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Jamaica frets over slowdown in returning islanders
By DAVID McFADDEN | Associated Press – 5 hrs ago
Associated Press/David McFadden – In this March 14, 2013 photo, Jasmine Pottinger, a 73-year-old retired nurse, tends to her terraced backyard garden at her home in Mandeville, central Jamaica. Now retired …more
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In this March 11, 2013 photo, pensioner …
MANDEVILLE, Jamaica (AP) — In this affluent town in Jamaica’s cool, mountainous interior, Jasmine Pottinger has realized the dream that kept her going while dealing with racism, culture shock and other challenges during almost four decades of working in drizzly London, a city where she never felt entirely accepted.
The 73-year-old retired nurse and her husband, Earl, have retired to the Jamaican parish of her birth. Their pensions and hard-earned savings from Britain afford them a handsomely decorated house with a big balcony and spacious patio looking out on a terraced garden buzzing with hummingbirds and exploding with red and orange flowers that bloom year round.
“In London, we could never afford all this,” she says as friends enjoy freshly baked banana bread and strong Jamaican coffee served by a domestic helper. “Jamaica is certainly not cheap, but it does offer us a quality of life we enjoy. Plus, we are Jamaican and this is our country. Although I lived in England for 36 years, coming home was always my intention.”
For years, that was the goal of nearly all Jamaicans who left seeking work because of the poor wages and scarcity of opportunity at home. They returned at retirement to take advantage of the sunny Caribbean island’s lower costs and comfortable climate — and at the same time they provide a significant source of foreign currency for the economy.
But to the dismay of the government, fewer and fewer Jamaicans are coming back from London, New York, Toronto and other cities that drew them away as young adults. Over the last 20 years, the annual number of “returning nationals” has dropped by more than half — down to slightly more than 1,000 in 2011, the most recent year for which official figures are available.
Some overseas Jamaicans are stuck in devalued homes because of the world economic crunch and find their Caribbean paradise is out of reach financially. Others are choosing to live in retirement communities in places like Florida that offer strong personal care services. Often they are put off by Jamaica’s struggle with high rates of crime that were unimaginable when they left just as the island was shedding its status as a colonial outpost of Britain a half century ago.
Caribbean islands have long suffered from a “brain drain” that has seen professionals and skilled workers head off to jobs in the U.S., Europe and Canada. Leaders of small islands like Grenada and St. Lucia have lately begun wooing nationals abroad and encouraging them to assist with developing their struggling homelands, but much more populous Jamaica has the most focused effort to forge relationships with its overseas citizens.
About 3 million Jamaicans live abroad, more than the 2.7 million who are here. The $2 billion they send home each year is a major source of investment and wealth for this poor island, accounting for more than 13 percent of its GDP. The Bank of Jamaica says retirees who move back home are a key factor, estimating that their pensions provide 15 percent of the inflow of foreign currency.
Government officials are working to entice more nationals to come home — or at least to invest in Jamaica. A four-day Jamaica Diaspora Conference in mid-June hopes to attract hundreds of representatives of Jamaican overseas communities in the U.S., Britain, Canada and elsewhere in the Caribbean to discuss trade and investment.
The private sector also touts the need for more Jamaicans to move back. Developer Stafford Earle, who has just completed a subdivision selling primarily to Jamaicans with foreign pension checks, says returnees are a boost for the local economy along the scenic coast of Westmoreland parish where he builds.
“The overall long-term financial input will be as great as that of sugar and tourism,” Earle said.
Irwine Clare, managing director of the New York-based advocacy group Caribbean Immigrant Services, believes crime is the biggest problem keeping Jamaicans from resettling on the island.
“We recognize the impact of what crime and violence has done to our beloved nation. It is cause for major concern. But we are very much a God-fearing people so we never give up in spite of all the odds that are against us,” Clare said in a telephone interview. “It is also for us in the diaspora to help find a solution.”
Migration back home is a sensitive subject for many overseas Jamaicans who are afraid to burn bridges by discussing why they are reluctant to move back.
Stephen Batchelor, an 89-year-old returnee to gang-steeped Spanish Town, said former neighbors in the British city of Birmingham told him they are afraid to come back. They believe they will be targeted by criminals in Jamaica, where nearly everyone lives behind iron burglar bars installed on windows and doors.
“It seems to me that the interest in returning home has mostly faded,” Batchelor said, standing by his bungalow’s front gate where last year two thieves robbed him of his monthly pension packet.
The good news for Jamaica is that homicides and other major crimes have been going down since 2010, when an anti-gang crackdown got started. For 2012, police reported 1,087 homicides, the lowest number in nine years. National Security Minister Peter Bunting says the island aims to reduce crime to “First World levels” by 2017, when he hopes to have a maximum of just 321 killings.
For now, Jamaica still has an eye-popping violent crime rate. When Chicago, with roughly the same population as Jamaica, chalked up 506 homicides last year, the bloodshed put the city at the center of the U.S. debate over guns. Jamaica’s has had 1,000-plus killings every year since 2004.
Perhaps nowhere is there more at stake than in Mandeville, where the rolling hills are dotted with stately homes owned by returned Jamaicans, including mansions with secret gardens and ornate fountains.
On a recent morning, the Pottingers met with other former British residents who have formed an association for companionship and safety. They reminisced about the long-ago challenges that confronted them when they first went to the “Mother Country” of England some 50 years ago.
But when the conversation turned to their retirement in Jamaica, member David Fyffe’s face turned sour. Having come back to his homeland, he still has to deal with alienation and hostility — this time from envious countrymen who look upon him as a moneyed foreigner ripe for exploitation.
“The homes of returning residents are robbed when they go to church, robbed when they go on vacation. There are strong attempts to cheat and defraud. Yes, there has been a decline in Jamaica and returning residents can be a target,” said Fyffe, nearly 70, who worked on the British railways for years.
The group of senior citizens rattled off a litany of safety measures large and small: Always keep your car windows up in traffic. Only deal with police officers you trust. Install closed-circuit television monitoring. Don’t dawdle at your front gate. Nearly ripe bananas and plantains must be concealed from street view or they’ll be stolen.
Yet, they say Jamaica is still a good place to live. Many of them enjoy support networks of family and friends and love being back on the island where they grew up, no matter how much it’s changed.
Pottinger said she never had any intention of staying overseas.
“None of us went to England and thought they would stay for any longer than five years. We thought the place was paved with gold — you’d go and get our money and you’d come back home,” she said, grinning at the memory.
David McFadden on Twitter: http://twitter/com/dmcfadd

25 Responses to WHY DEM FRETTING?

  • kangol says:

    Good post MET (dbl thumbs up)

  • LadyWoW says:

    I want to go home , but I dont want to wait for retirement age to do so. I would love to be able to put it in a five – ten year plan.

    Jamaica need to increase the incentives for returning residents. America is not a bed of roses, Jamaica is our home and our money should be invested in the production of our home country. Trinidad and Barbados have many residents that return home consistently.

  • Met says:

    why the government a fret doe wow? dem nah do nothing fi combat crime kmt

  • Brightlight says:

    This is a very good post. Who wants to come back home to f—ery. I myself used to get upset at my elder family members when they said “NO!” when I asked if they plan to retire to Jamaica. When I asked why not they would say because “Jamaica is not the Jamaica they used to know/remember”. Now that I’m older I understand why.

    Jamaica don’t own Jamaica. Everybody outside of JA have their hand in her pot. Economy is bad. Crime is terrible. And people in Jamaica still think that Jamaicans who live abroad have fat pockets. It’s sad and very unfortunate. I believe plenty of Jamaicans would love to return home. But what exactly are you returning to?

  • milikeit says:

    Jamaicans abroad are the back bone and life line of the Jamaican economy. I wish the people living in Ja would show them respect and not target them wid no f—ery. They are the ones who employ and spend money in the island. I love Jamaica, but sometimes the actions of a few evil people hurt the majority. I respect this couple, this is what a relationship is about, resources working together and they are living pretty comfortable in their land of birth. :2thumbup

  • Met says:

    big up the sender :kiss

  • LadyWoW says:

    Of course dem fi fret – u now how much money di government mek from returning residents – its a stimuli to the economy.

    Dem need fi do something about the crime, many dont feel safe coming home to houses they have already invested in because their is no protection.
    The only returning residents are the ones coming through deportee airlines- that does not help.
    Its a real pity that you cant feel safe in your homeland.

  • Met says:

    wow dem nuh fi fret because they dont give a damn if they did they would have done something about it

  • LadyWoW says:

    a wan tell u seh crime bad in Trinidad too. But dem still have consistent returning residents.

  • milikeit says:

    I agree with all the comments above, CRIME IS THE MAJOR FACTOR why people don’t want to return. Remember the elderly couple who landed in Norman Manley and the husband was killed on their way to the home they purchased. They ram them in the back of the car and when the husband got out to inspect the damage, they shot him , beat the elderly lady and took their suit cases. I argue with my aunt in Switzerland all the time, she don’t even want to visit Jamaica, much less return there.

    You target the people who can actually help sort out the place. Jamaica suffer from a major brain drain. Sad part is the island is so beautiful, paradise, but i can’t take the f—ed up mentality of a few that spoil it for the rest. The majority of Jamaicans are hard workking decent people but the few crebby crebby old nayga dem f— up the place. Government officials and police are no better than the common crooks.

  • LadyWoW says:

    and Milikeit people here this and get terrified to even go home. No incentive at all

  • Tawkchuet says:

    At one given time u had ppl working in the airport who would give out the returning residents info to the thief dem so dem can go rob the ppl dem corruption n crime is the biggest deterrent for a lot of ppl, I had a business idea once n I went down trying to see if I could put it in motion n the amount of rig ma roll I had to go thru I said no i can’t do this

  • Tawkchuet says:

    N this was from government agencies kmt it’s heart breaking when u think about it

  • SMH…..what a beautiful place, but yep, crime and lack of opportunity makes it hard. I sure wish someone comes into power that can genuinely change things, someone with an aim and goal that could clean things up!!

  • Jules says:

    Den all di ripe banana and ripe plantain dem haffi mention? cho

    Crime is undoubtedly a huge factor in many people putting off returning, but Jamaica is also quite an expensive country to live in. JPS bill alone will kill, many people would love to return but dem just don’t have the funds to support it. Dem caan guh back a family land because dem shame and dem know ppl going to mock dem seh dem spend all dem years a farrin and nuh meck it. Healthcare nuh cheap eeda, and some prefer stay weh dem deh and sure a di free healthcare dem can receive in dem adopted home. On di flip, nuff Jcans a move to other places other dan Jamaica guh retire. Nuff a dem guh Panama, Florida, Arizona and odda places suh is fi dem fi do a survey and find out why some a dese ppl opted to go to other countries fi retirement instead of returning to JA.

  • milikeit says:

    @jules, you’re right, it’s definetly not cheap. I think the rate now is $1US to JMD$95, but everything gone up because these idiots in government keep borrowing from the IMF. The international Monetary Fund is a criminal organization design to keep countires in check. For every $1.00 the country makes from tourism, .75 cents goes back to the IMF. The only way Ja can shake this if we found oil or gold.

  • milikeit says:

    *countries in check* *is if we*

  • NUFFY says:

    Jamaica is not Jamaica anymore. The cost of living is very high. Many would love to return and live what they perceive as the “retirement dream” but it’s not so with every thing that’s changed. Crime rate has skyrocket, many, though may return, cannot live without the fears of being killed! “when am I going to get robbed and killed for what people think I have because I’m a returning resident?”…Love the article…The government, though I have very little faith in them, need to get a grip on the crime rate throughout the Island. Soon they will lose on tourism.

  • Jiji says:

    I came back 2011 after 40 yrs (USC) my mom got older I had no siblings, she lives in Kgn and I researched, talk it over with ppl here, had a idea for small income for light & cable plus food since I’d shipped everything for comfort. I was asked for bribe in every Govt entity I went to do business ( I reported it everytime) my mom is scared I will be hurt speaking up, I hate kgn with the constant begging, hate and rudeness to each others, even the so-call educated behave crass. The national password especially for drivers is” Guh suck yuh mada”, the men I find to have great disrespect for females
    especially the only ones who have nothing that stands to attention any more. The females are now the ones that works and from $5000-$7000 a week they will try to take care of the men who will have 5 girls X $1200 from each on Fridays is more than the going salary…. Many homeless some crazies especially deportees.
    I find an area in the country most returning residence, we practice safety, the police in the area seem to care and check ou community very often, I travel to Kgn every 2 wks to spend 2-3 days, and is amazed at the nastiness, debauchery, vulgarness, the treatments of seniors, disabled and kids…………….pray HARD fior Jamaica

    I have met a few GOOD WONDERFUL Jamaicans, there are more resources than is made known (sticky fingers employees) causes businesses to close and heathcare system to suffer stealing anything not nailed down to sell, the ppl have destroyed the country right along with the Green & Orange Gang members up Duke st.

    I may die B4 my mom , but if she goes before me I will be out of here 6 mths later
    I cannot stand the rudeness and vulgarity, and my kids will use the home as a vacation spot until they make there decisions…Moving to Jamaica will bring happy days and
    disappointing ones….good luck ppl

  • Met says:

    thank you for that jiji

  • Brightlight says:

    Wow JiJi. Sorry to hear. I can’t believe this. Jamaica need a Prime Minister with an iron fist!

  • NUFFY says:

    Wow JiJi..Great insight.

  • Nikki Blanco says:

    Good article Met.

    There are so many hard working Jamaicans all over the world that would love to return and retire a yard but are rightfully scared. Its terrible …so sad

  • i’m not scared to go home, yes story pon story out there. but i have aligned myself to go home and be comfortable when i get old and gray. few of my family members have done so successfully and they quite safe, lot of people like putting fear in other peoples heart I fear no man only god above.

  • concern mama says:

    bwoy jiji sorry to hear your experience i live hear and can relate to alot of what you mentioned but its definately the minority, i am sorry you have not been able to meet genuine people which are the majority, I wish you and your mom long life and prosperity and I pray that you will meet some of the greaat people I know on this island that will never leave no matter what including myself. This is a wonderful island and I do believe everywhere has issues but i really dont believe ours are worst than anywhere else we are a God blessed island and I hope God continues to bless us.

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