Let me say what a pleasure it is for me to welcome you today to the re launch of the Jamaica Association for the Resettlement of Returning Residents (JARRR) website.I know that I speak on behalf of all the members of the JARRR when I say that this is particularly heartening and encouraging as it signals that there is a great understanding of the significant role played by returning nationals in the socio economic development of the nation and the importance of continued engagement of this group as the nation moves forward to the achievement of Vision 2030.In 1983, a team of 7 returning residents came together to establish the ARRR – which is now the JARRR, with a vision to make the resettlement and re-integration of returning residents into Jamaican society a timely, seamless and stress free one.This move was a significant one. In the late 1980’s, as many of us tried to return home after decades in our host countries, we found that we were not aware of the many changes which had taken place in doing business and faced many challenges in navigating through the bureaucratic resettlement processes.Since inception the JARRR’s focus has included partnering and liaising with relevant institutions, government agencies and departments to provide returning residents with up to date information and guidance regarding land and investment decisions, doing business in Jamaica, available concessions and regulations pertaining to importation, immigration and other relevant matters.This participation by our members is simply because it has become increasingly evident that our role as an Association has less to do with facilitating a seamless and stress free return to the island but more to do with giving back and enhancing our homeland. In fact, long before Vision 2030 was ever conceptualized, we here at the JARRR realized that our true purpose was working towards making Jamaica the place of choice where all Jamaicans both at home and abroad wanted to live, work, raise their families and transact business.Over the past thirty years we have positively impacted the lives of thousands of local and returning residents.Through our regular operations we have organized the effective resettlement of over 4,000 families back to the island, as well as, instituted programmes that stimulate the participation, contribution and philanthropy of returnees across the nation.Through these programs we have raised millions of dollars in collaboration with many local and international partners to fund and implement social welfare initiatives such as feeding programmes, and the refurbishment of clinics, infirmaries, hospitals and schools. We have also pumped millions of dollars into the implementation of mentorship programmes as well as educational grants and scholarships at the primary, secondary and tertiary level.While we have enjoyed many successes, the growth and effectiveness of the Association has been hampered by many challenges; primarily the limitations in our capacity to respond to the overwhelming demand among returning residents and members in the Diaspora for relevant, current, accurate and timely information.The limited access to the right information has resulted in many cases of exploitation of uninformed returning residents. Many of these incidences are then shared with other Jamaican family members and friends who then harbor a deep resentment towards Jamaica and no longer desire to invest in, visit or return to the island. As a result of this situation, over the past 10 years we have watched the returning resident population dwindle almost to a trickle.In the event that this trend is allowed to continue, this could spell trouble for Jamaica due to the tremendous value and viability of the returning resident sector and its contribution to Jamaica’s economic and social development.Their pensions and remittances alone are some of Jamaica’s largest foreign exchange earners accounting for approximately 30% of the national GDP. It is therefore in the best interest of all of us to want to protect the livelihood, investment and perceptions of this group. At the JARRR this is our mission. We believe it is only through collaboration, that we will be able to unearth the limitless potential from this sector or encourage their return, resettlement and participation in the reshaping of Jamaica toward the achievement of vision 2030.As part of our contribution towards this collaborative effort, the JARRR will be rolling out the Home Sweet Home programme over the next five years. This programme will employ a multi-faceted and multi sectorial approach geared towards creating the right environment for effective engagement of the Diaspora with a view for their early and permanent return and resettlement and more active investment in the reshaping of Jamaica.Today we roll out the first phase of this programme with the Re launch of our website.The new website has been refreshed and retooled and provides an added dimension to the Association’s diversity of operations. This website boasts many improved features and facilities which will cater to the needs of returning residents and the general Diaspora, as well as international businesses and institutions. With the click of a mouse, millions of persons in the Diaspora will be able to access many exciting features including:
- Pertinent information on how to achieve a smooth and seamless return to the island. This will allow returning residents to gain access to all the relevant incentives available to facilitate their safe return to the island and avoid unwarranted issues and negative experiences.
- The website will feature up-to-date information about relevant products and services being offered by local entrepreneurs, businesses, industries, corporations, agencies, associations and groups.This will allow for cost effective advertising on a wider scale and to a wider clientele, and is therefore expected to stimulate the economy by leaps and bounds.
- The website will also highlight the positive contributions of returning residents to date and the various outreach programmes through which returnees may remain active and contribute their expertise and resources towards the improvement of the nation. This we anticipate will inspire more members of the Diaspora and returning residents to invest in local community development
- The website will also provide information on Jamaica’s development plans and strategies in place to combat crime and violence [REPT]. This will allow us to take control of the information diet being fed to the group members and keep them abreast of the efforts being made to create a secure living environment for their return
- Surveys and questionnaires will also be administered through the website by the Association as well as on behalf of various institutions in order to determine the experiences and needs of returning residents. This will help the Association and other companies to consistently refine and improve the offerings to this group.
- Finally the website will feature regular updates regarding the Home Sweet Home Programme and the efforts being taken by the Association to lobby for and implement incentives, initiatives and strategic alliances to better cater to their needs.
We know that the tools and features of this website will resonate well with millions of Jamaicans throughout the Diaspora. We have already started to receive tremendous feedback from many in the Diaspora. We also know that the facilities will prove extremely useful to many local individuals and entities as well. We therefore encourage our members, Jamaicans in the Diaspora and everyone; individuals, the Government and companies small and large, public and private to explore and exploit the offerings of the website.We also encourage you over the next five years to partner with us by lending your hearts, hands, minds and resources to the successful roll out of the remaining components of the Home Sweet Home programme.On behalf of the members and partners of the JARRR, I once again express my sincerest appreciation to you for coming out today and look forward to your support and renewed commitment as we work together to make Jamaica the place of choice to live work raise families and do business for all Jamaicans, locals, in the Diaspora and returning.I thank you, God bless you.