I have spent the last two days in Jamaica, including some time at a convention devoted to the 4-5 million Jamaicans that live outside the country. Currently Jamaica has a local population of 2.3 million. The Jamaican Government call this overseas population the Diaspora. The Government went to Israel to study how that country manages their diaspora or overseas population of religious followers. There are even academics who have developed a set of five best practices for diaspora management. They are all so obvious that I will not repeat them.
As near as I can tell, diaspora management is designed to guilt the overseas population into investing in the homeland as a means to foster economic development. Economic development theory has baffled me for years, despite quite a bit of study of the subject. As this previous post on economic development makes clear, the subject is overly complicated and therefore much of the theory appears to have limited applicability.
Diaspora management appears to me to be another part of economic development theory that is overly complicated. If you want to attract foreign investment, regardless of the source, you need to satisfy four conditions:
- Free movement of capital across borders
- A legal system that protects investor rights at the level of developed countries
- An economic performance that has sufficient stability and growth to attract investors
- Market rates of return for the perceived level of risk that are attractive compared to alternative investments (in other countries)
Jamaica is making progress on the necessary conditions outlined above. Personally I think diaspora management is a distraction that will have limited effect on economic development. Increased efforts to build an economy that attracts more foreign investors would be my strategy for Jamaica.
Areas that look particularly attractive to me for investment in Jamaica are agriculture and alternative energy, which are also key industries in the government twenty year plan (in addition to tourism and logistics). Interestingly, Jamaica is trying to build an enormous transhipping facility to take advantage of the expanded Panama Canal in 2014. Project is in the early stages but foreign investors are showing interest. Miami beware!!