‘Getting it right’
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President Dr. Irfaan Ali
President Dr. Irfaan Ali

– engagement with diaspora necessary for Guyana’s transformation, says Pres. Ali
– incentives, opportunities abound for Guyanese living abroad

AS Guyana seeks to realise its transformative agenda and improve the lives and livelihoods of all Guyanese, President Dr. Irfaan Ali, underscored that members of the diaspora must be integrated in developmental planning efforts so that their knowledge, skills, resources and unique view of the global environment can be leveraged.

While providing the keynote address at the inaugural virtual diaspora engagement conference, held on Saturday, President Ali underscored that members of the diaspora have been integral in Guyana’s development over the years. He made specific mention of how their remittances (money sent as payments or gifts) have contributed to people’s wellbeing over the years.

Now, however, as Guyana seeks to advance developmental efforts, he said that the diaspora must be engaged so that members can aid in the country’s advancement. As such, he explained that the inaugural conference was aimed at outlining the government’s development plans and opportunities for diasporic investment and engagement, but also to garner feedback from the Guyanese abroad on how suitable, sustainable partnerships can be forged.

One of the breakout sessions during the virtual diaspora engagement conference on Saturday (DPI photo)

“We have to get this right from the start. We have to ensure that we are on the same page,” the President underscored.

He outlined five areas upon which Guyana’s development is premised; these include: integration, identity, investment, influence and information. And in each of these areas, he posited that there is scope for diasporic inclusion since Guyanese aboard have been able to qualify and establish themselves.

“As we navigate into the future, we would like the hands of the diaspora to be a key element in the new Guyana that would bring with it great opportunities and great prosperity,” he said, later adding: “But more important than the prosperity is that the diaspora has engaged in a different environment globally and we expect you to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.”

Looking ahead, the President informed the hundreds of individuals in attendance that Guyana will be pursuing a number of avenues to advance its development. Importantly, he said that focus will not be confined to the burgeoning oil and gas sector, though the country is set to accumulate significant revenues from this sector.

Some of the avenues that will help to springboard, according to the President, include the agricultural sector, environmental stewardship, ecotourism, logistics, value-added industries and industrial development, generally.

Importantly, he underscored that Guyana is hoping to become the focal point for energy and transport and logistics, through the creation of an energy mix and by being the hub for transport into the northern states of Brazil and into Suriname and French Guiana. Additionally, he emphasised that Guyana plans to become the regional leader in food sustainability and food production and a net exporter of food.

“The excitement is not only about oil and gas. Yes, oil and gas will give us a massive push but we are planning much much bigger than oil and gas,” President Ali assured the members of the diaspora.

Economic development aside, the President also highlighted that concerted efforts will be made to improve the services accessed by all Guyanese.

“What we want to achieve is not only prosperity for the people in an economic and monetary way but for us to leave lasting prosperity, we have to have social development and advancement, political development and advancement and indeed, economic advancement and development,” he said.

As such, he stressed that Guyanese must benefit from world class education and health systems and that there must be adequate social safety nets incorporated in developmental efforts to ensure that all sections of society can move forward.

The creation of these world class services is not, however, limited to access by Guyanese living in Guyana. In fact, the President noted that plans are in place to facilitate investment that would ensure that healthcare services, including specialised healthcare, are offered to members of the diaspora.

“The [members of the] private sector are already engaging in investment to meet your needs and it is true that this is happening in many other sectors too because we anticipate a high level of remigration,” the President highlighted.

Ministers of Cabinet, officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation and other stakeholders listen to President, Dr. Irfaan Ali, make his keynote address at the inaugural diaspora engagement conference (DPI Photo)

The Head-of-State also related that improving the education, infrastructure and security sectors have been a keen focus of the government too, cognisant that the state of these sectors will influence remigration. Additionally, he indicated that there are many areas through which members of the diaspora can invest in.

Previously, this newspaper reported that the Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Oneidge Walrond, stated that the government would be providing business incentives and land to members of the diaspora who invest in Guyana.

Additionally, it was reported that Foreign Secretary, Robert Persaud, highlighted that the government, through the resuscitated ‘remigrant scheme,’ has started to develop a system to make re-migration easier and to reduce the level of uncertainty surrounding the process of returning to Guyana.

Meanwhile, at the diaspora conference, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Hugh Todd, indicated that the government is mindful of the “lasting impact” that the contributions of the diaspora can have on the development of Guyana.

“The diaspora has a key role to play in ensuring that Guyana can take advantage of the opportunities presented to it,” Minister Todd said, highlighting that Guyana is pursuing a path of unprecedented development.

But the Foreign Affairs Minister pointed out that diasporic contributions to Guyana’s development is not limited to direct investment in business opportunities. In fact, he noted the members of the diaspora can contribute to Guyana’s development.

Members of the diaspora can also play a vital role in Guyana’s development through philanthropy, mentoring, transferring skills and technologies and also, advocating for Guyana’s development while abroad.

The one-day conference is expected to kickstart the series of structured engagements that will be had with members of the Guyanese diaspora. The feedback garnered is also expected to help guide the work of the Foreign Ministry’s recently established Diaspora Unit, which is headed by Rosalinda Rasul.

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