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Guyana, now an oil-rich country has attracted the attention of a plethora of business entities across the world, all with ambitions of cashing in on our newfound wealth. Government officials have been heard loosely referring to Guyana as ‘Little Dubai’ apparently unaware that the economy of Dubai represents a per capita gross domestic product, as of 2022, of US$ 46,665. Simply put, government officials must endeavour to supersede such lofty goals if indeed Guyana can be regarded as the ‘Little Dubai’ of the West Indies.
Amidst boasts of blessed oil wealth, Guyanese are battling serious unemployment and underemployment issues. The matter is further compounded when one notes that many of those employed, lack the basic justifiable skills for the labour market that are pivotal to their effective and efficient performances. There is also a paucity of the requisite qualifications for current and emerging labour markets. Even the uninitiated will realize that employment in Guyana is characterized by a skills deficit. There is also some level of reluctance, an unwillingness, or a mixture of both variables, by the government to address the issues, believed to be attributed to a deliberate attempt at economic emaciation, among other ploys.
The unemployment rate for 2021 was registered at 16.43%, a minuscule decline of 0.01% compared to 2020. The rural population represents the vast majority of the total unemployed and this rate appears to be higher for women than men. Instead of implementing a robust and structured plan to grapple with such an unfavourable phenomenon, the Ali/Jagdeo regime has chosen to implement a ten-day worker programme where scores of unemployed, especially in rural communities, are assigned to state institutions and agencies.
Unfortunately, instead of mitigating the problem, this ploy only exacerbated the issue since these workers are not gainfully employed but are merely over-running NDC offices and health centres. Further, there are no structured programmes in place to offer on-the-job training and there are reports that the managers at these institutions and agencies seem to be dissatisfied with the execution of projects in the absence of prior consultation and a structured training programme.
Notwithstanding the acute unemployment and poverty rate, Vice President, Bharrat Jagdeo, boldly proclaimed that the government intends to import labour to meet the current demand. Obviously, the popular idiom, ‘Charity begins at Home’ seems to have been lost on the leaders of the ruling cabal. Government officials are vested with the responsibility of addressing the needs of citizens first and foremost. It is, therefore, unconscionable, cold-hearted, and may even be considered unpatriotic, for the government to declare a labour deficit in the face of acute unemployment amongst our youth population. A caring government will train its citizens for current and future jobs rather than designate them temporary job offers devoid of competent training strategies, security of tenure and superannuation benefits.
It is, therefore, crystal clear that, rather than a concerted plan to grapple with the rising unemployment situation, the ten-day worker programme is merely a diabolic scheme aimed at economic emaciation and a ploy for political control. Government officials ought to know that under this scheme, workers will never attain economic emancipation and are, conversely, subject to the control of political hacks.
There are so many uncertainties in this venture; the recruitment and placement of workers under this scheme are highly subjective and questionable plus the entire human resource function is executed by hardline politicians whose primary aim is to exercise maximum control over the economically emaciated citizenry.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected economic growth at 37.2% for 2023 yet the current regime has failed to come up with a systematic plan to address the unemployment and poverty scourge. It also seems painfully obvious that Government policies are not designed to alleviate the burden and pain of the masses, but rather, a few friends, families and party hacks. Arguably, the policies and programmes of the regime are designed to enrich a small privileged group while humiliating opposition supporters, deceiving feeble minds and dividing the society.
Real human development is attained through the minimization or total eradication of poverty. Naturally, the creation and sustainability of full employment, not piecemeal publicity-related gimmicks, should direct the vision of the politicians with the accomplishment of training unskilled and unqualified workers for current and emerging jobs taking precedence over minuscule, insignificant assignments. Our vulnerable citizens should not be treated as mendicants but in a dignified manner. This obviously demands the implementation of a structured and organized poverty alleviation programme to foster human development towards the restoration of their dignity.