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A cursory glance, even by the uninitiated, will reveal that Guyana, with a population of fewer than one million citizens and laden with a plethora of natural resources, ought to have transformed this tiny country, of 83,000 square miles, into an authentic “Little Dubai” as is loosely coined by our political administrators.
Indeed, over the past three years, human development has not coincided with the unprecedented economic growth experienced in Guyana yet, on a daily basis one can hear the utterances of many citizens that “Guyana is not a real place.” They are merely expressing horror over the lopsided policies of the government that redounds negatively on a vast majority of our citizens.
This small country is consumed by big problems, both social and political, including prostitution, drug trafficking, violent crimes, domestic violence, corruption, poor delivery of public services, and poor governance among others. The myriad of issues has inflicted immeasurable pain on the masses, whilst the ruling cabal uses illusory tactics to convince the citizenry that their interests are well represented. Notwithstanding, an analysis of available data and outcomes of policies, programmes, and projects will unearth a plethora of ineffective initiatives which have failed miserably to ameliorate the social and economic woes of the masses, more specifically those among the proletariat.
While pondering on the status quo, I perused the data of the last available Guyana Labour Survey Report (November 2021). The document depicts a labour force participation rate of 49.6%, an overall unemployment rate of 14.5%, and the youth unemployment rate of 31.9%, all endorsed by the World Bank. Such an assessment was guided by the ILO unemployment model which estimated Guyana’s unemployment rate in 2021 at 16.4%, slightly above the Labour Survey Report in November 2021.
Economic experts have surmised that an increased GDP would have precipitated the diversification of the economy, an increase in disposable income, and bolstered the employment rate and retention of the local labour force. Arguably, one of the most important determinants of employment is sustainable economic growth which naturally will coincide with a high employment rate. Unfortunately, and contrary to the boasts of government economists, the nation is yet to meaningfully experience the benefits of significant economic growth. The evidence is clear; during high peak periods, youth unemployment is usually at its lowest.
Undoubtedly, there is a reasonably high demand for all categories of workers, but it appears as though those citizens relegated to an unemployment status are ill-equipped to fill the available vacancies. It is indeed regrettable that there is no discernible effort to address this anomaly. Obviously, an intensive training drive can equip citizens for the immense challenges associated with these jobs. It is indeed appalling that government officials seem to have deliberately ignored the plight of its citizens and opted for imported labour thus magnifying the issue of unemployment of legitimate citizens.
Robert Persaud has been designated Foreign Secretary, within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and judging from the influx of foreign nationals into our workforce one wonders if the esteemed government official has misinterpreted his functions to benefit ‘foreigners.’
It was he while speaking at a diaspora forum in Trinidad in March 2022, pronounced that Guyana is urgently in need of 100,000 workers. He encouraged Guyanese living in the Twin Island Republic to return to their homeland to fill the employment void. However, Mr. Persaud is yet to outline a viable government strategy to combat the current state of unemployment and underemployment right under his nose, here in Guyana.
The employment status and conditions of employment will obviously redound on citizens’ income and socioeconomic well-being. Presently, the inadequate wage structures are impacting negatively on the family budget. The concomitant result is the inheritance of poverty-stricken neighborhoods devoid of adequate social services and riddled with social ills.
The politicians are boasting that the economy when compared to other economies in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region, has recorded outstanding growth during the past year. Contrastingly, a recent study by the World Bank has found that approximately 48 percent of our citizens live in abject poverty, surviving on less than US$5.5 or $1,000 per day (GYD). Conversely, the Food and Agriculture Organization, a United Nations-affiliated agency, concludes that around five percent of Guyana’s population is undernourished and a further 43% cannot afford a healthy diet. A cursory observation of the third quarter Labour Survey Report of 2021 indicates no less than seventy-five percent of the GDP is controlled by eight percent of the business entities. This situation has caused many economic gurus to contend that the Gini coefficient (measure intends to represent income inequality within a nation) has moved southbound since it was last recorded at 55.5 in 1998.
Notwithstanding, the noted inequality can be addressed through decent pay structures. It is therefore incumbent upon the central government to provide the necessary training that prepares its citizens for current and future jobs. Guyanese must be given priority for all jobs, providing that they are qualified and it is a reasonable expectation that employers support the government’s efforts in building a competent and highly efficient workforce.
In relation to human development, the central government needs to revisit current initiatives in the education, health, and social services sectors, bringing them on par with international expectations. Too many of our children are performing poorly at school, our healthcare system can barely address the needs of our citizens, and social services agencies are woefully deficient in addressing the needs of the vulnerable. These problems are indicative of decrepit and dysfunctional systems that must be rectified soonest.
Additionally, the physiological and safety needs of citizens must be addressed to enable Guyanese subjects to adequately satisfy their civil obligations while attaining the requirements within a functional nuclear family setting. Obviously, these needs are met through employment and the effective provision of public goods and services by the state and once attained, the citizen ought to be positioned to raise a functional family, boast his self-esteem and attain his/her true potential.
As the nation bash in oil, the economy grows and many label Guyana as the Dubai of South America. While such a rosy depiction graces national and international media organs as well as social media, droves of citizens are living in abject poverty and can ill afford three meals much less pay their bills.
Naturally, one may query the solution/s to this quandary. Admittedly, it presents challenges but even so, the logical solution rests in good governance, and improved industrial relations, supported by effective and efficient delivery of public goods and services. Then and only then can Guyanese nationals boast of experiencing the large scaled prosperity of little Dubai.