By Leonard Gildarie
In recent years, I have been insisting on our people to take control of their country.
What exactly does that mean?
We have to be more vocal. We have to take on our regulators and criticise them more. We have to push them to the extreme. Guyana is our home. It is like your yard. We have a fence, gate and doors to our home. When strange persons enter our yard, we want to know. And that is why there is protection.
It is a different matter altogether if we invite them in. When you enter the door, there is a mat, and you have to take your shoes off. If you use the washrooms, you have to flush.
If you want to stay, you have to take off the lights, and the air condition unit when leaving. After all, it is my home and there are rules.
Our people live all over the world. When they go there, they apply for working permits and citizenship and pay their taxes. We understand that. We therefore have to pay very close attention and ensure that we have those rules and we abide by them.
There is a huge debate on right now about the people we are letting in to our country.
I will repeat what I have always said. Our people were welcomed by other countries for decades. We worked hard and built homes and businesses in those lands.
It is estimated that we have almost one million Guyanese living overseas. Our population is a little more than 700,000. Therefore, at this time when we badly need skills and the workforce, we should reciprocate. However, to do so in a careless manner, without controls, is a clear recipe for disaster.
This is not xenophobia. It is about criticisms of a few who have taken advantage of Haitians and Cubans, and herd them like animals and transport them to our borders, capitalizing on a weak system. The authorities are accommodating them.
One day we will wake up and realise our backyard is gone and there is little we can do.
In a nutshell, we have to quickly develop systems that will manage our ports in a more efficient manner.
MODERN BORDER MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
The US has started cracking down on persons overstaying. The figures are coming from its border information system.
On Friday, the government announced that it has awarded a $2.5B project to Canadian Bank Note to procure a modern border management system to accommodate our plans to roll out an e-passport network.
It will allow Guyana to tap into the worldwide network in a seamless manner.
I rather suspect it will generate critical reports including who came, how many came, who went back and who have overstayed. That being said, we seem to be thinking in the right direction.
The shores of Guyana have already started to see the effects of thousands who are coming here not only for oil, but fleeing from situations in their countries…Venezuela and Trinidad. Yes, Trinidad. Businesses are migrating here, especially for the oil.
We have to be able to manage the flows. We are talking about controls.
Recently, Government signed orders which have laid down the standards on 30-odd products to be used for electrical installation in the homes and other buildings.
What this means is simple…those little corner shops that we run in to a pick up a plug, may very well be stocking plugs and wires which do not meet the standards of the country. There are no verifiable tests to say they are safe and will not cause a fire because they are made of poor materials.
It means also that the Customs people will have to ensure we are clearing products that meet the standards.
We spoke about the e-passports and now the new standards for electrical products.
We can also point to other areas where standardization is needed. We can talk about car parts, electronics, clothing and building materials. Of course, the cynical will say, we can’t have standards for our politicians.
As we move forward we have to demand more from our police, instead of the other way around. Our government services will have to be taken to another level.
I did mention that the services of the Passport Office have improved significantly.
There are smiling Immigration Officers, and lines that move like a breeze.
I was taken aback by the level of professionalism when I went there recently to renew the passports of myself and family. These are the little things which we have to demand.
I am criticized often and sometimes asked to stand down on issues I feel strongly about.
It is difficult to stop. I often get myself into trouble. It is better than looking the other way.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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