Vincentian Vaughan Toney, chief executive officer of the Brooklyn-based Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center, told his compatriots at a recent Diaspora conference in New York that the role of the Diaspora in recovery and development at home, has become “ever more critical.”
Toney, a former New York City Council candidate, noted that his homeland is not alone in seeking to engage the Diaspora more actively in creating opportunities for development and pointed to countries with large populations abroad such as China, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Egypt and the Philippines that are devising specific financial instruments, like Diaspora Bonds, “as a way of mobilizing Diaspora savings to finance targeted public- and private-sector projects at home, while simultaneously improving their fiscal profile in international markets.”
“Increasingly, those expatriates have become an indispensable source of economic support for their countries of origin – most commonly through the financial remittances they send to family, friends and philanthropic organizations back home,” Toney explained in a paper submitted to the conference held at Kingdom Life Ministries International in Crown Heights, Brooklyn and read by Sherrill-Ann Mason, a member of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Diaspora Committee of New York.
Toney says remittances from abroad represent a “critical lifeline for the poor,” and the steady stream of foreign currency also helps improve St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ credit worthiness for external borrowing.”
Noting that over the past 30 years, more than 215 million people now live outside their countries of birth, according to United Nations estimates, Tony pointed out that even the World Bank has now “gotten into the act” by establishing a “Task Force on the Implementation of Diaspora Bonds” to provide technical assistance to developing countries seeking to take their Diaspora engagement to the next level.
But Toney says while remittances are important, “smaller Diasporas, like ours, need to kick it up a notch,” stating that “we need to be more adventurous, innovative and flexible, constantly exploring new opportunities for leveraging our resources for maximum benefit to ourselves and our compatriots back home.”
“We need to think beyond remittances,” he stresses, stating also government has a role to play in this effort by establishing institutions and strengthening existing mechanisms for investment, entrepreneurship and public-private partnerships “that seek to enhance the quality of our public infrastructure and expand the reach of our human services.
“We need only the imagination, the creativity, the unity of purpose and the determination to do the right thing for our home country,” he says.
“We may not be many; but, together, we can be a dynamic force for development,” he adds. “We are the Vincentian Diaspora. And there’s nothing we cannot do once we put our minds to it.”