Skills, not sycophancy

Stabroek News
July 25, 1999

The recruiters from Botswana are back, it seems. This time they have extended their sights to include engineers of one sort or another, surveyors, meteorologists, economists, systems analysts and other technical personnel. It may be, however, that on this occasion they will discover the limitations of what this country has to offer in terms of skills; Guyana itself is desperately in need of some of the very same personnel which they are in search of.

Be that as it may, they are, on the face of it, offering a tempting package, which is not just limited to good remuneration. According to the recruitment advertisement, Botswana, a stable democracy, has quality schools, well-equipped private and public hospitals, a modest cost of living and a healthy, relatively crime-free environment. How on earth, one wonders, can Guyana ever hope to compete? A relatively crime-free environment? Good schools and well-equipped public hospitals? When did we last know about those things in this country?

This is an open society and we cannot force qualified people to stay. For endless years we have been hearing from the powers-that-be that skilled persons should remain and develop their homeland, but given our low-wage economy, political troubles, collapsed education system and crime-ridden environment that is nothing more than a pipe-dream. If we could pay Botswana rates, then no doubt a lot more of our professionals would be prepared to remain, the other drawbacks notwithstanding. Conversely, there will even be some who would stay if their children could be guaranteed a decent education and if they felt that their skills were genuinely appreciated, the modest salary scales notwithstanding.

No administration is going to transform the economy or the society without the necessary skilled human resources at its disposal. Quality personnel are more important by far than natural resources. One of the most serious charges that can be laid at the door of this Government is its lack of professionalism and its reliance on loyalty and 'political correctness' rather than talent and merit. The problem, of course, starts at the very top, where political stalwarts have been rewarded with ministerial and other posts in preference to those whose virtues were competence and ability.

If we are going to go anywhere at all, the Government has to reform its attitudes towards skills, and has to break out of its cocoon of suspicion about those of talent who may not stand on the same side of the political divide as the PPP/Civic. Skills are in desperately short supply in this country and other arguments aside, no administration can afford to pick and choose the political affiliations of its technical personnel, or very shortly it will have hardly any at all. While Guyana cannot offer internationally competitive rates to professionals at present, it can at least do other things to encourage them to remain, not all of which are material things. One of them, quite simply, is to reward merit, and to be seen to reward merit in terms of promotions, etc.

There is no point in making things any easier for the recruiters from Botswana and the Virgin Islands or wherever, than they are already. Skills are what build a society, not sycophancy.

A © page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples