No denying it, there are visible positive changes in Guyana today since 2012 when I left home. The amount of new business places would make one believe that Guyana has a population of at least one and a half million people. New buildings are going up everywhere and the government seems to be doing a commendable job working at improving and enhancing the country’s infrastructure. But these visible, these commendable changes camouflage the continued presence of some disturbing/vexing old tendencies and behaviour.
In attempting to purchase foreign currency at any of the banks, one is met with the question “do you have a bank account with us?” The take away from this is, he who cannot afford to have a bank account, has no right of access to foreign currency.
So, say a relative funds a holiday for you in the USA. He/she sends you money to cover cost of visa and ticket. And, say one borrows money to ‘walk with,’ so as to bolster one’s pride by a show of a modicum of independence. One cannot access foreign currency at the banks owing to not being fortunate to have an account. Other to being immoral, is this demand of banks legal?
Now, no such demand is made when changing US dollars into Guyana dollars, at the banks. So why should only bank account holders be able to access foreign currency, when we all (both account holders and none holders) contribute to the stock of foreign currency that banks hold? Why this obvious, this brazen discrimination against the poor? But the business community is not singular here, government departments and agencies also continue to hold on to and initiate silly procedures and practices.
On attempting to renew my driver’s license, I was given a form to fill, told to provide printed copies of my old driver’s license and personal ID card. The form I can understand, but what is demanding the provision of copies of ID card and old driver’s license all about? Can’t a note stating all these have been made by the staff at the licensing office? Why burden citizens with these added expenses, in a country in which all accept that wages and salaries are inadequate?
Then there is the behaviour of many of our government ministers. In conversation with a friend he demurred the fact that the Minister Of Education recently found time to be reading out passes at CXC on television, as if she had nothing more meaningful to do. Shouldn’t reading out passes at exams; if deemed necessary; be done by someone in the education officers’ department/unit? Why should the minister be thus occupied, when there is so much crying out to be done in a hurry, education wise? Don’t our children need to be prepared for coping with the demands of oil, massive diversification in agriculture and the demands of managing a modern economy? But wait there is more of this seeming irrational behaviour.
I recently read of a minister travelling to one of our jails or prisons to deliver sporting gears for use by young inmates. Could someone please tell me why this delivery could not have been made by a coach working in the department of sports, on behalf of the minister? How is it possible that a minister with responsibility for youth development in Guyana, can find time for such menial tasks?
Many of our youths are apparently still leaving school functionally illiterate. Youths make up the bulk of the unemployed, and they also feature significantly among our prison population.
As I walked about Georgetown too many of our young males seem to see drinking beers with the empty bottles visible on their table, as a sign of being macho. While many of our young women seem to place a high value on ‘bleaching,’ wigs and dawning revealing dresses, and monitoring when the next dance hall artiste will visit our shores.
Couple all this with the fact that there is no authentic, no democratically elected national youth organization in the land, to speak for and represent youth. I read about a National Youth Council, but I know of no presence of youth councils in the ten regions, from which, one would expect a national council will grow out of. So, since youths nationally did not elect the present National Youth Council, how was it created? It is in such an environment that the Minister in the Office Of The President with responsibility for youth, finds time for delivering bat and ball!
Then there is the obvious absence of an imaginative, intelligent, coordinated community development plan or programme. Government constructed infrastructural development activities in community is not community development. The concept of community development rests on community participation/involvement, on the community doing for itself, with some assistance from government and private sector.
As I understand it, there is presently a unit with responsibility for community development in Guyana. However, no one offered me the name of any qualified community development personnel employed in this unit. Worse yet, the University of Guyana does not offer a course in community development. So, with the absence of trained community organizers in the unit, and the University of Guyana not offering training in this area, what would be the basis for citizens’ belief that the government is serious about community development?
Noting this neglect of our university, highlights the need for Guyana to pay some attention to the areas in which international organizations with a presence in Guyana are offering assistance.
Peace Corps will leave Guyana soon. It is Peace Corps’ nature to leave when a country shows a glimpse of development. Peace Corps left Trinidad and Tobago years ago, and in 2013 left St Kitts/Nevis and Antigua and Barbuda, citing these islands development as justification for pulling out.
Guyana, with oil coming on stream can expect similar withdrawal of Peace Corps. I notice that recently a new batch of volunteers arrived in Guyana. The release on their arrival informs that they will be mainly serving in Health (mainly carrying health education to rural communities) and in the Ministry of Education – emphasis here will be life skills education.
With the likelihood of Peace Corps leaving, is this the best use of Peace Corps’ service? With an investment in transportation and support materials for presentation, would it not make more sense to leave health education to locals, who would likely make presentations more culturally acceptable to our people? Isn’t this also likely true for our life skills education programme? There is simply no need for foreign help in these areas.
Peace Corps has a professional unit that can make highly skilled Americans available to countries in which Peace Corps have a presence. Shouldn’t the Guyana Government not focus on accessing this aspect of Peace Corps? Shouldn’t we be requesting volunteers to help us in mining, oil, agriculture, making use of local material in housing so as to reduce cost of same, etc?
What is most depressing about the neglect is that none of it is new. Placing a higher value on party affiliation rather than competence. Requesting the presence and assistance of foreign organizations for a specific purpose, then doing no assessment over time to ascertain if the initial purpose is still relevant. All this we have seen before – whether the government was PPP or PNC. So, what explains the present Government’s willingness to make the same mistakes?
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