The ferocity and indignation that some choose to attempt to force the Administration to engage the Diaspora simply cheapens the asset that is this group of Guyanese and by extension, the desire of many who want to offer their services without appearing to hold the government hostage.
There is a general sense that Guyanese, particularly in other countries, are disappointed with the administrative lethargy, the mal performance and, in some cases, mal practice by those who have been elected and appointed to government office but the Guyana Diaspora cannot make its case as a wellspring of much needed resources by naming and shaming the government into employing them.
If the scribes of the daily ‘Editorial Articles’ want to be taken seriously, they will employ a method that is dissimilar to hostage taking, not akin to school yard bullying, one that is less adversarial not nearly as contentious, to ask this Administration to consider the wealth of expertise and multiple forms of resources that they want to offer their county.
Essentially this is what they want – to lend their talents to this government that is, decidedly, in triage; suffering from several acute self-inflicted wounds because it has veered so far off the promises of its Manifesto. The attempt, therefore, should not be one that singularly attacks the President, or one that reminds the government of Diaspora- enthusiastic engagement in fighting for their victory in 2015. Instead, it should be an engagement that is respectful of the country’s leaders and one that establishes itself as a formidable lobbying body, at local community level and as an extension of government to government representatives in the countries in which they reside.
Sending resolutions, making demands that read like threats and issuing ultimata do not only vilify the Diaspora and the vast majority that is not in favor of this militant overreach, they also cheapen the efforts of these groups that want to be heard and dispel their efforts to the category of buffoonery. And claiming that their crass politicking has “Granger on the ropes” adds no gravitas to these tactics that look more like school yard bullying than the civil discourse and intellectual exchange that they should be.
No one is winning here.
Of particular note, ‘elitism’ is not interchangeable with failure to do some specific thing. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carl Greenidge, has been, unequivocally, appointed the official conduit between the Diaspora and the government. He has, with the same measure of clarity, failed consistently, continuously, as if by premeditation, to execute this portion of his portfolio.
That he continues to do so unabatedly questions the oversight of the President who should be ensuring that his policies are being implemented. It also questions the level of autonomy that Greenidge seems to be endowed with. But, be all that as it may, it does not reach the threshold, does not fall under the category of ‘elitism’ which seems to be used in a pejorative sense with irrational frequency to provide answers to why there has been no structured attempt to include Guyana’s off-shore resources.
The academic conclusion here would be that Minister Greenidge has no idea on how to proceed with this assignment. And there is more common sense evidence that this is the case. There’s little doubt that the Government has genuine interest in engaging the Diaspora for all of the benefits it can bring to the economy but this interest is not matched with the knowledge of how to get this machine started. And Greenidge seems not to want to seek the help that is pouring in from several emigrant experts in the field.
For months he has nibbled at the edges of alleged plans and proposals, has made tepid references to a ‘Diaspora Desk’ that he knows is as shallow as his reference to it, has made referrals to ‘staff’ and deferrals on the substance but has never gotten around to having a robust discussion on how he intends to execute this portion of his assignment that could serve this country where it needs it most.
Several conclusions can be made here and the most primitive would be the territorialism many appointees hold over their posts. This is a practitioner’s relic from times long past when power and privilege were associated with electoral position and appointment. But what the Greenidge’s of this Administration seem not to realize is that technology continues to demand a metamorphosis in governance and ‘for the people’ is now more than just a maxim. It is actually traceable and can be monitored, dissected and discussed in short order because of social media.
The vehicle of social networking and immediate publishing and keeping the government accountable by opinion editorials or political analyses is an effective means of citizen oversight and a privilege accorded every national, through the country’s Constitution. Citizen opinions can now ride in tandem with the spin of politicians. It is an imperative cohabitation that could force realignment from the usual retreat to political smoke screens. Pragmatism, meliorism, technical knowledge, and effective governance against the ideological forces are main stream demands.
So, the bluffs and subterfuges and hoaxes and ruses of politics past have nowhere to hide on modern day platforms – at least, not for long. These were the normal oscillations before social media gave every citizen the opportunity to discuss in cross-sectional groupings and research and read without the assistance of news organs that may be slanted. Political normalcy has been reshaped by the freedom to access information so the sleight of hand dismissal of failure and the suave coining of terms to deflect incompetence hardly go unnoticed.
But let’s get back to the Editorial Article’s purporting to represent the Diaspora.
Understandably, Guyanese everywhere who longed for change are duly nervous because months have gone by under this Coalition Government with no substantial change in the economy. The lack of job creation and the government’s failure to make agriculture an attractive alternative for every ethnicity continues to plague the economy and makes for continued sociopolitical leverage. The administrative debacles caused by Ministers behaving badly have added to the indextrous execution of duties and the gaping chasm that exists within the Coalition remains an inherent impediment because of ideological orientation.
Crime has reasserted itself as the number one social ill which, amongst other associated disasters, will negatively impact tourism and the country’s economy and this has been one reason cited for the government’s shift from focusing on Diaspora engagement.
What should be remembered is that Government is, typically, a machine comprised of several departments that are synergistic, yet have independent goals. Their combined achievement determines government’s success or failure. But these departments are disparate and as such have their own daily agenda. So, to insist that the government has no time to engage the Diaspora because it is too busy fighting the upsurge of crime is to suggest that all the government agencies come together to work on one issue at a time – a theory that defies the logic of a multi -department government.
The country’s 2017 budget, released a few days ago, is deflating to public well-being, to say the least. Budgeting on the backs of consumers by building in value-added-tax on fundamental essentials like water and electricity is an insult to progress and a slap in the face of all who voted for “a good life for all Guyanese”. The Opposition has often touted its ready- to- go, multi –point, plan to invigorate the economy. Real economic growth in 2016 declined from the projected 4.4 to 2.6 percent so why haven’t there been bilateral talks with the Opposition who created much of their plans on tax payers dollars, making their proposals proprietary to the nation? Jump starting the economy should be seen as more than partisan effort. It should be seen as germane to national improvement and enhancing the lives of Guyanese who should never be paying for water as value added to their daily living. And, if Opposition Leader Jagdeo chooses to walkout of these discussions his callous disregard for doing what he is being paid to do – offer viable alternatives to government proposals- should be well publicized.
The 2017 budget has allocated 5.2 billion to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and mention of “Diaspora relations front” is recorded as being partial recipient of this allotment. This means that Minister Greenidge, who has been unquestionably slow-footed in commencing this portion of his assignment, now has known funding added to his budget to go well beyond the establishment of the ‘Diaspora Desk’ which falls far short of meaningful equipment, of the robust staffing and systems required to implement consequential strategy to incorporate the help of off-shore Guyanese.
Instead of positioning itself to benefit from the demographic dividend of a greater portion of youth and younger adults, strategies for as- is employment are virtually nonexistent, over taken by impractical plans to train a job force that needs employment immediately. Freedom deficit, another social handicap, is the nucleus of socioeconomic backwardness. Human rights, economic development and democracy are correlated and mutually reinforcing. People should not be afraid to voice their opinions for fear of reprisal by politicians whom they have elected.
And, the country’s motto remains One People, One Nation and One Destiny. Its politics should reflect this and budgets that designate chunks of money for specific ethnicities should be retired as an inheritance that has lost its place in modern, post guilty, post colonial, times. All geographical areas should be included in national development strategies. Allocating funds relegates this necessity to ‘special project’ status.
The Guyanese Diaspora is significant in number and even more significant in the ways in which it could catalyze the economy. For decades Guyana has politicized its emigrant community and has, as a result, underestimated its worth and underutilized its potential. Educating the nation on the benefits of engaging the Diaspora has never been a political priority for any party. It has never been the orientation of any of the political ideologies and this is why many with political portfolios feel they are doing emigrant Guyanese a favor by enlisting their services. And, because politicians have failed over the decades to enlighten the nation on the benefits of Diaspora engagement, the general sentiment of on shore Guyanese to those Guyanese emigrants who want to contribute to the country’s improvement is skepticism, hostility or a mix of both.
There are politicians who, because of lack of education on the importance of Diaspora integration, leverage the opportunity strictly for self aggrandizement, act as if they are doing these resources, this much needed expertise, a favor. It is a behavior that has been condoned through several governments and needs to be uprooted immediately if there is any serious intent to bring the Diaspora on board.
It is the right of every Guyanese to serve his/her country and that can be done on an official platform or on an unassuming soap box.
It is not done through ‘Editorial Articles’ from the Diaspora that are ill-tempered, cantankerous, rancorous and accusatory of elitism. It is particularly not done by taking victory laps for responses that do not address accusations that are tantamount to name calling.
And I am not representing anyone here – save those of us emigrants who are against the ad hominem, puerile, hostage-taking, bullying that operates under the term Diaspora that might just include us.