Govt will continue to intensify educational infrastructure

Dear Editor,
Guyana’s future would be a bright one, but it would require a robust, transparent and results-oriented infrastructure development programme; a system of efficient and effective public administration; business-friendly tax and regulatory policies to spur business attraction, retention and expansion; along with a dependable and strong finance and banking sector. According to the latest World Bank Doing Business report, Guyana ranks 134 out of 190 countries worldwide, and in the Caribbean, behind Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados. So, there’s much work to be done.
The challenge of human capital and economic development in Guyana cannot be met and overcome by money alone. It would require individual, cooperative and collaborative dedication and effort by the Public and Private Sectors and Civil Society. As a Guyanese business owner and activist declared: “You have to respect what money and success give you, then have the responsibility that goes with that.”
For Guyana, at this moment in history, it starts with responsibility. As Guyanese, we highly value education, and that bodes well, as our country seeks to capitalise on its oil and gas largesse and finally build a nation that all Guyanese have hoped for since Independence in 1966.
An encouraging development along these lines is the recent announcement by our PPP/C Government that 20,000 online scholarships are on offer to prepare Guyanese for the energy sector. The training is intended to be very practical, tied to industry, and aimed at local human capital development, since petroleum-related jobs are presently staffed by foreigners. Scholarship recipients have a choice of more than 80 programmes offered via GOAL (Guyana Online Academy of Learning), including the University of the West Indies.
With ExxonMobil indicating it would establish training facilities in Guyana, one should hope that other energy companies engaged in Guyana’s energy sector – such as BP, Total, Shell – would also come forward and support human capital development in our country, whether it be for their specific industrial sector or for other sectors.
Hess and CNOOC have made a commitment to spend some G$20 billion (US$100 million) over the next ten years to significantly expand capacity-building efforts and promote sustainable economic development in Guyana. Under a new enterprise, called the ‘Greater Guyana Initiative’, the companies would work with several organisations, including the University of Guyana (UG), the Centre for Local Business Development, and Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) institutions.
The ‘Greater Guyana Initiative’ aims primarily to expand ongoing capacity development efforts by supporting education, job training, healthcare and agriculture. It also aims to offer collaborative programmes to develop a diversified workforce and businesses.
At present, our country ‘s workforce skills’ profile and labour market structure are poorly aligned with the needs of the oil sector. As indicated by the World Bank, workers with technical skills that can be employed in the oil sector are currently engaged in construction, transportation, and agro-processing, which are closely linked to agriculture.
The latest projections from the World Bank indicate that the oil sector is expected to create 3,850 direct jobs, and 23,100 indirect ones by 2025, employing 0.7 and 3.9 percent of the workforce respectively. While our PPP/C Government is keen on ensuring significant local content, the job-creating potential of the oil sector is limited by its capital- and skills-intensive nature; and Guyana’s small and undiversified manufacturing base is not capable of producing many of the specific inputs the sector requires.
Guyana’s human capital and workforce development are required for a productive, efficient and high-quality oil and gas sector. The same is required for the non-energy sectors, where as a country we have the potential to compete in global and regional markets. However, one should note that there is the risk of pulling away high skilled human capital from other important sectors before training can catch up. However, our PPP/C Government must continue to intensify our educational infrastructure — primary, secondary, tertiary and vocational-technical – for the skills development required for a competitive 21st century workforce, allowing all Guyanese to position themself in the non-resource sectors to take advantage of the huge economic growth trajectory that is destined for Guyana.
As Guyanese, we all need to ride the wave of higher value-added service industries, such as business process outsourcing, IT and software design, communications/media,
hospitality and tourism, renewable energy and the commercialisation of agriculture and natural resources. These all have great potential. Even light manufacturing, such as wood-based home accessories, provided small producers can form a cooperative to produce the volume and scale necessary to compete effectively.
The blessing of oil in our dear Guyana also comes with a curse, namely the invariable overreliance on that commodity for economic growth. We have a great opportunity to establish the true relationship between education and the increased levels of economic growth in the future, as outlined by the by PPP/C Government.

David Adams