It has always been a policy position of the Government of Guyana that Guyanese residing in the diaspora should be encouraged to return home eventually, to resettle, to invest or both. That policy-based position, however, has not, over the years, been buttressed by a sufficiently clear and efficient articulation and implementation.
One of the main problems here is that, frequently, the documented re-migration procedures, directives and entitlements have either been miscommunicated or misdirected or have even become ensnared in anomalous situations and questionable third party interventions that often appear designed to circumvent the regulations.
Then again, it does not appear that over the years the issue of remigration and diaspora investment has been deemed sufficiently important to cause these considerations to fall under a single one-stop agency so that, over time, the ‘run around’ factor has been identified as one of the critical disincentives for those Guyanese residing abroad who want to either re-settle or invest (or both), issues that have to do with duty-free entitlements and the attendant concessions being among the major areas of miscommunication and controversy.
The other point that should be made at this juncture is that the ‘noises’ regarding the role of our diplomatic and consular missions in ‘prepping’ prospective re-migrants and potential diaspora investors has historically been seriously neglected and it is this, frequently, that accounts for the fact that re-migration and investment issues become mired in sometimes unforeseen red tape and controversy, very often, only after the individual (or family) is literally on the ground in Guyana.
Accordingly, while the recent pronouncement in New York by Minister of State Joseph Harmon that Guyana welcomes both re-migrants and prospective investors from the diaspora is nothing new, what it does as well is to remind that if there is to be meaningful follow-through on these calls, the barriers that continue to retard the full effectiveness of the process will have to be removed, once and for all.
One makes this point mindful of the fact that the recent echoing of the remigration clarion call by Minister Harmon comes at a time when what now seems to be the imminent commencement of the exploitation of the country’s oil resources and the attendant greater access to resources for financing more expansive development initiatives, more investment opportunities are likely to be created and more skills needed. Such opportunities already exist in the agriculture and agro-processing sectors as well as in the wider manufacturing and science and technology sectors in areas like clean energy, STEM technology, construction and various other types of serious infrastructure development.
At this particular juncture it is important that we end the practice of getting ahead of ourselves as far as the issues of re-migration and diaspora investment are concerned. Remigration and investment calls, while seeking to stir a sense of patriotism, have to be ‘marketed’ alongside rules and regulations that reassure and which provide clearly defined pathways to follow for people who are, in effect, making life-changing decisions. We must make no mistake about it. The disposition of prospective re-migrants/ investors to returning home, investing in Guyana, or both, are going to be coloured by, among other things, the assurances they receive (or not receive, as the case may be) with regard to the fulfilment of their legitimate expectations, whether these have to do with the quality of their lives as returning Guyanese or the security and worthwhileness of their investments.
Perhaps we have arrived at a juncture where, in much the same way that countries invest heavily in marketing what they believe are worthwhile products and services externally, so too must Guyana aggressively ‘market’ remigration and investment among Guyanese in the diaspora. The challenge, of course, inheres in the creation of an enabling environment that will attract both.
If there is a role for what one might call the ‘clarion call’ approach of appealing to the patriotism in overseas-based Guyanese, that alone is not enough. As has already been mentioned, people who are being asked to make significant and often life-changing decisions are entitled to expect to be accorded the assurances of an amiable environment. That axiom should inform the seriousness of our policies on remigration and diaspora investment.