It is indeed refreshing to see that the new Government is once again making moves to re-engage the diaspora community with the aim of getting them to return here and contribute either by working or investing. We have always expressed the view that Guyana has bountiful resources from which all citizens, including those who have moved abroad, can benefit. Similarly, there are, among the Diaspora, enormous resources in terms of skills and investment dollars that Guyana can tap into.
In his Budget speech a few days ago, Public Infrastructure Minister Juan Edghill referred to “indisputable evidence” which suggests that the Guyanese Diaspora is rich in intellectual, human and financial resources, and said the Government would maximise the use of these resources as it seeks to broaden its engagement with various stakeholders to push development forward.
At the micro-level, remittances contribute to a reduction in poverty, as they keep many families from succumbing to the inadequacies of their income. According to the 2019 Annual Report of the Bank of Guyana, the value of remittances stood at US$374 million, the largest contributor to foreign inflows, other than gold.
The potential that lies in Guyana’s Diaspora is vast, and the Government must continue to leverage the expertise, talent and investment potential of such persons. The recent oil discoveries have caused Guyana to be placed in the international spotlight. Just a few days ago, United States oil giant ExxonMobil announced another two more oil finds offshore Guyana – Yellow Tail 2 and Red Tail – bringing the total number of discoveries in the Stabroek Block to 18.
These discoveries reinforce the country’s potential to be able to produce more than 750,000 barrels of oil daily by 2025. While this is good news for the people of this country, the real substance of these major oil finds will come when all Guyanese, both living at home and abroad, are able to benefit from these discoveries, whether directly and/or indirectly.
For sure, Guyanese at home will not by themselves be able to push this level of development, because they are too small in number and do not possess all the skills required to undertake this massive task. There is certainly a shortage of skills in our country. Skills in various fields are badly needed, especially in the oil and gas sector.
Over the years, Guyana has resorted to importing expats to work in our industries and other sectors, and most would know that hiring these expats comes with a high price tag; and thereafter, the money is repatriated to our disadvantage. There are Guyanese with similar academic qualifications and skills in the Diaspora, who could be engaged to return home to serve in various areas.
The present administration has shown it is cognisant of the huge impact such investments could have on the development of Guyana, and had put in place certain mechanisms to woo Guyanese to return home. For example, the Remigrant Scheme implemented under the PPP Government was designed to give every Guyanese desirous of returning home an opportunity to be exempted from certain taxes etc, once they decide to settle permanently here. A special housing scheme was also established to allow Guyanese returning to build their own homes.
That said, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would need to step up the level of technical support offered to such persons. Many persons are still unsure of the start-over process due to lack of access to clear guidance etc. While the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website provides some level of guidance, it is inadequate, and sometimes the necessary follow-up support is absent.
There is no doubt that a bright future is ahead for everyone, especially our young people. Therefore, policies that are geared towards creating greater economic and social development opportunities for our citizens must always be kept on the front burner.
We are pleased that the new Government has brought the issue of diaspora engagement on the front burner again. These are new and exciting times here, and everyone must be encouraged to take advantage of Guyana’s patrimony.