Overhaul of foreign policy, utilising diaspora on agenda –Foreign Affairs Minister
THERE will be a major overhaul of Guyana’s foreign policy. This was the conclusion drawn from the Guyana Chronicle’s recent interview with Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge, during which he laid out his plans for this country’s future. That future, according to the minister, will involve utilising Guyanese living abroad. Minister Greenidge, who recently assumed office, told this publication that a Foreign Policy Advisory Group will be established to deliberate on the mandate for his ministry with regard to the agency’s foreign policy. “It takes time to get there, and that is what we are in the process of doing. We have put together the Foreign Policy Advisory Group, and that group has started.”
The names of persons within that group remain unclear, but Greenidge expressed full confidence that the soon-to-be-convened body represents “our most informed persons in the area of foreign relations, both in Government service, and in civil society.” He said too that the terms of reference and parameters are yet to be announced.
That group is guided, according to the Foreign Minister, by a clear vision. “As is usual with all of these things, you have an idea, a vision of where you want to get. You craft it, but when you get in office, you now have to anchor that vision in the specific circumstances,” he added.
Furthering on the role of the Foreign Policy Advisory Group, Minister Greenidge said the body “is going to be a forum in which foreign policy is chewed over, developed, and refined.” He said this while cautioning against speculation on what the mandate of the advisory group will be, since new ideas tend to surface when structures are set in motion.
“You’ve got to explore many fronts, but start off by recognising where you are, what is in place, and then you can see how we can move forward,” he added.
The minister remains optimistic that Guyana’s foreign policy will include utilisation of this country’s diaspora. “These people are more than an element of the Guyanese humanity living abroad, they are a basket of resources,” he reasoned.
“You [have to] recognise the role that the diaspora can play and how the foreign policy can be fashioned to take advantage of that, as well as, to create a synergy with those Guyanese groups abroad,” Minister Greenidge explained further.
Greenidge spoke of countries such as Jamaica and Bangladesh, which have large pools of overseas-based nationals that not only capitalise on the technical expertise from these overseas units, but also investments into those countries development.
Delving into his intentions, he noted that the legislative and institutional frameworks have to be set to welcome investments of Guyana’s diaspora into the country’s development. “Guyana’s remittances are very high, but what happens to it?” Greenidge questioned.
He noted that such remittances are often spent on purchasing material items for consumption, rather than for generating greater wealth. The Foreign Minister called for greater investment into housing outside of Georgetown, especially in areas where infrastructural development is lacking.
He noted similar investments could be made in apartments, condominiums, or flats for middle and lower-middle income groups. On this note, the minister called for greater legislative support to protect the assets of Guyanese living in the diaspora, who have chosen to invest in infrastructural development in this country.
In an effort to explain the link between foreign policy and diasporic relations, the minister alluded to the need for ensuring that Guyanese in the diaspora could come home and enjoy the assets they have acquired through investments in Guyana while they lived abroad.
“In terms of putting together the legislation that stops estate agents from doing nonsense with other people’s properties; that stops tenants from abusing a market [while] being in a rented property [and] not paying for it [or] destroying it without any sanctions, we will have provided an opportunity for Guyana to take advantage of its massive diaspora outside.”