In search of skills

Stabroek News
June 26, 2001

Guyana is in need of a variety of skills. Dr Kenneth King reminded us of this in his column [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] in Sunday Stabroek (24.6.200l) on the National Development Strategy (NDS) captioned "Constraints to the development of Guyana" where he wrote "Fifth, Guyana does not possess a critical mass of professionals, specialists, crafts-persons and entrepreneurs in virtually any sector of its economy. The problem is particularly severe in respect of teachers of all grades of training and education, scientists, technologists and information technology experts. The country is particularly short, also, of policy analysts and personnel with the capacity to negotiate agreements with the multi-nationals and other financiers".

How will we find these people? The NDS has various ideas on this. We wish to consider one possibility here. Guyana should develop a positive immigration policy whereby people with skills that are needed are encouraged to come and settle here. This would be in addition to any programme that seeks to encourage overseas Guyanese to come back home. Positive immigration policies are not new. Australia had one, Canada has one. Moreover, the United States has recently been considering encouraging information technology systems experts from India to go the USA and has been looking for teachers and nurses in the Caribbean. In other words, even the most developed countries look for scarce skills to develop their economy and society.

Take for example this extract from the Overview in the Guide for Independent Applicants put out by the Canadian Immigration Department: "Canada welcomes individuals seeking new opportunities and challenges. Immigration has given Canada greater strength through the attraction of diversely talented people. Canada selects these individuals for their potential to establish successfully and their ability to contribute to Canada's social and economic well-being".

The guide goes on to give an idea of the specific skills, experience and personal qualifications being sought and then shows how points are awarded according to age (maximum l0 points), education (max l6), occupation (max l0), education/training factor (max l8), arranged employment - a guaranteed job offer where no suitable Canadian is available in that region (max l0), work experience (max 8), language ability in English and French (max l5), demographic factor (max 8) and close relative in Canada (max 5). Each category gives a further breakdown of how the points are assessed.

Guyana should urgently consider doing something like this. To avoid it becoming a political problem the task could be assigned to a new committee set up under the dialogue process. This is the sort of new initiative needed to get things moving. Most informed observers believe that the lack of skilled and experienced human resources is the greatest bottleneck to rapid development. Waiting for our beleaguered educational system to deal with this is not a viable solution.