DIASPORA ENGAGEMENT OFF TO A SHAKY START

Guyana, Diaspora, Conference

There are some things that require an unencumbered delivery so that the message doesn’t get lost in translation.
We are superiorly supportive of our new Administration and will continue to offer our support throughout its tenure.
Support is not always applauding the successes but helping to keep the rudder on the course to achievement and that may involve saying things that are not necessarily complimentary but will serve a remedial purpose, nevertheless.

Having said that, I will address the visit by the Honorable Carl B. Greenidge to District of Columbia USA, June 16th 2015 in his new portfolio as Minister of Foreign Affairs with Charge of the Department of Diaspora, representing our new President and his Administration.

The function itself suffered a few administrative glitches but none so calamitous as the distribution of reading material that profiled Donald Ramotar and his administration instead of President Granger and his. During campaigns, it is academic for the non incumbent team to draught up a transition plan for the early months of potential administration and this plan would include the efficient disposal of booklets, business cards and brochures of the administration that is being replaced. Why this was even an error remains an uncomfortable talking point but it speaks directly to the quality and efficiency that is needed in every office, to keep this Administration on course.

Like President Granger did during his campaign stops in North America, Mr. Greenidge acknowledged the importance of the Diaspora, beyond its remittance provision to Guyana’s economy. Though he and I differ on the extent of the role we played in this victory that ejected the PPP, he acknowledged that our participation was critical to motivating the electorate and I will take that because that was part of our mission.
He, also, acknowledged that we have resources -material and service – that are critical to the economy and as the Minister charged with the oversight of Diaspora involvement, he is eager to harness these resources to infuse them in to the economy that is still sputtering from the sludge that twenty years of PPP mismanagement and misappropriation left in its spark plugs.

He then alluded to an existing “unit that is in place that he did not put in place but he is working with on formulating policy on matters dealing with diaspora …”

And, there he lost me.

The problem with this “unit that is in place” is that it is a defunct website inheritance from the PPP regime that is woefully stale dated. The welcoming message on the website is not from Carl Greenidge, the current Minister charged with Diaspora Affairs but from the former PPP minister, Carolyn Birkette, whose attempt at Diaspora engagement was deplorably short of genuine contact. The Face Book page too, is a quilt of disconnected dates, featuring news and pictures that fail to belie any kind of meaningful interaction with the Diaspora.

I know that Minister Greenidge is a learned man and say so from a place of genuine respect. I also know that he has a wealth of experience in the political arena and has been an able ambassador for us all in several capacities.

What I do know, now, after his speech in DC on June 16th 2015, is that Mr. Greenidge is relying on a Diaspora Engagement net work that failed to serve its purpose under the previous administration because it was established to be more aesthetic than effective. The PPP demonstrated no knowledge of how to integrate the resources of the country’s Diaspora, short of getting cars from relatives and barrels from friends and money to establish mom and pop cake shops. And, even that had its downside because the exchange of property for money was often a clandestine act that robbed the treasury of requisite taxes.

Strengthening ties with the Diaspora is more than saying that we are welcome, that our services are required; more than establishing a Face Book page and Web Site that lacks interaction or current updates. Establishing ties with Diaspora is now seen as critical to the expansion of a country’s economy and savvy countries are devoting more than just perfunctory units to address its inclusion. They are engaging this ‘country’ away from the homeland systematically, with the aim of institutionalizing the interaction with emigrants and streamlining their input into the economy – input that is both material and service.

So it’s more than just having a unit in place to “deal with matters that pertain to diaspora”, especially if that unit is a failed system inherited from a failed government whose staff remains short of training in Diaspora Engagement.

If Mr. Greenidge wants to tap in to the wealth of resources that lies outside of Guyana, he has to do so in pointed and expeditious fashion, asking for help to establish this machine and its attendant databases and the job knowledge to turn the wheels of this new engine, in very finite terms and not just as a conversational overture. He has to reach out to the Diaspora that is already falling over itself to contribute to its country. He has to respond to those who have already answered his call for assistance.

What he can’t do is tell us that he is working with a unit that is a historic failure, overseen by a unit head whose knowledge of Diaspora Engagement falls dangerously short.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=19&v=CjyY69F3LYQ

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