Guyana’s oil find seems to be the main topic dominating the news these days and rightly so. It is representative of a big economic break for our country and quite frankly a chance to streamline things ethically for the most part without being held ransom by nepotism which continues to fuel our increasing disparity. 

Whether it is disapproval over how monies will be spent, a supposed raw deal or the anticipation surrounding how people can capitalize on it, the interest on how oil will be beneficial for all, socially and economically can be seen across the board. I am sure many people are wondering what next.

It can be overwhelming when you look at the majestic looking offshore oil platforms. For most, not being directly linked to such industries, access to immediate economic benefits by way of jobs can seem like a long shot to share in the glory, especially if individual skill sets can’t be matched to any of the needs of the industry.

Whilst I was living in Guyana, I reflected on a lot of my trips to Trinidad to visit the Caribbean Academy of Fashion and Design, which also happened to be a by-product of that country’s oil money. As oil comes and go Trinidad and Tobago looked to develop industries that could sustain economic growth. I suspect they wanted to become the next production hub for fashion. It was a bold move. The school started out with mainly fashion design courses employing the best globally inclusive of fashion lecturers from Parsons (the Oxford University’s equivalent in fashion education) and industry veterans to develop the school’s curriculum and prestige.

On my last visit to the school to observe the graduate thesis collections, I had seen a complete 360 in terms of standards. The school became unsustainable. I suspect there was failure to understand the financial effort it takes to lift such an industry off. There was an underestimation of the wait time for return on investment. As budgets were slashed, graduates with no experience were teaching, the industry veterans had left, and new young designers were left with no navigation on how to move forward with their newfound skills. Very often when we look at fashion we fixate on the designer and hardly ever the production, marketing, logistics, raw material sourcing aspect of things.

Trinidad craved developing a fashion industry so bad it overlooked some of the most pivotal aspects of what it takes to develop an industry. Their half-settled industry which continues to stand on shaky ground should be a lesson on how we need to actually examine and lobby for the things we want. We may not all benefit immediately and directly from the oil money, but we should reflect on active citizenship to ensure we can sustain ourselves in the future and to ensure future oil-money-developed industries can sustain themselves. Benefits can’t be granted overnight, but they can be granted with steady effort and dedication.

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