MIRAMAR – The Guyanese Diaspora community participating in an oil and gas forum in Miramar on Wednesday has identified the urgent need for modernization of Guyana’s social services. This Includes public health care, education, and law enforcement along with the country’s physical infrastructure.
Some participants also questioned the sincerity of successive governments to seriously live up to their declared commitment to utilizing the skills and expertise that can be drawn from Guyana’s Diaspora population while others raised questions about global oil giant ExxonMobil’s commitment to complying to all the terms of its agreement with the Guyana government, particularly the terms regarding environmental and health safety.
The forum, put on by the Guyanese American Chamber of Commerce (GACC) in conjunction with the Guyana Business Journal (GBJ) and the Caribbean Policy Consortium (CPC). It featured several key presentations on two panels which addressed the Pathways to Guyana’s Future Prosperity in the Era of Oil and Gas. The forum provided participants an opportunity to contribute their ideas about how best the financial resources derived from this emerging sector could best be spent.
One panelist, Joel Bhagwandin pointed to the current social services infrastructure deficit which must be addressed especially to ensure that the necessary economic transformation to improve the quality of life of the Guyanese people is realized.
Modern Health Care
Participants from the floor in their comments and questions pointed to the need for the country to have modern and efficient health care services, a professional police force to effectively fight rising crime and an overhaul of the education curriculum to make it more responsive the needs that drive economic transformation.
Improve Information Technology
Another of Bhagwandin’s recommendations that Information Technology be utilized to digitize access to efficient public services thereby providing for easy and speedy access to pertinent documentation such as permits, passports and birth certificates, was also endorsed by participants in the forum.
Climate change and the environment was also featured largely during the discussion with concern being raised about the future of the capital city Georgetown, given its vulnerability to flooding and future sea level rise.
Former University of Guyana Vice-Chancellor Professor Ivelaw Griffith in his presentation pointed to the urgent need for planning for adaptation to climate change. Plus, serious consideration to moving the capital, failing which all the gains from the oil and gas sector would be consumed if there was to be major breakage in the country’s sea defense.
“The forum proved an opening to substantive conversation in which the people of Guyana must be engaged in order to achieve the harmony and cohesion necessary to unlock the real value of the oil and gas sector,” said Dr. Terrence Blackman, founder of the Guyana Business Journal.
The forum was declared open by Mayor of the City of Miramar Wayne Messam and heard presentations from former Guyana Foreign Minister Carl Greenidge, ExxonMobil’s Director of International Government Affairs Craig Kelly and Professor Jerry Haar of Florida International University (FIU), among others.
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