A formal diaspora policy will position government to “harness” the energy and ideas, as well as the financial resources, of Grenadians living abroad, according to Minister of Foreign Affairs and Labour Hon Peter David.
Stating at Tuesday’s post Cabinet press briefing that Grenada does not have enough people and that any Grenadian living abroad is considered part of the diaspora, Minister David referred to the diaspora “as the sixteenth constituency” who must become involved in the country’s development in new and innovative ways. While expressing appreciation for remittances, which account for a significant part of the spending power of many citizens, the Member of Parliament for the Town of St George said Grenadians abroad have a right to be part of development, even though they do not have the right to vote.
“There is no reason why they should not be involved in projects. They are as important as any other investors,” he said, noting, in response to a reporter’s question, that grandchildren of Grenadians living abroad can apply for citizenship.
The government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Grenada’s diplomatic missions, launched the initial discussions with Grenadians abroad in 2019 in London and Washington DC, and then continued with a series of virtual consultations involving diaspora organisations in June and August this year. The result of these consultations was a draft policy and a five-year action plan developed by consultant Dr Neville Ying, former executive director of the Jamaica Diaspora Institute, in partnership with the International Organisation on Migration, which provided financial support.
Minister David told reporters that a sub-committee of Cabinet is reviewing the draft, and government intends to have the policy prepared for Parliament by yearend with implementation expected in 2021. He said discussions are taking place with an unnamed ministry for office space in Saint George’s to house the Office of Diaspora Affairs.
Grenadians living abroad had until September 11 to provide feedback on the 34-page draft Grenada National Diaspora Engagement Policy, which is based on seven guiding principles: mutuality, inclusiveness, partnership, integrity, accountability, communication and sustainability. Areas targeted for diaspora involvement span agriculture and fisheries, real estate and home ownership, youth entrepreneurship, tourism, clean and renewable energy such as wind, hydro and solar, and the creative industries of music, entertainment and filmmaking.
“We are, through this diaspora policy, trying to find a mechanism that does not make it dependent on any particular government or any particular person; that it is a policy… laid in Parliament and the diaspora knows how to be involved and we have a mechanism for their involvement,” Minister David explained.
When asked how COVID-19 will fit into the policy going forward, he said the pandemic has shown how vulnerable Grenada is to the outside shock of a pandemic health crisis. While acknowledging that COVID-19 will impact the policy, he said “the question is how we look at the diaspora in the context of circumstances like COVID-19.”
“The lesson is that we can be cut off from the diaspora, that the linkages between the diaspora community and the Grenada community can be cut off,” he said, but pointed to positive outcomes such as the ability to communicate without flying through virtual means. He also noted the importance of the diaspora to tourism.
The policy proposes that the Office of Diaspora Affairs will operate as an information centre and contact point for Grenadian communities abroad and mobilise those communities to assist in national development. The relevant legislation makes provision to establish the Grenadian Diaspora International Association, according to the draft policy. This new association would be responsible for increasing the scope and impact of contributions for investment; transferring the skills and knowledge of the Diaspora to their homeland; conducting research; coordinating philanthropic initiatives such as disaster relief; and providing independent views and recommendations for government policies.