Diaspora policy closer – Harmon

With support from international organisations, a sub-committee comprising ministers of government and input from the diaspora itself, the formulation of a Diaspora Engagement Policy is near, government announced yesterday.

“What we hope to do is to be able to prepare a strategy which allows them to remain wherever they are and to be able to access information, to get decisions from government entities and agencies by just the click of a button on a computer,” Minister of State Joseph Harmon said at a post-Cabinet press conference. “That is the direction in which we are moving,” he added.

He said Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge had updated Cabinet last Tuesday on the formulation of a Diaspora Engagement Strategy and other works being undertaken by his ministry on diaspora engagement.

“It will be recalled that this is an area which when we came into office, the government decided that they were going to put additional efforts into ensuring that the ease of doing business in Guyana, with our Guyanese in the Diaspora, was made much easier,” he said. “So over the last couple of months, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs engaged with several international agencies, including the International Organization on Migration [IOM] on studying this issue, as to how best we can design a diaspora engagement policy.

The preliminary work has been done, a report has been laid and the Cabinet has agreed that a sub -committee comprising the ministers of Foreign Affairs, Public Security, State, Finance, Business and Citizenship was to be appointed to examine proposals and to make sure that Cabinet gets a final decision on this matter. We believe that it is important enough to ensure that our Guyanese in the diaspora have a specific point of reference on all of these issues,” he further said.

He added that at present the point of reference is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through the various local consulates, high commissions and embassies abroad.

Greenidge, shortly after assuming office in 2015, had explained that the groundwork was being prepared for a diaspora project targeting ten entrepreneurs, initially, as part of a bigger project.

Greenidge had also pointed out that IOM, a United Nations agency, was about to hire a consultant to work along with the 10 entrepreneurs to get the investment component of the project going.

The consultant, he said, would assist Guyana in crafting a Diaspora Engagement Strategy.

Started under the previous administration, the Guyana Diaspora project seeks to “contribute to the economic development of Guyana through the support and engagement of the Guyanese Diaspora.”

Additionally, at the opening of a Buxton petrol station last month, which is owned by an overseas-based Guyanese couple, President David Granger had also charged the diaspora to invest in their home country as the benefits from those investments could be significant in the country’s development.

“I love the diaspora. I have great respect for the diaspora. Particularly, I launched my campaign in the diaspora and I am always grateful for what they did then and the confidence that they showed in me. The diaspora possesses capital, they possess tremendous experience and they have tremendous determination… I feel that those persons in the diaspora should continue to see themselves as Guyanese, as Morris and Jocelyn did and invest.

Bring their talent, bring their treasure, and bring their expertise. We need capital to develop Guyana. We have the land, we have the labour and we ask the members of the diaspora to do more than talk and write but put their money where their mouth is like the Wilsons. If you love Guyana invest in Guyana,” the President asserted.

This was in a seeming response to persons in the diaspora who had written to newspapers here and subsequently petitioned him to have several demands met.

A letter from Asquith Rose, a member of the USA Diaspora, had bemoaned the treatment the APNU+AFC government had meted out to the diaspora community.

“Not only has the government mistreated the masses in the diaspora, it has not established a Diaspora Department, or a Commission, or appointed a Member of Parliament from the diaspora, or provided the jobs or consultancy positions he had promised during the elections. In fact, there is absolutely no proper communication between the grassroots members of the diaspora and the government,” the letter had stated.

The President, in his Buxton address, had stressed, “Make sure every child goes to school. Encourage the diaspora to invest in their communities… When they want to send a petition next time, tell them to send a petition for a factory or a farm. Tell them I say so.” “Our Guyanese diaspora, if they turned around and supported our local commodities, would be able to make a meaningful contribution in that niche market in those places where they live,” he added.

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