We Jamaicans tend to hold ourselves in high esteem and based the performance of many of our nationals at home and abroad, we have some reason to feel so.
For, on an individual basis, so many Jamaicans tend to be world beaters!
This is s especially so in sports, music, the arts, etc although when it comes to, operating collectively, especially in sports, we tend to bomb out.
I am not at this time though, thinking about sports, but about our reputation as a country.
A paradox is that despite our terrible reputation at home and abroad because of crime, we remain among the most desirable vacation destinations in the Caribbean
But that’s for another debate.
The latest statistic which gave me a jolt recently was when at I heard on Radio Jamaica (RJR) that in the Caribbean, our passport is one of the least desirable. It’s something I have never really mulled, although I travel a lot.
This is demonstrated by the extent to which countries are prepared to refuse to take a chance on us, by allowing us into their countries without visas!
According the report, Barbadians can travel to over 160 countries without needing a visa and Bahamians are next on the high list with over 150 countries not asking them to get visas. However, Jamaicans can only travel to 90 countries without a visa. (The entire list and ranking are online).
Even other Caribbean countries don’t particularly like those of us trying to travel to their countries with a Jamaican passport, despite us holding something marked a Caricom passport.
I remember the last time I went to Trinidad, how they scrutinized my documents from top to bottom. I was just attempting to get home next day after leaving Guyana! This, while other Caricom nationals just ‘zoopsed’ through.
As I have been mainly travelling to Africa recently, my esteem was lifted a bit by the fact that quite a few countries on the Continent welcome us without visas.
These include Botswana, Zambia, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa.
I must admit though, I was shocked when no such privilege was extended to us by Ethiopia!
Shocked, because so many Jamaicans hold Ethiopia in such high regard, with some of our nationals even considering their former King a high prophet.
Besides, quite a few Jamaicans have made that country their home.
Could it be because of the actions of the Jamaicans there why they put in the visa restriction?
On the other hand, more Jamaicans have made Ghana their home and they haven’t slapped any visa restrictions on us!
(According to my research, 1,000 Jamaicans live in Ethiopia and around 4,000 in Ghana).
Our government needs to tell us why we are the personae non gratae in the Caribbean and why they are not negotiating bilateral agreements for us to travel more easily?
Visas are quite expensive documents and considering how we open up our country to the rest of the world, isn’t it time we get a break?
I forgot, politicians travel on diplomatic passports and so don’t have the hassle of getting visas.
Anyway, our passports are probably blacklisted because the world knows our governments are so notoriously corrupt with no one ever being held accountable for anything, so they don’t want people who consider corruption the norm to visit them!
So, I guess we will continue to be the pariah of the Caribbean.