Guyana is gearing to welcome home a total of 385 trained professionals shortly as part of its continued effort to cater to the increasing demand for skills in both the Public and Private sectors. Of the total amount of professionals that are expected back, 300 will be medical doctors, who will ensure that the ordinary people of this nation continue to access adequate health care.
This is according to Minister with responsibility for the Public Service Ministry, Dr. Jennifer Westford, who sought to underscore the fact that training of professionals has remained a constant undertaking by the ruling party.
She was at the time addressing Parliament during the budget debate last week.
The Minister highlighted that over the past 15 years, the ruling party has given scholarships for the training of 2,513 Guyanese as professionals in the fields of Human Medicine, Dentistry, Physiotherapy, Pharmacy, Radiology, Ophthalmology, Biomedical Technology, Veterinary Medicine, Plant Science, Agronomy, Meteorology, Hydrology as well as Civil, Electrical, Mechanical, Mining, Automation and Computer Engineering.
Scholarships were also provided to Guyanese students in the fields of Computer Science, Architecture, Informatics Forensic Science, Environmental Science, Environmental Engineering, Forestry, Forestry Engineering, Human Resource Management, Project Management, Hospital Administration, Special Education, Tourism, Auditing, Economic and Accountancy.
“We have also been training and continue to train other skilled categories such as Heavy Duty Machine Operators, Plumbers, Carpenters, Masons, Drafters, Surveyors, Nurses, Technicians, Medexes, Community Health Workers and Microscopists…”
Dr. Westford said that contrary to the picture that is usually painted by the opposition in relation to the mass migration of trained professionals, of the 2,513 trained professionals that have returned to this country, it was merely a total of 20 that have resigned after serving their stipulated five year contracts. Another six, she said, resigned prior to the termination of their contracted period but have all honoured the repayment of their training cost. The others, she added, are meaningfully employed in the various Government sectors and the private sector.
However, the Minister asserted that wherever necessary, the government will continue to source additional foreign skills to complement the local capacity.
“It is therefore evident without a doubt that this People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government has the capacity and will ensure that all of the proposed projects listed in the 2011 Budget are undertaken efficiently.” Dr Westford admitted though that the quality of service afforded to the public is lacking, even as she noted that it must be recognised that, “we employ individuals into the Public Sector who come to us from all walks of life with different attitudes…”
For this reason, she said that efforts will also be sustained to try to change staffers’ attitudinal outlook to persons. The Minister further insisted that, “we will not rest until the citizens of this country receive efficient and adequate service from the Public Servants.” As it pertains to the quality of service, she revealed that staff members have been exposed to staff development programmes both locally and overseas with the aim of upgrading them, a move she asserted will be sustained.
And while there is an ever-growing concern about the problem of infant mortality, Dr Westford noted that persons must take care and not make it seem as if Guyana is the only country or the worst country to experience such occurrences. To show this is an international problem, the Minister said, that the United Nations had made some objectives in the form of the Millennium Development Goals, two of which (number four and five) are related to the infant and mortality rate. “This was not because they just wanted to do it, it was because they saw it as an international problem…We have been training persons and we have been building institutions and we have been equipping them but the onus is upon us so we have been ensuring that the quality of service is of the highest order.”
But even with glaring evidence of improvement, Dr. Westford said that she remains concerned that the government continues to be castigated for the instances of maternal and child deaths. She expressed her conviction that, “I don’t believe that people deliberately set out to kill persons…” The Minister, nonetheless, agreed that the responsibility remains with the government even as she assured that “…the government has conducted the necessary investigations and we have, to date, implemented the necessary methods to try to curb this situation.”
And though it could never be stated that the salaries paid to Public Servants are adequate, Minister Westford asserted that the Government has over the years sought to pay salaries based on its ability to do so, taking into consideration the economic reality. “Let us take a step back; we have not been sitting idly by and letting our salaries languish. Let us recall that in 1992 our salaries at the minimum level was $2,801 and to date that salary has been increased… Apart from the threshold, even though we had the global financial crisis, this government, when all around us, they were sending home workers by the thousands and they were cutting salaries, this government continued to give increases in salaries…”
Instead of sending home workers, Dr Westford said, that the government was also able to create 28 new categories of work within the Public Service. In these categories, she said, a total of 328 new workers were employed. Also over the very period, more public officers were added to the list of persons eligible for duty free concession, the Minister noted, even as she dispelled claims that contracted workers are afforded a higher salary than pensionable workers. “It is there for you to see in the books. All you have to do is read and understand what is before you…We do not pay super-salaries to contracted workers within the Public Service, and I dare any person in this house to bring to me anyone of the contracted workers on the list of workers in the Public Service receiving super-salaries,” she added.
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