which requires entrepreneurial and even pioneering skills to take us to the next level. What are these skills?
- Tourism – if we think about the country’s primary foreign exchange earner – our attractions, our beaches, what are the skills required to sustain or improve the performance in this area. The UDC manages the world famous Dunn’s River Falls and Park, which attracts over 700,000 visitors annually. We are currently looking at how this attraction can be diversified, so, for our repeat visitors or those persons who do not wish to climb the Falls, how do we enrich their Dunn’s River experience? We are confident that the skills reside in the diaspora that could help in the shaping of these valued added features or elicit the buy in as an investor for a development package, when request for proposals are invited through the media or on our website.
Our beaches – some of our coastlines have been impacted overtime by erosion – we are confident that there are coastal engineers in the diaspora who could as an investment in the country look at cost effective engineering solutions for example, at Bluefields Beach in Westmoreland, to safeguard this important component of our tourism product. In addition, what are the low impact developments that could be done at that beach or others across the country to be enjoyed by Jamaicans as well as visitors to our shores?
- Climate change and its impact on our country. We are told that climate change is already beginning to transform life on earth as we know it. Among the impacts identified and which are very close to home are the increased risk of drought, fires and flood and rising sea levels. As a country we have experienced the effects on our food security when there is inadequate rainfall, that is drought. When the converse occurs, flooding, we face the additional likelihood of loss of life and livestock. Certainly as an island in the Caribbean Sea, the threat of rising sea levels is a real one. How do we mitigate these risks? We are confident that climate change mitigation specialists are in the diaspora, who could afford our resident specialists the benefit of their experiences and or the resources at their disposal to reduce the impact on the country.
- Preservation and renovation of historical and heritage sites. Jamaica is rich in history reflecting the footprints of, the traditional, Tainos, Africans, Spanish, English and the many more recent settlers who give credence to the country’s motto, out of many, one people. The corporation recently renovated what is now the Simon Bolivar Cultural Centre in Downtown Kingston and there are many more buildings or sites requiring attention… there is for example, the Ward Theatre, also in downtown Kingston, which used to be home theatre to the National Pantomime. The UDC is also involved in the renovation of specific buildings in Port Royal, in partnership with the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF).
We are confident that there are preservation specialists who reside in the diaspora, whose skills can complement those of our resident specialists to transform our heritage landmarks into productive use.
- Financial and technical development. As we look at the development needs of our country, we know that now more than ever, we are required to make technically sound and financially prudent decisions.
The UDC has for example, lands in Westmoreland that we believe with the appropriate investment of technical and financial capital could enable development projects that are responsive to the needs of Jamaicans at home and abroad. We recognize that aretirement village is one such need and the UDC landholdings could be transformed to respond to these needs through partnerships. We are confident that these skills reside in the diaspora.
- Urbanization… as a developing country, attention must be paid to the urbanization of our rural centres and so many opportunities abound where the skills of Planners, Architects and Engineers, Project Coordinators, Quantity Surveyors, Environmental Specialists and Financial Managers are required to support the development process. We are confident that these skills reside in the diaspora.
- From the UDC’s perspective, investment opportunities are or will soon become available through sale or lease of properties for development purposes, lease or sale of apartment buildings and the offering of concessions at our attractions. Be sure to visit our UDC booth for more information.
- The UDC is also involved in the operation of conference facilities, both this Montego Bay Convention Centre and Jamaica Conference Centre, in Kingston… so many opportunities for partnerships.
- Of course we cannot ignore the social aspects and the opportunities that exist for the incorporation of diaspora skills. There are other sessions in this Conference that will speak to the creative industries, etc, but from a tourism development perspective, i want to plant the seed of an idea in your mind. Think about the Kingston Waterfront, think about new year’s eve. Think about in excess of 250,000 gathered along the world’s 7th largest natural harbour, think about entertainment and activities for the entire family! Think about ushering in the New Year. Think about what your partnership could mean for an event of this nature, in positioning Kingston as a social hub.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have identified some investment projects and I have identified some skills sets. In fact, I have merely presented a slice of the possibilities.
How do we integrate both? The Diaspora Conference is a good start. It is a way to connect. It is a way to advance the conversation. It allows us to, from our perspective, state what we have to offer and, facilitates the dialogue in how the skills can be leveraged for the development of our country.
This interface allows us to create the databases on either side that should enhance meaningful relationships and actions. We are confident that this is the way to integrate complementary diaspora skills with investment opportunities.
I now invite you to watch two short video presentations, the first of which highlights the work of the UDC, some completed projects and some concepts for the redevelopment of certain areas. The second shares a conceptualization of the redevelopment of National Heroes Park. As you watch, I am sure that you will identify other skills necessary to the success of our investment projects. I also invite you to visit the UDC booth in the Marketplace for further details.
It is my earnest hope that the participants, who will gather in 2017, will be returning to share their testimonials, on the success of projects generated from the partnerships forged today and throughout this Conference. Success stories that will no doubt receive the acknowledgement of their contribution to the development of Jamaica from their countrymen.
I look forward to a very productive Diaspora Conference 2015.
June 13, 2015