The President and his Cabinet just completed a two-day outreach to the Essequibo Coast in which they announced and initiated a slew of initiatives for what is unfortunately still dubbed, “The Cinderella County”. In their case, Essequibo produces a huge portion of Guyana’s rice, timber, gold and upcoming manganese production for the treasury. This is expended for the entire country but very little is returned to lifting Esseqibians out of their underdeveloped status quo.
The DPI offered the rationale for the trip. “While delivering goods and services to taxpayers is a natural part of the governance continuum, the President and his Cabinet believe that it is equally important for those with direct responsibility for policies to witness their impact on the everyday lives of citizens, their families, and communities. As such, this activity serves to foster an open and transparent relationship with citizens as stakeholders in the development process through direct communication and feedback.” It was further noted that public outreaches also allow the policymakers to gain a first-hand account of on-the-ground developmental challenges in communities, and enable them to craft appropriate interventions for short, medium, and long-term solutions that ensure optimal benefits are continuously accrued to citizens.
While some may cynically look at the outreach as a “PR gimmick”, we should note that elections are almost four years away, yet this has been the fourth outreach by President Ali and his Cabinet. The President is definitely a people’s person and it is clear that he wants this to characterize his entire Cabinet and administration. Even in a small country like Guyana there is always the danger that governments can become alienated from the populace if they remain sequestered in their air-conditioned offices in the capital. These forays into the outlying regions with “boots on the ground” allow the policy makers to view, at a very granular level, the impact of their initiatives that up to then might have just been words on paper or their computer screens.
In Essequibo, for instance, there was a standoff between the Anna Regina Council and vendors who were being moved but dug their heels in. While it might have been a Local Government issue, it is certain that the issue must have been raised with the Cabinet – either collectively or individually – and would have brought home the concrete challenges faced by citizens in their lived experience. Very frequently it is within the microcosm that the larger goals are given context.
In Essequibo, the President and Cabinet unfurled initiatives that demonstrated they were totally au fait with the specific challenge that has beleaguered the region for most of its existence – jobs to complement those offered by its one staple – rice. While Essequibo is serviced by private banks, but there has not been a commensurate number of investments to match the deposits that Essequibo rice farmers have made into those banks. There is a bottleneck with intermediating those funds into the hands of local entrepreneurs.
The President announced the establishment of a new “Innovation and Entrepreneurship Fund” that will provide grants to get projects off the ground by those Essequibians whose creativity and innovation have long been stifled due to lack of funding. This approach is critical for Essequibo since they remain one of the areas in Guyana where there is no trepidation in youths working in agriculture. Agro-processing thus presents a cornucopia of opportunities waiting to be launched to add more value to the primary products they grow.
The turning of the sod for a $2billion multidisciplinary hospital at Suddie is long overdue. For too long residents with serious medical challenges have to be referred to GPHC all the way in Georgetown. The logistical challenges would have obviously led to complications and even fatalities in some instances. All in all, the President is to be commended for taking government to the people.
The notion that the Ministers are “mandarins” removed from the people must be eradicated.