• 24 Jun, 2024

Government must build on successful Diaspora Conference and keep momentum going

Government must build on successful Diaspora Conference and keep momentum going

Government must build on successful Diaspora Conference and keep momentum going

The Government’s recent inaugural Disapora Conference under the Ali administration is probably the best effort of any administration to reach out to Guyanese in the Diaspora. The presence and message by President Ali, Vice President Jagdeo, several Ministers and top government officials signals a strong intent that the Government is serious about ongoing engagement with the Diaspora.

The government must keep the momentum going and not disappoint the diverse group of 500+ people in attendance. What do Diasporans want? To start with, the Guyana Diaspora Project Unit (GDP) needs strong, experienced, competent people who can run an updated website and office through which people can contact the GDP. Follow the example of Dr. Vindhya’s Ministry of Human Services and set up some WhatsApp phone numbers across Government agencies to make communication easy. Provide emails for specific key people since the general mailbox seems to be a dead end and no one replies to you. This is a general problem in Government. Some people had physically gone to Guyana and were unable to get appointments to see key officials. Before the elections, Ministers were deliriously accessible and would call you back speedily. After they get in power, they change their numbers and become inaccessible. So, what is somebody to do if he or she calls the general number or email and gets no response? Whom do we call next? This has been a recurring problem in the past that alienates Diasporans, and Guyana loses. Let’s fix this!

Many Diasporans have lamented the sloth and unresponsiveness of Guyana government agencies in the past even when you want to do voluntary projects in education and health, for instance. You want to help the country, you have ideas and want somebody in Government to listen to you; you have equipment, materials, and resources to bring in, and ministry folks simply would not respond to you to make an appointment. The Ministry of Education seems to be notorious for non-response, and I have heard the same about the Ministry of Health. This means the Diaspora Unit must have some brokering function to connect Diasporans with Government agencies and cause things to move quickly, efficiently, and with sensitivity to time. We need an extreme customer service orientation in which “quick response” is an organizational value that drives the work of the unit and all Government agencies. If someone calls and left a message or contacted you by email, call them back ASAP. And keep following up until the person’s project is successful or need is met.

If Ministries are unresponsive, whom do we call? Can there be a mechanism where we can contact the Office of the President, or Minister? Many Diasporans have been disillusioned and “burned” by past experiences that it is easy for them to be skeptical about Government’s intent to engage.

Diasporans do not like the notion of “pay to play,” but “having lines” as in the Burnham days, is still quite alive in Guyana today if you want things to move quickly. Some people in Government agencies like their “tithes and offerings” to keep your paperwork and approvals moving. Diasporans will not put up with that. So as we move forward, Government must shatter these mindsets of corruption and create open transparent systems of efficiency and customer service.

Also, there are many Guyanese who have not returned home to visit as there are concerns about safety and security. The VP’s recent revelations that Government would install more cameras and implement enhanced security measures are welcome news. I am optimistic that the Ali administration would accomplish much success as it rolls out a robust Diasporan engagement plan.

Sincerely,

Dr. Jerry Jailall