Jan 20, 2020 Letters
Hardly any Guyanese child or youth grow up desiring to live a life as a criminal or to engage in illegal activities to earn a living. Most often than not, socioeconomic circumstances, coupled with indiscipline and the absence of skills push some of us to find low-skilled, and usually low waged work, while some of us take chances engaging in criminal acts we would never engage in if our living standards were higher. Many of our sisters and brothers have also left Guyana over the past 30-40 years, seeking better quality of life and the opportunity to earn higher wages and incomes.
Most of us, when we leave Guyana to live and work in another country, fall in line with the requirements to obtain work, pay our taxes, etc. However, for some inexplicable reasons, we fail or failed to do the same while living in Guyana. There is an old saying that “charity begins at home.” Imagine if all the skills and resources within and outside of Guyana were utilised in Guyana. How different would our country be?
It is no secret that in order to improve our capacity to attract and pursue higher income and wage-earning work, we need to develop our skills and educate our people. Added to this, a high-skilled and educated population is more likely to improve economic growth and standards of living all things being equal.
In 2017, I co-authored a report commissioned by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) titled, “Skills for Green Jobs in Guyana. Readers, I was shocked to find out that Guyana has a small labour force, i.e. the number of persons legally permitted to work. Added to this, the overwhelming majority of our labour force was, and still is made up of low-skilled, labour-intensive workers.” Some 70-80% of tertiary-level graduates from the University of Guyana and other institutions migrate annually. This means that for every 10 persons graduating, 7-8 of them have plans to leave Guyana. A study commissioned by the Inter-American Development Bank in 2014 estimated that 43% of secondary school graduates and 89% of university graduates migrated accounting for 9.5% of GDP when factoring education costs over the period 1980-2012. This means that we (Guyana) did not experience the return on investment in education that we should have for more than 30 years and counting.
In the Skills for Green Jobs in Guyana report, we made the point too that our economy is low in complexity, i.e., comprise of a few productive sectors, that scarcely produced value-added products for local and international consumption. In fact, our food import bill is among the highest in the region. Imagine, almost everything we consume is not locally produced. Several months ago, I asked the same question of some regional officers, e.g. why does Region 9, 10, etc. import most of its consumables from other regions?
Guyanese are hardworking, entrepreneurial and enterprising people. I grew up hearing about Guyana once being the breadbasket, most skilled and educated in the entire English-speaking Caribbean; this was during the 1970s, just after becoming a Republic in 1970 and within 15 years after attaining Independence as a Sovereign State in 1966. However, as we progressed as a young developing nation, country. I fully support and endorse the President’s vision and programme for Guyana once again to become an Education Nation. We need more and higher-skilled people to drive local and regional economic growth as well as to facilitate more opportunities to develop more value-added goods and services. This is the only way for us to achieve true, lasting prosperity, and not become dependent on the State for access to jobs and income-earning opportunities. More importantly, a highly skilled and educated people means fewer incentives for engaging in illegal means of earning money.
The President is on record as saying, “Education is the great equalizer. It is the key to reversing underdevelopment. It will unlock opportunities for all and help to provide the skills for development.”
In short, we need a responsible, decent and visionary Government of the people, by the people, not a Government for one set of people.
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