Caribbean ‘foreigners’ ready to come home
By Sean Douglas Monday, August 26 2013
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Caribbean people: (left to right) Amcham vice-president Nicholas Galt, 2nd left, Caribbean Returning Nationals Foundation (CRNF) president Arlene Grah...
ALMOST 200 persons attended the launch of the Caribbean Returning Nationals Foundation (CRNF) last Friday at the Central Bank, Port-of-Spain, which was addressed by public officials from TT, St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) and the United States, and a top local business organisation.
CRNF president and founder, Arlene Graham, told guests the group was formed as a regional network for returning nationals. She said the group provides a sense of community, offers career development and potential business opportunities, and supplies technical expertise in the area of Caribbean development and diaspora studies. She admitted that many Caribbean persons are living happily abroad, but she hoped that even if they are not physically present here, their experience could still benefit the region.
For those ex-pats who choose to return, she observed many returnees complain of a lack of any support system for their reintegration into the Caribbean. “We need to create a support network,” she urged.
Graham said her group is asking the government organisation, “Invest TT”, for help to acquire a space at the eTeck premises to set up shop. “The transition must be made easier for us,” she said of the plight of returnees. “It is too much.”
Graham said the CRNF has established links with several chambers of commerce in the USA and the Caribbean, and with import/export promotion agencies in the Caribbean. The group has relationships with several US city officials, such as Jeffrey Benjamin, the TT-born mayoral candidate for the City of Miami; Walter Lee James who is Mayor of the Town of Bladenburg, Maryland, USA; and Mayor Frederick Robinson of Bowie, Maryland, USA.
US Embassy in Port-of-Spain charge d’affairs, Margaret B Diop, underlined the close links between TT and the USA by saying the US Embassy had last year issued some 30,000 visas (presumably all or mostly to TT nationals), plus 7,000 travel documents for US nationals/residents. She noted that the US takes 44 percent of TT’s exports, while providing 33 percent of TT’s imports.
“Invest TT’s” Sekou Alleyne said the CRNF is an important organisation as it can supply regional access to the extra-regional Caribbean diaspora.
Dr Bernadette Ambrose-Black of Invest St Vincent and the Grenadines said her group wanted to help bridge any gap between investors and SVG, saying it the duty of a Caribbean citizen to “give back” to his/her homeland.
American Chambers of Commerce (Amcham) vice-president, Nicholas Galt, in his feature address said returning nationals are a valuable resource to any nation. They can boost the competitiveness and trade activity between a nation and its diaspora.
He invited gets to join Amcham, which he said has a membership made of 75 percent TT companies and 25 percent international companies, which also having links to chambers of commerce throughout North America and South America via the Washington DC-based umbrella body, the Association of American Chambers of Commerce.
The group can be contacted at its website, .