WHEN the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government assumed office in August 2020, efforts were made to establish a Diaspora and Remigration Unit within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
Over the past few months, the operations of this unit, headed by Rosalinda Rasul, were geared at fostering collaboration with the diaspora in the areas of trade and investment, philanthropy, tourism, youth engagement, attraction of skill and remigration, as well as streamlining the contributions and resources of the diaspora to effectively aid Guyana’s development agenda.
In the 2021 National Budget, nearly $50 million was allocated to advance diaspora engagement efforts and possibly streamline remigration.
In May, the government hosted a notable Diaspora Conference with the aim of highlighting and discussing the needs and concerns of Guyanese living overseas. The virtual conference was attended by Guyanese residing in all parts of the world who were afforded the opportunity of engaging several ministers of government.
In his keynote address to the forum, President, Dr. Irfaan Ali, recognised that the Guyanese diaspora has an important role to play in the overall development of Guyana.
He outlined five areas upon which Guyana’s development is premised and those included: integration, identity, investment, influence and information.
And in each of these areas, he posited that there is scope for diasporic inclusion since Guyanese abroad have been able to qualify and establish themselves. 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 Guyana’s development, according to the President, include the agriculture sector, environmental stewardship, ecotourism, logistics, value-added industries and industrial development, generally.
Importantly, he underscored that Guyana was 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. He emphasised that Guyana also plans to become the regional leader in food sustainability and food production and a net exporter of food. As the country pursues its massive development agenda, Dr. Ali said that the input of overseas-based Guyanese will become even more important.
The President has repeatedly insisted that “Guyana is open for business,” and that the PPP/C government has been working assiduously to ensure that the return of Guyanese from the diaspora is adequately accommodated. He also referenced the burgeoning oil and gas industry, and the fact that the country is on the path to incredible transformation.
“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 told those who attended the virtual Diaspora Conference.
The conference also saw the participation of key ministries and agencies such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation; Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce; Ministry of Housing and Water; the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) and the Guyana Office for Investment (Go-Invest).
It was related that after the conference in May, efforts would be made to ensure that follow-up engagements are held to keep track of the decisions taken and the initiatives promised.
It was previously reported that both the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hugh Todd, and Foreign Secretary, Robert Persaud, had recommitted the government’s intention to resuscitate the ‘re-migrant scheme.’ Already, efforts are underway to develop a system which is believed to be instrumental in making remigration easier and reducing the level of uncertainty surrounding the process of returning to Guyana. Part of that system includes the establishment of a “Diaspora Desk” at the Consulate in New York, which is said to have been yielding positive results for Guyana. The desk is being manned by an officer in the U.S. Aside from encouraging potential investments, President Ali had also emphasised the importance of instituting systems that can facilitate a thriving economic environment. This, according to Dr. Ali, is heavily reliant on the government’s efforts to increase the ease and convenience of doing business in Guyana.