edmund_bartlett_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

WEST PALM BEACH — A day after Standard & Poors downgraded the United States’ credit rating from AAA to AA+, a Jamaican government official said the move will have an adverse impact on his country and other small nations.

“We have yet to see if too much is being made of it but for any agency to downgrade the economy of the United States is a significant event,” Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett said in an interview while on a visit to the area.

“It will certainly impact interest rates and, eventually, will impact jobs, which then impacts earnings and income and social stability, so there's a chain reaction,” Bartlett said. “And, I dare say, it will affect outsourcing, actually, and a country such as Jamaica may well be under pressure, as there is going to be an imperative to keep jobs in the United States. If this downgrading continues, there's going to be a definite negative impact on Jamaica's economy.”

Bartlett, accompanied by his wife Carmen, was the featured speaker at the Jamaicans of the Palm Beaches 20th anniversary celebration and Jamaican Independence Gala held Aug. 6 at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, 650 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach.

Only time will tell the true implications of the credit downgrade, he said, and, for the time being, Jamaica was in a celebratory mood over its Independence Day.

“Essentially, we're going to celebrate the country, our culture and our achievements. And, leading to the 50th anniversary [next year], we'll be looking at the challenges ahead. We'll see what role the [Jamaican] Diaspora can play in strengthening the country, as well as their own duty in the host country," he said.

West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio extended greetings to the group. “I'm so proud to live in a city that honors the vast diversity in the world,” she said. “You've influenced us with your food, with your culture — and what a wonderful heritage you have," she told the mainly Jamaican crowd.

She then proclaimed Aug. 6 “Jamaican Independence Day” in the city.

The event drew well-wishers from various segments of the community, who dined and danced. Ann Marie March, one of the organizers, said nearly 300 guests attended the gala.

During the celebration, the organization, which focuses primarily on health initiatives, honored Marcia Bodden, a nurse of nearly 50 years, for outstanding leadership among the group and in the community. Her son, Damian Bodden, is current president of the organization.

He said Jamaicans of the Palm Beaches felt it of value to help the community in the area of health. Its annual back-to-school health fair is one of its most important initiatives, he said, usually coinciding with its anniversary and Independence Day celebrations. The most recent fair was held in late July.

The group will hold its first Domestic Violence Walk-A-Thon from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Aug. 13 at Gaines Park, 1501 N. Australian Ave., West Palm Beach. Donation is $10 for participation. For more information, call 561-577-7162.

Photo: Edmund Bartlett