Some structured process is needed for diaspora to return

Dear Editor,

I refer to the article titled, ‘More policies, systems needed for diaspora to return’ (SN, July 27).

First, I see UG’s ‘Dreaming Diaspora Engagement, Doing Diaspora Engagement’ as timely and constructive.  It could go a significant way to reverse some of the negatives and regrets long associated with diaspora members’ interests to return and contribute, if not give outright.

Second, there is complete agreement with SN’s title of the article referenced, and the related content and thrust.  From my own experience and perspective, at the very least, some structured process is urgently needed, if only to capitalize on the resources brought to the table by the global Guyanese diaspora.  It can only redound to the benefit of this society, if the way is found to attract and maintain the enthusiasms of the potential and actual homecoming, which all too often have deteriorated into disgust and the distance of resignation.  These are human oil wells untapped and going to waste; nothing could be more counterintuitive or retarded.

Third, from my own hard learning, government was largely silent and largely absent.  There was some helpful information, but a guiding programme and welcoming hands were just not there.  In retrospect that was for the better as, in spite of, (or because of) the obstacles, I still had the interest and zeal to relearn firsthand lots of things about the official culture and temperature, and the prevailing wider environment.  This I did on my own and made mistakes along the way, but I persevered.  I know of some overseas and others who actually came back, who just threw up their hands and gave up.  In many instances, re-assimilation was not necessary, but re-acculturation would have helped to smooth the path.

Fourth, form and platform (the policies and systems called for) must be uniform, and can realize several sorely needed benefits, such as: a) enable incremental erosion of embedded native resentments and resistance; b) encourage genuinely patriotic Guyanese who seek to be here and make a contribution; c) welcome scarce skills and capital; and d) separate sheep from goats, as in vigilance in screening for source of funds and who is really real.

In terms of the latter, this country has had more than its fair share of arrivals with history (not disclosed); baggage (not checked); and visions (not declared), and which palpably paralyzes it to some degree.  In the light of ever-broadening and overhanging anti-money laundering standards (in some ways the new imperialism), there has to be safeguards in place to protect citizens and the nation from the mountebanks who are sure to seek shelter in the throng.

Fifth, the policies and systems rightly called for must come to represent a single umbrella, one-stop, turnkey approach and solution to the expectations of a very viable diaspora community.  This, of necessity, must compress and merge the multi-step process of Foreign Affairs, the GRA, personal requirements, business and/or investment requirements, and official requirements into a seamless on-the-move activity that welcomes instead of frustrates.  This starts with knowledgeable and dedicated people in the right place, information availability that combine in a process flow that produces satisfactory timely results.  This nightmare of scrambling from New Garden Street (Foreign Affairs and back) to Camp Street (GRA and back) to Lombard Street (wharf and GRA and back) to Avenue of the Republic (registry and back), among other stops must be minimized, if not eliminated altogether and replaced by something much more efficient.  ‘Back’ should be pluralized to emphasize the multiple circuits of travel that have to be lived.  I should know.

Sixth, the top and bottom lines in this matter are the same, and they are these: this society urgently needs serious infusions from local outsiders and all that they bring that is above board.  And there are those out yonder who have a burning desire to come back here and do their share in a manner that is personally rewarding.  I know that too, despite the occasional setbacks and twinges of disappointment.

Seventh, much of the diaspora’s concerns can be encapsulated in two words: time and movement.  Time is a precious commodity to most of them, and bureaucratic bottlenecks can bring out the worst in them.  They can be impatient to the point of contemptuous arrogance.  I, too, am tempted sometimes.  They will not be as accommodating or polite as a pivotal senior minister who was subjected to what can only be described as now entrenched cultural disrespect.  According to the story making the rounds in town, many high level bureaucrats waltzed into a meeting with said minister at different times past the appointed time.  It is my understanding that more than a few had neither the upbringing nor decency nor standard to even offer so much as a muffled apology.  The furious minister berated them publicly.  I would have thrown them out on their sorry heads.  This kind of casual, don’t-give-a-damn attitude will inflame those from the outside.  It can cost this country when word of that gets around; and it does.  Time is always of the essence, and can be a difference maker.

Thus, I say it is time to get the domestic ship in order through the right planks and people.  Only then can there be reaching to greet the foreigners ready to bring strong and honest presences.

Yours faithfully,

GHK Lall

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