US announces $30 million investment for Jamaica

JAMAICA is set to receive a US$30 million dollar investment after Prime Minister Andrew Holness and US Vice-President Kamala Harris met on Wednesday in the first of several meetings with US top officials in Washington, DC this week.

Harris, whose father Donald was born in Jamaica, has said her family has immense pride in their Jamaican heritage.

In the bilateral meeting Harris announced a US$20 million investment in Jamaica to boost commerce and US$10 million towards investment in human capital and a violence reduction programme for at-risk youth.

Harris also announced a further investment in energy security, climate security and resilience to extreme weather conditions, plus assistance towards health and COVID-19 recovery.

Earlier Holness indicated that the long-standing problem of the flow of illegal guns from the United States to Jamaica, and the relatively newer issue of Jamaican scammers bilking millions of dollars from mainly elderly Americans, are among the main issues which he will put on the table during meetings in with top US officials in Washington, DC this week.

“The visit is to just reaffirm the relationship between Jamaica and the United States. [A] very long, strong relationship, culturally, people-to-people, trade and investment. But we want to talk about specifically [matters] such as security, there are issues within the region which we want to have a face-to-face and direct discussions on,” said Holness as he kicked off his five-day official visit to the US on Wednesday with a guest appearance on the morning programme Great Day Washington on Channel 9/WUSA with hosts Kristen Berset-Harris and Ellen Bryan.

“Particularly the influx of weapons into Jamaica and how we can work together to deal with that, and on the other side, the issues of lottery scamming and so forth which affects the United States heavily,” Holness told the show hosts.

“We want to talk about energy and how we can partner to ensure that we have more renewables in our energy portfolio, and we want to talk about, of course, more investments…,” added Holness.

Holness is the first Jamaican head of government to visit the White House since a 1995 working visit by then Prime Minister PJ Patterson. Former US President Barack Obama was the last American leader to hold face-to-face talks with a Jamaican prime minister when he visited the island in 2015.

The prime minister, accompanied by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kamina Johnson Smith and a five-member delegation was met on arrival in Washington, DC by Jamaica’s Ambassador to the US Audrey Marks, the deputy chief of mission at the Jamaican embassy in Washington, DC Nicolette Williams, and other embassy officials.

Following the Wednesday meeting at the White House with Harris, Holness is scheduled to meet with senior officials of the US Administration including Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen as well as Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development.

Holness will also have high-level congressional meetings with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer. He will also meet with chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senator Robert Menendez and members of that committee.

The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Gregory Meeks will also host a meeting for Holness with members of his committee.

The prime minister’s five-day working visit will also include meetings with the chair of the House Finance Committee Congresswoman Maxine Waters and chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations Congresswoman Barbara Lee.

He will also address members of the Washington, DC press at the National Press Club.

Holness will join members of the Diaspora as the special guest on the “Let’s Connect with Ambassador Marks” online town hall meeting on Friday evening.

He is expected to highlight the island’s development at 60 years of Independence and outline the efforts being made to facilitate expanded diaspora participation in the overall economy.

While in Washington, Holness will also meet members of the embassy staff as well as members of the Jamaica Central Labour organisation which handles the US/Jamaica Farm Worker Programme.

The prime minister is expected to return to the island on Sunday. Deputy prime minister and Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang is in charge of the Government until Holness returns.