Diaspora Engagement Conference

Granger, UG Conference, Ivelaw GriffithPresident Attending Conference

….and in spite of all its successes the bigger take away was that Carl Greenidge, under whose portfolio of Minister of Foreign Affairs falls Diaspora Engagement, was absent from each, from all, of the five days of a convention that Guyanese crossed the seas to be a part of.

Maybe Carl doesn’t like this sliver of his job – that portion that places him directly in the presence of Guyanese with questions on what his vision is, what his plans are to incorporate the oasis of resources that lies within the country’s Diaspora.

Maybe he’s more comfortable penning proposals, setting up sub –committees to help “craft Diaspora policy”…though that goes against the fact that the International Organization for Migration completed and submitted, to Minister Greenidge,  a tax- dollar bought expert study on how Guyana could join the ranks of countries that incorporate their Diaspora capital to optimize their on –shore human, social and financial capital…to help fight tough domestic economic challenges… as a key piece of national recovery.

We are guessing …because we’re good at guessing…that the comprehensive report from International Organisation of Migration, IOM, was shared with Government Ministers and Agencies for them to see the suggested Diaspora Strategy and determine how their departments could benefit from the recommendations. We’re guessing, too, that the IOM report stipulated that, after the department heads would have made their input, theirs, along with the IOM report was to be shared with the Diaspora for their input,as well.

That wasn’t done.

Instead, there was a selection of ten Guyanese, “after a rigorous selection process” (by an indeterminate calculus) who engaged in a Skype interview (only nine participated) aimed at “stimulating interest for investment from individuals in the Diaspora, which would in turn complement ongoing development efforts in the country… an exercise ultimately deemed  a success by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Of course that’s a claim that cannot be disputed because the boundaries for success were not universal, not the usual interconnection of synthesized elements germane to Diaspora Integration and Implementation; so they’ll stand unrefuted; noted only as an exercise aimed at stimulating interest for investment from individuals in the Diaspora.

Hmmm.

Minister Greenidge’s absence from this conference sort of underscores a paradigm of politics which gives him curious control and ability to establish his parameters of political participation. In a Coalition polity, this comes across as political pouting, errant behavior, looks like a deliberate slow march with undermining consequences and adds to the sentiment of his tepid overseas outreaches, his protracted reticence on this Policy Foundation … the sum total of which casts President Granger in not so glowing light.

…as an aside, the investment of Brazilians, Chinese, Russians, Canadians in Guyana is not to be conflated with Diaspora Engagement and Diaspora Investment…. they are contextually unrelated….

Moving on.

It was the unilateral initiative of the University of Guyana and not that of the Government via Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to host the historic Diaspora Conference.

The months of Venezuela’s civil unrest, which began around February of 2017, spilled over to the dates of the conference and commanded Minister Greenidge’s time, including the period of the historic Diaspora Conference.

This has been proffered as reason why he couldn’t come at all … if just to say thank you and welcome, when the Diaspora had been brought to this unbudging Mohamed….

Minister Greenidge has long denied that he has ignored the Diaspora, even as he cautioned that his Ministry is not an “employment bureau”…back when they were all basking in the victory they ascribed to their singular efforts.

What has been “mistaken” is  “streamlining the roles of the dozen or more ministries in interfacing with the Diaspora as part of a large strategy that is being supported by the IOM. “The ministries have to persuade the Cabinet of their role in that Diaspora strategy, how they can be most effective and then the Cabinet has to decide on a division of labour. That has not yet been done.”…he famously said.

After two years behind the start line, anxiety and impatience marry each other in conversations about political progress.

…twenty three years of tribal politics have catalyzed the politics of  issues…

…twenty four months of a five year tenure is an eternity for a planning phase that was observed for twenty three years….

The organizers of the first Diaspora Conference came to Guyana with the shared conviction that the repair/restoration dynamics have to be formularized into an equation that, of necessity, has to include government participation that goes beyond the formalities of attending conferences; go past platitudinous pledges; past fluffy news briefs punctuated with puffy plans to implement the same Diaspora Engagement that is embedded in the Government’s Manifesto, which is now it’s blue print.

Expatriates are still unpacking the flippant remarks and it is not that they’re bereft of a sense of humor but they are not so sure if they “do more than talk and write …invest in villages” and “petition to open a factory or a farm”, as the President has suggested, that the government has the Diaspora machinery in place to monitor, let alone protect their investment interest.

Despite the Foreign Minister’s contextualization of the Diaspora as sic “a basket of resources… that [ he has to recognise] how foreign policy can be fashioned to take advantage of that”, in a  June 12th 2015 news interview, these words soon became  mutations of campaign promises and pledges; joining other political output filled with feeble apologetics, empty platitudes, facile homilies…

…bewailing the criticisms of government lethargy and its perpetual defense of behaviors that they condemned when they were in the Opposition.

Indeed, there were hopes of them being a comparative fount of political rectitude, having lived what so many voted against but instead there is this litany of threadbare political tropes…

The fact that this conference, integral to matters of State, was successfully organized and conducted, garnishing input from Guyanese across the globe and in all levels of life, demonstrates what could happen when citizens are allowed more ownership of the process.

The implicit understanding is that Diaspora engagement is of binary mobility, impossible without government policy and implementation. The essentialized understanding is that all of the solutions resulting from the contributions made, as a result of that conference, would matter only when Minister Greenidge puts them in to practice.

And, not to be discounted is the increasing sophistication of the electorate who are now more interested in issue than identity politics.

A couple of things for the Minister to remember….

Efforts by the team that put this successful conference together may have served as dress rehearsal for a government that can attract participation by a call for patriotism. It has raised the hope quotient exponentially, making this novel act of independence an increasingly attractive option, as the political muscle of government remains atrophied by ‘plans to be implemented’.

This conference may have inadvertently challenged what may be perceived as clout over a Diaspora that is dying to give back to its country…

Some politicians may still be thinking that they started out with a mandate…and that the whimsical one -liners and light hearted tongue-lashing add to political capital…

The quest for democracy finds politics before politicians.

How this Government, Minister Greenidge, treats the recommendations of this conference may well forecast what’s left of any political leverage the parties in this Coalition still have.

Leave a Reply