We spent the past eleven months in Diaspora Integration Limbo.
It’s a new category of governance created – I would like to think tangentially – by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge, with whom lies the responsibility of integrating all Guyanese into its workforce to repair and restore a country that remains in socioeconomic tatters, after decades of destructive governance by its previous regime.
That would be the only reason that the government has merely had peripheral contact with the concept it promised -with commitment and sincerity during its campaigning and victory laps – to develop into an operational model.
We remember, very distinctly, the President declaring with pride and appeal that the Diaspora is critical to the country’s development while an enthusiastic Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo, was inviting all the Guyanese from Canada to return home in an moment of post victory exuberance.
What has happened after that has been such extreme lethargy that it looks like political paralysis and the affliction is resident in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs…
…which brings us to Minister Carl Greenidge and the role he has not played in making Diaspora Involvement a reality.
When the Granger Administration took office, it inherited what is tantamount to a Diaspora shop front. It was a very impotent web site crammed with cut and paste platitudes about the government’s intentions and desires to engage its emigrant community. There was no real engine in its mechanism and as a consequence it had the effect of a digital billboard with links to pages that merely took information to be processed for opportunities that had no specific detail. The focal point of Diaspora engagement, for Jagdeo /Ramotar administration, was the receipt of remittances and barrels from the expatriate Guyanese and that became the prevailing concept nationwide.
The Granger Administration wanted more.
In the first sitting of the Eleventh Parliament of Guyana, His Excellency, President Granger, stated that policies for the “huge diaspora” will be developed.
That remains at a standstill.
On Saturday January 16 –Monday 18, 2016 the Center for International Migration and Integration (CIMI) held consultations with members of the Guyanese diaspora, at the Guyana Consulate in New York. Similar consultations were conducted in Trinidad, Toronto, Canada and the UK. The purpose of these consultations was to craft a Diaspora Engagement Strategy Proposal for the Government of Guyana CIMI was assigned by the International Organization on Migration to draft the diaspora strategy document.
The consultation exercises were selectively advertised and were, thus, very poorly attended.
In mid- February, the International Organization on Migration(IOM)in Guyana confirmed that the first draft of the Diaspora Engagement Strategy Proposal, prepared by Center for International Migration and Integration (CIMI) , was forwarded to Minister Carl Greenidge at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from the International Organization on Migration(IOM).
Minister Grenidge seems not to have gotten this mail.
These are dormant actions; seemingly executed merely for documentation. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs remains notoriously known for ignoring inquiries into its Diaspora engagement plans. Phone calls are fielded by operatives who eagerly ask to take a message or pass you on to “someone who could answer your question”… which repeats that cycle.
Minister Greenidge is, essentially, incommunicado. He chooses his audience, in the rare event of him facing the public and when he decides to do public Q&A, he responds to Diaspora specific questions by referring the queries to a department that never has the answers – which continues to befuddle the emigrant community, especially after so many were supportive of Foundation 9 of the APNU/AFC Manifesto which promised to employ the expertise of Guyanese living abroad.
And, after taking office, President Granger asserted his desire for emigrant input in more specific language.
Minister Greenidge seems to be studiously ignoring his role in establishing a more robust relationship with the Diaspora. Speculation is that he may be a functional saboteur – still seething from his loss to Granger for Party leadership and will do just enough to operate at par level, never enough to contribute to any surplus of positives that this Administration may accumulate.
Judging from his inertia on this comparatively straight forward assignment, it is certainly a speculation worth consideration.
In a few weeks thousands in the Diaspora will descend upon Guyana to help celebrate its 50th year of Independence from colonialism. The event has been designed to -albeit without optimization- cater to Guyanese who will return to spend foreign currency.
Nothing has changed.
This government, too, is confining its relationship with its emigrant community to their remittances, ignoring the value of their expertise in assisting with the total recovery of the country. There is a demonstrable lack of understanding of how the country could put every Guyanese to work to restore and rebuild this country, with so much economic potential.
And the fact that this significant milestone has been planned to span just one week is evidence that sound entrepreneurial principles were not part of its planning.
When the week of May 26th 2016 is being celebrated by thousands of Guyanese who would have returned for the occasion, there may be unprecedented economic activity over the period that the visitors are present. There will be dozens of symposia and those with ambitions to help Guyana will be making copious presentations on how their expertise could propel Guyana forward.
None of this will be attributable to any operational diligence by Minister Greenidge’s Diaspora Desk.
It’s time for President Granger to explain to the thousands in the emigrant community why engagement with them continues to be fleeting, in spite of his firm commitment to integrate the prowess and proficiency of every Guyanese into improving the lot of the country.
He needs to do that sooner than later especially since Minister Greenidge chooses to remain somewhat supercilious, inexplicably casual, oddly detached from the Diaspora he has been tasked to integrate.