Kaieteur News – During his recent meeting with a section of the Guyanese Diaspora in New York, many persons spoke about their desire to return home and contribute to national development.
Many said that they wanted help to do so. The President advised them to come back and allow the system to work. Thus, if they wanted land, they would have to secure this on the open market. If they were seeking investment opportunities, then they were advised to do what they would do in the USA: come, ferret out the opportunities suited to them and make their investments.
This answer by the President did not please some of the persons. They were looking for a special shoo-in by the government. But the Head-of-State was deterring them from having to meet with high government officials simply to remigrate or to set up businesses. He mentioned repeatedly that they system should be allowed to work: in other words, the government was not going to hand out any extra-special favours to the members of the diaspora. The President wants the system to work.
The problem is that the system does not work and this is one of the prime reasons persons have to seek high-level interventions to move things alone. The public bureaucracy is clogged with red tape, is sluggish, inefficient and pervaded by corruption. Getting things done requires knowing someone who knows someone that can move things along for special consideration. But even if the system did work, there are persons who believe that you need a little ‘help from friends’ to gain advantages. And this is why there is such a great demand to meet with senior government functionary.
It is therefore not sufficient for the President to simply call on the diaspora to meet the system work. The government’s obligation is to make the system less dysfunctional. Merely suggesting to the diaspora that they should return and obtain lands on the open market does not resolve the problem of a dysfunctional system. Not everyone of course is advised by the President to let the system work. The President does meet with major investors and other persons, including from the diaspora. The President therefore needs to advise all of the big shots who want to see him that they should let the system work.
While it is easy to advise persons to seeking land on the open market, there needs to be clear rules about who qualifies for government’s lands for commercial and industrial process and who does not. The system does not work in this regard. Many persons who reside in the diaspora return an attitude of entitlement. They believe that they should enjoy certain privileges, including as the President related, top-paying jobs with benefits such as accommodation for them and their families, return airfares twice a year for themselves and families and payment for their children’s tuition. These persons have a highly inflated sense of their worth.
The fact is that whatever skills they have can be found in Guyana or in the Caribbean. These skills can also be recruited for far less than what the non-resident Guyanese are demanding. Secondly, the diaspora is no longer as important to the People’s Progressive Party as they may feel. In the period prior to 2001, the PPPC raised a significant share of their campaign finances from the diaspora. But what is given today is a mere “chicken feed”. The PPP does not need the financial support of the diaspora.
Since 2001, a local oligarchic class has emerged. This class benefits extensively from the largesse of the State and the PPP/C acts almost totally at the behest of this oligarchic class. The system works for this class and this is why they gave back so much to the party. It was not surprising that 80% of the private issues said to have been raised at the meeting concerned NIS pensions. For a long time, non-resident Guyanese were not keen on applying for their NIS. The majority may not even qualify. But having heard of the healthy pensions which are now paid, everybody now wants to see if they qualify for NIS pensions. While badmouthing the system, they are seeking to reap rewards. Many of them are going to be shocked that they do not qualify for a pension. It was also reported that there is a three-fold increase in the passport applications. Since Guyana became an oil-producing stat, Guyanese in the diaspora are rushing to obtain Guyanese passports, with hopes of probably one day benefiting from a healthy cash grant from the government.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of this newspaper and its affiliates.)
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