By Kurt Campbell
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in collaboration with the International Organization of Migration (IOM) has embarked on a project to specifically tackle young Guyanese living abroad with the aim of developing their interest to support the development of Guyana through a willingness to share their skills, knowledge and experiences.
Foreign Secretary, Robert Persaud, has described the project as innovative, explaining that it authorises those involved to go directly after the second and third generation of Guyanese living in the diaspora with the hope of convincing them to return home “to serve, to volunteer, work with the government and private sectors, civil society, Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and groups in need of support.”
Some $38 million has been made available for this specific initiative.
“This is a crucial element because we don’t want to lose the 2nd and 3rd generation of Guyanese living overseas and them losing in interest and missing out on the opportunity here,” Persaud told the News Room during an engagement at his South Road, Georgetown office on Thursday.
He was quick to caution that these efforts were in no way intended to give preferential access and opportunities to persons living abroad at the disadvantage of persons living in Guyana.
“I want to make it absolutely clear that our emphasis on the diaspora is not to the disadvantage of persons who have lived here, worked and study here and perhaps made the sacrifice of staying on because sometimes I think people see it as a competition. It is not.
“For us, it is about how we can complement the progress we are making, as it were, to further support the government’s vision and developmental drive; the President’s own efforts to transform the country. So it is utilising the resource out there and see what we can attract to support what we have here. So it is not taking away opportunities from persons where. I want to make that absolutely clear,” he assured.
A 2020 analysis of the Guyanese diaspora done by Washington based Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has found that as a consequence of steady emigration, only about half of Guyanese now live within the borders of Guyana, with the remainder scattered in diaspora communities across the globe.
The analysis found that Guyana’s emigration rate is one of the highest in the world, numbering about 30,000 annually, a sizable portion for a country with a total population that has never reached one million.
To stem this, the People’s Progressive Party government has been keen in its efforts to not only stem migration but to go after Guyanese living abroad to have them return home.
Commenting on the fruits of these efforts, Persaud said the response from the Guyanese diaspora to return home has been positive.
“There is a keen interest in persons coming home,” he said, explaining that the remigration scheme has now been streamlined to ensure efficiency.
While noting that there has also been an increase in the movement of persons to relocate to Guyana, Persaud promised statistics before the end of the year.
“There have been persons returning from North America, from the Caribbean and neighbouring countries, Venezuela and Suriname.
“Traditionally when we talk about remigration, we think about North America and Europe but we see it right here in the region,” he added.
As part of enhancing its plans of engaging and involving the Diaspora to support its national development priorities, the government has reintegrated diaspora and re-migration matters into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
A new unit was set up as part of enhancing the government’s plans of engaging and involving the Diaspora to support its national development priorities, allowing for an enhanced, sustained, and coordinated engagement with all Guyanese abroad.
The Diaspora Unit is now staffed ad will be headed by the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Transport and Harbours Department, Rosalinda Rasul. She will be supported in her duties of leading the government’s diaspora engagement activities by Foreign Service Staff and former Head of the Consular Section of Guyana’s Embassy in Belgium, Leroy Adolphus.
The ministry has said it is focused on better harnessing the expertise, talent, and investment potential within the global Guyanese community.