By Lincoln DePradine
A senior Grenada government minister has suggested that nationals in Canada and other parts of the Diaspora ought to consider investing in healthcare and in other sectors in the Caribbean nation.
“All areas of investment are open to persons in the Diaspora,’’ said minister of foreign affairs, Peter David, as he announced plans for a visit to Toronto.
Last month, Grenada’s consul general in Toronto, Derrick James, told the Caribbean Camera of a pending visit to the city by a delegation as part of a Diaspora outreach by the Grenada government.
James said a date was yet to be set for the meeting “to sensitize people of the new Diaspora policy of the government’’ and for them to provide input and make recommendations. Similar meetings already have been held in London, England, and in Washington, USA.
Minister David, speaking to reporters at a news conference Tuesday in St George’s, announced that the Toronto visit is Saturday, November 16, with the meeting to be held at Tropicana Community Services, 1385 Huntingwood Drive, Scarborough.
“There is no reason why persons in the Diaspora cannot invest in hotels, individually or as a group,’’ David said. “They can get involved in health. We have excellent health practitioners in the Diaspora.’’
The outreach to Toronto and other cities is part of a two-year US$200,000 project financed by the International Development Fund and administered through the Guyana-based regional coordinating office of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), a United Nations member-agency.
The IOM’s Project Officer is Trisha Mitchell-Darius, a Grenadian-Canadian who once headed the organization, Spice Youth Toronto Community Initiative.
At Tuesday’s news conference, there was the official launch of a website for the Grenadian Diaspora For Development (GD4D) project.
Among the components of the initiative are the conducting of a “skills gap analysis’’ and the completing of a “Diaspora Mapping Project’’, which involves using an online survey tool to collect information about the socio-economic profile of Grenadians in the Diaspora.
The Mapping Project is an avenue “to establish a hub to connect the Diaspora online’’, said Mitchell-Darius. “The online communication portal is www.grenadiandiaspora.gd Please tell your family and friends out in the Diaspora,’’ she urged.
“This project seeks to engage the Grenadian Diaspora globally. The project will facilitate a collection of data on skills, resources and the return interest and plans of those willing to support the development of Grenada, through organizations and institutions in Grenada. The information collected through the project will help to guide government policies aimed at engaging the Diaspora.’’
World Bank statistics shows that Grenadians abroad inject an average of $25 million into the country’s economy annually. The figure does not take into account other contributions to the economy like investment in real estate, banking and foreign currency exchange.
“Our Diaspora is critical for our development,’’ said David. “The Diaspora is not just a group of people out there who sometimes we rely on just to send this and send that for us. They should be engaged as a part of our development process.’’
Grenada has 15 political constituencies, all of which now are represented in the Lower House of Parliament by MPs of the New National Party headed by Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell.
David described the Diaspora as the country’s “16th constituency’’, saying it must be treated as such.
Overseas nationals, he argued, “must be integrated into national development’’.
David said the response to the Diaspora consultations held so far has been excellent.
“I’m sure, going forward, they will become even more exciting,’’ he said. “I’ve heard ideas like we should have a senator in Grenada responsible for Diaspora affairs, because the Diaspora is so important.’’
David, who previously has resided in Canada, England and the United States, said “the further away Grenadians go from Grenada, the more patriotic they become and they want the engagement. I think what we have done is not find the avenues and pathways to the engagement. That is why we are trying to formalize it now. Other countries have done this; countries like India and Israel and Jamaica have done an excellent job of engaging their Diaspora’’.