Aug4,2018. Gary Griffith gets no congrats from me as a former immigrant in T&T

Aug4,2018. Gary Griffith gets no congrats from me as a former immigrant in T&T
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The front page of a November 2014 Trinidad and Tobago Newsday newspaper. 

I am apprehensive about inserting myself in the state affairs of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and I also wouldn’t wish to insert myself in a delicate selection process as the one surrounding the country’s Police Commissioner, which recently concluded.

I am reverent to this process belonging to the people of Trinidad and Tobago through their Parliament. At the same time, I must express how disappointed and concerned I am at Gary Griffith’s appointment as Police Commissioner.

As an immigrant who studied on the island, I recall this is the same Gary Griffith who, while being National Security Minister in 2014, opened the floodgates for the mass pursuit of immigrants when he grossly inflated the figures of undocumented immigrants living in the twin-island republic and cast much of the blame for the country’s crime rate and economic situation on immigrants from Guyana, Jamaica, and Nigeria.

This is the same Gary Griffith that had the University of the West Indies scrambling in 2014 to make sure non-national students’ documentation was in order because the hunt was on and no immigrant seemed safe.

One bold red headline plastered as the lead story across the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday newspaper screamed “ARE YOU ILLEGAL?” as it went on to report Griffith mustering up a multi-agency effort to “weed out” what he quoted as 110,000 “illegal” immigrants living in the country.

That figure was later revealed as being incorrect by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs which revealed that based on the country’s population of 1.3 million in 2015, international migrants were numbered at 3.7% of the total population or approximately 50,000 persons. This information is found in the UN-DESA 2015 report on the International Migrant Stock with country data based on figures from 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005, 2010, and 2015.

In all those years identified above, Trinidad and Tobago’s migrant population, as a percentage of their total population, has been recorded respectively as 4.1% in 1990, 3.7% in 1995, 3.3% in 2000, 3.5% in 2005, 3.6% in 2010, and 3.7% in 2015.

Griffith’s figure of 110,000 undocumented immigrants would’ve meant that this category alone accounted for close to 10% of Trinidad and Tobago’s overall population.

Even after Griffith had left office, he continued his rantings as he was quoted in the Jamaica Observer online in April 2016 citing some 20,000 undocumented Jamaicans living in Trinidad and Tobago whom he said were exploiting the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) by abusing the six-months stay arrangement and ultimately overstaying thus becoming a burden on the state. It remains to be seen where Griffith found his figures.

But these numbers aside, one must consider the real-world implications of such dangerous uttering and what it means for the perception of non-nationals in the eyes of nationals and how that could create distrust and further strain relations between those who “belong” and those non-nationals who are scapegoats for high crime rates and a declining economy.

One must also consider how such dangerous misleading contentions from a person in authority exacerbates stereotypes and xenophobia, and further how it made the country unsafe for non-nationals who continue to contribute to the economy and the social and political systems as we have done from the very birth of the nation.

Furthermore, the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian reported in June 2017 a more modest figure of undocumented immigrants quoted by then-acting National Security Minister Dennis Moses in the Trinidad and Tobago Parliament where he noted there were 15,042 undocumented immigrants in Trinidad and Tobago between January 1 and May 1, 2017. A breakdown of the numbers by Moses tells an entirely different story which departs from Griffith’s rantings.

It is a crying shame that it requires all this effort to track down and quote statistics and research after one man in a position of authority grossly misleads an entire nation and compromises diplomatic relations between CARICOM countries.

But there a few things I’ve come to accept in the era of Trump. Not only do we continue to reward bad behaviour, but we also continue to give authority to those who are misbehaved and give further legitimacy to their wrongdoings.

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July 22, 2018 edition of the Sunday Express newspaper’s front page. 

 

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July9,2018. Sending Love and Healing to Haiti in a Time of Resistance

July9,2018. Sending Love and Healing to Haiti in a Time of Resistance

There is a stillness felt in Georgetown that is not felt in Haiti right now. It is a stillness quite unlike the unease I feel in my spiritual connection with Haiti. CARICOM leaders have returned home from their annual meeting in Jamaica, one of the region’s closest neighbours to Port-au-Prince. I’d also hope that those leaders felt uneasy sitting, eating, passing gas among Haiti’s president even as his country burns.

CARICOM, through its chairman Andrew Holness (Prime Minister of Jamaica), managed to conjure up a scanty seven-line statement of concern from its back-pocket on the situation in Haiti. The statement called, alarmingly in my opinion, for the assistance of the United Nations in monitoring the situation. I’d prefer not. After decades of the dark history of rape and sexual violence, lethal violence, exploitation, political manipulation, abandonment and cover-ups surrounding the UN’s Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), the UN is the last thing the Haitian people need.

Regional leaders have come out one-by-one to support the lifting of visa restrictions for Haitian nationals travelling to their countries. Some still have reservations. Haitians moving freely through the Caribbean have the power to transform the image of Haiti, to change the flawed narratives that many of us have, and to contextualise and position the anger and frustration of the Haitian people so that we can join and stand with the resistance. And at the same time, I expect that Caribbean people would work towards building regimes that support the inclusion of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers moving within the region.

How quickly do we in the English-speaking Caribbean forget the mercies we received during our own time of need. Caribbean people owe a debt of gratitude to Haiti for showing us that we could be free even while our smaller rebellions were being quashed.

Haiti opened its doors to many enslaved Africans who secured their freedom once they touched Haitian soil during the early 1800s. That was a key part of Haiti’s constitution. I’ve seen correspondences from Haitian leaders during that time refusing to hand over runaway enslaved Africans to the British. Those stories need to be told.

As the Haitian government today continues to implement IMF-supported measures which blindside, anger and increase financial and economic burdens on their people, many of whom live on less than US$2 a day, the masses respond how they know best. When you live in a country where the ruling political, economic and foreign elite are merciless, where NGOs are plenty but somewhat ineffective, where your poverty is fetishized in the media and academic writing, where sex and sexual violence could be the currency for survival, where failed institutions reduce the people’s power, where people are seen as surplus labour waiting to be exploited by foreign companies, and where the legacy and history of structural violence from the state against the people is long, the people will respond in kind with a resistance aimed to cripple the heart of the elite—the economy.

The western media is picking up on the reports. Their coverage focused, of course, on the pillaging of foreign-branded businesses like the Marriott and Best Western Hotels as opposed to deconstructing and contextualizing the pain of the Haitian people grappling with decades of foreign manipulation of their political and economic systems, hunger and abandonment from their government which acts more as an agent of foreign investors than a guardian of the Haitian people.

But this has always been the case with Haiti. Resistance has always been necessary for a country still punished for disrupting a racist global order. Resistance is the very foundation on which Haitian democracy is built and preserved. It is this shining beacon that led many enslaved Africans from the colonies across the Caribbean to seek refuge in this first black Republic which snatched its independence from direct white supremacist rule decades before British powers rebuked slavery.

I see the IMF continuing its movements through the Caribbean and I worry. Even now as Barbados boasts its first woman Prime Minister, the country moves swiftly into a structural adjustment regime as a quick band-aid for its ailing economic regime. Institutions like the IMF remind us that our decolonization project is incomplete and that the comfort we find in national flags and anthems do very little to draw us out of the rabbit hole of dependency we continue to fall deeper into.

Eudine Barriteau writes on structural adjustment in Barbados during the 1980s:

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IMF policies are unpopular but Caribbean governments continue to seek them out willingly. Despite Caribbean governments’ duty to their people, the mandates and unnegotiable conditions for accessing international financing set by the powers of the global political economy threaten to break democracies and polities even in face of proclaimed sovereignty and self-determination.

Ayiti is not short on love, but it damn well needs some healing. It is love that fuels our revolution—love of ourselves, love for our family, love for our communities, and love for our countries. The Haitian people have never stopped fighting for their independence and we must see and stand with their struggle and look within ourselves to gather all the love we can generate in our still, comfortable, quiet spaces and send them northward that it may cover that shining beacon of black resistance which is our revolutionary sister-nation so that she may find a long-deserved healing for her people.

Jan15,2017. Audre Lorde’s experience of black self-hatred in the Caribbean

Jan15,2017. Audre Lorde’s experience of black self-hatred in the Caribbean
audre1
Audre Lorde died in 1992 after losing her battle with cancer

Audre Lorde, a lesbian mother warrior poet feminist activist with caribbean roots, ventured to the Caribbean in 1990 for vacation. She was almost denied entry to one Caribbean island because of her hairstyle.

In her essay “Is your Hair Political?” Audre examines, through her lived experience, the scrutiny of black hair in the Caribbean. Although our situation is not as black and white as racism in the United States, there is still need for examining pre-colonial policies which police our bodies, and the guise (professionalism, neat, tidy) under which those policies are allowed to go unexamined. Institutional racism, once unexamined, not only fosters and justifies internalised hatred but it also fosters a hatred of self in others.

IS YOUR HAIR STILL POLITICAL?

My first trip to Virgin Gorda earlier this year had been an enjoyable, relaxing time. After coping with the devastations of Hurricane Hugo, three friends and I decided to meet somewhere in the Caribbean for a Christmas vacation. From my personal and professional travels, Virgin Gorda seemed the ideal spot. And less than an hour’s flight time from my home.

My friend, another Black woman from St. Croix, and I deplaned in Tortola to clear BVI [British Virgin Islands] immigration at the Beef Island Airport. I was happy to be a tourist for a change, looking forward to a wonderful holiday, post-hurricane problems left behind for a few days.

The morning was brilliant and sunny, and in our bags was a frozen turkey, along with decorations for the rented house. The Black woman in a smartly pressed uniform behind the Immigration Control desk was younger than I, with heavily processed hair flawlessly styled. I handed her my completed entry card. She looked up at me, took it with a smile, and said, “Who does your hair?”

My friend and I were the only passengers going on to Virgin Gorda.

As a Black woman writer who travels widely, I have recently been asked that question many times. Thinking we were about to embark on one of those conversations about hairstyle Black women so often have in passing, on supermarket lines, buses, in laundromats, I told her I had done it myself.

Upon her further questioning, I described how. I was not at all prepared when, still smiling, she suddenly said, “Well, you can’t come in here with your hair like that you know.”

And reaching over she stamped “no admittance” across my visitor’s card.

“Oh, I didn’t know,” I said, “then I’ll cover it,” and I pulled out my headkerchief.

That won’t make any difference,” she said.

“The next plane back to St. Croix is 5:00 p.m. this evening.”

By this time my friend, who wears her hair in braided extensions, tried to come to my aid. “What’s wrong with her hair,” she asked, “and what about mine?”

“Yours is all right,” she was told. “That’s just a hairstyle.”

“But mine is just a hairstyle too,” I protested, still not believing this
was happening to me.

I had traveled freely all over the world; now, in a Caribbean country, a Black woman was telling me I could not enter her land because of how I wore my hair?

“There is a law on our books,” she said. “You can’t come in here looking LIKE THAT.”

I touched my natural locks, of which I was so proud. A year ago I had decided to stop cutting my hair and to grow locks as a personal style statement, much the same as I had worn a natural afro for most of my adult life. I remembered an Essence magazine cover story in the early 80s that had inspired one of my most popular poems—Is Your Hair Still Political?

“You can’t be serious,” I said.

“Then why didn’t I know about this before? Where is it written in any of your tourist information that Black women are only allowed to wear our hair in certain styles in your country? And why do we have to?”

Her smile was gone by now.

“It’s been a law for over five years,” she snapped.

And I realized she was very serious when I saw our bags being taken off the plane, and it preparing to go on without us.

“But how was I supposed to know that?” I protested, visions of our holiday feast defrosting on the tarmac, our friends from New York wondering where we were, our hostess at the airport waiting in vain to drive us to our rented house by the sea.

“I’ve read I can’t bring drugs into the British Virgin Islands. I’ve read I can’t seek employment in the British Virgin Islands. I’ve read about everything else I can’t do in the British Virgin Islands, but how are Black tourists supposed to know we can’t wear locks if we visit the British Virgin Islands? Or don’t you want Black tourists?”

By now I was outraged. Even with the hot sun outside and the dark face before me, I was confused for a moment as to where I was. Nazi Germany? Fascist Spain? Racist South Africa? One of those places where for so many decades white people had excluded Black people because of how they LOOKED?

But no, it was a Black woman, in the Caribbean, telling me I wasn’t acceptable as a tourist in her country—not because of what I do, not even because of who I am, but because of how I wear my hair. I felt chilled to the bone.

By this time the young white pilot had come in to see why the flight was being delayed. “What do you mean, because of her HAIR?”

Finally an immigration supervisor came, asking me to fill out another entry card.

“Why can’t I go on to Virgin Gorda,” I began. “I’ve been there before. And what’s wrong with my hair? It’s not unhealthy, it’s not unsanitary, it’s not immoral, and it certainly is not unnatural!”

The supervisor looked at my well-groomed ear-length locks. “Are you a Rasta?” he asked. And then it finally dawned on me what this was all about. He didn’t ask me if I was a murderer. He didn’t ask me if I was a drug dealer, or a racist, or if I was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Instead, he asked me if I was a follower of the Rastafarian religion.

Some see locks and they see revolution. Because Rastafarians smoke marijuana as a religious rite, some see locks and automatically see drug peddlers. But the people who are pushing drugs throughout the Caribbean do not wear locks; they wear three-piece suits, carry attaché cases and diplomatic pouches, and usually have no trouble at all passing through Immigration.

I stared at this earnest young Black man for a moment. Suddenly my hair became very political. Waves of horror washed over me. How many forms of religious persecution are we now going to visit upon each other as Black people in the name of our public safety?

And suppose I was a Rastafarian? What then? Why did that automatically mean I could not vacation in Virgin Gorda? Did it make my tourist dollars unusable? What if he had asked me if I were a Jew? A Quaker? A Protestant? A Catholic? What have we learned from the bloody pages of history and are we really doomed to repeat these mistakes? There was an ache in my heart.

I wanted to say, “What does it matter if I am a Rasta or not?” But I saw our bags sitting out in the sun, and the pilot walking slowly back to his plane. Deep in my heart I thought—it is always the same question: where do we begin to take a stand? But I turned away.

“No, I’m not a Rastafarian,” I said. And true, I am not. But deep inside of me I felt I was being asked to deny some piece of myself, and I felt a solidarity with my Rastafarian brothers and sisters that I had never been conscious of before.

“Is your hair still political?” Tell me, when it starts to burn.

My immigration card was stamped admit, our bags were put back on the plane, and we continued our journey, twenty minutes overdue.

As the plane taxied to the end of the runway, I looked back at the Beef Island Airport.

On this tiny island, I had found another example of Black people being used to testify against other Black people, using our enemies’ weapons against each other, judging each other on the color of our skin, the cut of our clothes, the styling of our hair. How long will Black women allow ourselves to be used as instruments of oppression against each other?

On a Black Caribbean island, one Black woman had looked into another Black woman’s face and found her unacceptable. Not because of what she did, not because of who she was, not even because of what she believed. But because of how she LOOKED.

What does it mean, Black people practicing this kind of self-hatred with one another?

The sun was still shining, but somehow the day seemed less bright.

St. Croix, Virgin Islands
January 10, 1990

Jan11,2017. Reflections on The BHS Hair Affair

Jan11,2017. Reflections on The BHS Hair Affair

123We sometimes internalise the oppressions and trappings of social systems which we can seldom control or change. I found myself accepting the necessity of respectability politics when I walked the corridors of The Bishops’ High School six years ago.

Not being “Bishops born-and-bred”, my attempted resistance against the system which dictated and policed my hair, my clothes (I can’t stand ties now), my language, and my freedom to drink water in public was met with resounding clapback from those who clearly had more power, and whose influence extended far beyond the insular walls of the school. The master’s influence became more and more evident when we received lectures about old students seeing us on the road in the uniform doing the things we weren’t supposed to be doing. There was no place where our resistance, however small, went unnoticed.

Of course, the ‘us’ and ‘them’ argument surfaced to explain away the idea that the school’s values were changing (I’ll come back to this later). It’s not to say there weren’t those from the “us” category who conducted themselves like “them”, they suffered a similar fate of being othered, marginalised, and made invisible. But at least they started from a place of ownership and belonging, those of us not “born and bred” were reminded of our otherness from day 1. This was never a system meant to acknowledge difference nor to celebrate it, but instead to create a cookie-cutter model for “respectability.”

Recognising the power dynamics and submitting myself to the false sense of security that came with the trappings of elitism associated with the school, I became the thing I dreaded. It had no place in my family at home nor with my friends who could no longer recognise me because my change, in their eyes, had become to strong too soon.

The BHS was, historically, an elitist all-girls private school serving the interests of middle, upper-middle, and high income families. Families below those income brackets either scraped up the money, or were fortunate to receive scholarships for their children. The school’s culture and historical place were shaken violently by Prime Minister Burnham’s destruction of the exclusive private school system in Guyana, and again by the coeducation policy which opened schools like BHS, SJH, QC, Saints, and Roses to both sexes.

There are those in the BHS system today who recall vividly the elite all-girls history of the school because they lived it. A time they deemed the golden years where women aspired for marriage to the Saints or QC boys and were prepared for their responsibilities as wife and mother, and in some cases for public service employment, all the while preserving the narcotic false sense of security that came with the trappings of “respectability”.

Fast forward to 2017, the policing of hair still happens, both men and women. An age-old school policy drenched in a racist colonial history which idealised sameness and shunned difference. I recall one girl, during my time, who was forced to pull her hair into one even though she had cut most of it off and was then sporting a boy cut. A ribbon was forcibly tied to whatever strands she could gather at the back of her head. School rules. Other girls, black of course, were asked to straighten their kinky hair so it could be tied neatly into one. I recall my anger with one black girl who was allowed to evade that rule. I regret my anger now, partially, because her close affiliation with those in school administration allowed her privilege to do so. Across the pond in South Africa and the Bahamas, girls protest this blatant racism.

Brassette Henry, daughter of the junior education minister and current ‘non-BHS’ BHS student, has found herself in an interesting position. Accusations made against her hair and how she wears it are intrinsically linked to a perceived devaluation of the school, and a destruction of the old heritage long preserved. The narcotic trapping of the elitist and exclusive BHS culture demands a rejection of Brassette not only because her hair is perceived defiant, but also because her defiance is seen as an attempt to tear down what she does not understand while she is part of the “them” category. I could be wrong, but what I know is that we must examine our rage against Brassette and what she symbolises.

Is it that the old guards of BHS elitism are slipping in their preservation of the status quo? Not likely. See, Brassette, by virtue of her mother’s position and influence, forms part of the 1% within the 1%. A cabal, within the already exclusive population of academic excellence, for whom the rules are always flexible. Who could talk down to the daughter of the junior education minister? I remain convinced that a clear message has already been sent to the management of the BHS that a new sheriff is in town. This is even more evident by Minister Henry’s loathful stalking of the facebook page of young former BHS student, Trisha Bhagwandin.

In the trappings of respectability politics and power dynamics, we are trained or expected- students and teachers alike- to never offend those most honourable and their progeny. While I say again we must examine our rage in this hair affair, I suggest the anger is hardly with Brassette’s hair and more about the dissonance between the school’s diseased historical values when confronted by the strength, power, and influence of the inner 1%.

Love. Liberty. Vybs.

Derwayne Wills

Dec23,2016. Reflecting youth 2016, itating youth 2017

Dec23,2016. Reflecting youth 2016, itating youth 2017
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This image was taken by myself on Homestretch Avenue, Georgetown. I was testing out my HTC One M9 that takes really impressive photos. ❤

Speaking about resistance and continuity in 1982, Audre Lorde said examining our incomplete vision or work means reflecting on our triumphs and errors not to condemn the vision but to alter it, create future possibilities, and focus our rage upon the status quo rather than upon each other.

Audre Lorde also said ignoring the past or romanticising it for what it was not is detrimental to our causes because the only way to make the past work for the future is to direct and redirect our energies in the present to fusing one into the other.

2011 and 2015 were phenomenal years for youth in Guyana. Young people going to the polls demonstrated our strength in numbers to shake our political culture and redistribute power.

The youth vote stripped the incoming government in 2011 of a parliamentary majority, then, in 2015, brought that regime (of 23 years) to its knees citing an inexcusable record of corruption, blatant disregard for human rights, and unwillingness to respect local democracy.

In 2016 and 2017, we must ask ourselves as youth whether our engagement in the system begins and ends with inking our fingers every five or so years, and further if we are prepared to handle the responsibility of having a seat at the decision-making table. What do we say? Is one seat enough at the table to aptly represent Guyana’s multi-faceted, multi-faced youth experience?

When Finance Minister Winston Jordan wrapped up the recent budget debates, he rightly said, to the effect that, there are many groups which petition for consultation in the budget process. However, these groups are seldom prepared to show the positive correlation between advancing national development, and granting benefits petitioned for by those groups.

I’ve engaged with a few youths, movers and shakers in their own right, whom I know are doing a great disservice to themselves and their causes because, evidently, there is a reading deficiency. 2017 must present new realities of an informed youth demographic, emphasis on informed.

We must also become comfortable with trial and error, rather than tear down the efforts of our allies in the struggle. We must build coalitions where possible and consolidate the youth voice across differences.

My offer to provide assistance for any youth desirous of sending Letters to the Editor remains open. Similarly, my blog Projyct66 (https://projyct66.wordpress.com/) has been transformed to a repository for youth-based content gathered from editorials, letters, and news articles on youth in Guyana.

Our effective (emphasis on effective) engagement within the system as traditionally marginalised youth depends on our voracious appetite (or lack thereof) for the consumption of knowledge, and our ability to present evidence-based solutions to lifting the circumstances of youth across the spectrum.

What am I reading? Am I in the literature I consume? Am I moved by the literature I consume? What is the way forward?

There is work to be done. And each one of us must account for our efforts.

Love. Liberty. Vybs

Derwayne Wills

This blog post was written by myself and published as a Letter to the Editor in the December 28 edition of the Stabroek New: 

<http://www.stabroeknews.com/2016/opinion/letters/12/28/next-year-must-present-new-realities-informed-youth-demographic/#disqus_thread&gt;

SN Dec. 24,2016 Letter: Young people must ‘seize the day’

SN Dec. 24,2016 Letter: Young people must ‘seize the day’

Taken from Stabroek News: <http://www.stabroeknews.com/2016/opinion/letters/12/24/young-people-must-seize-day/&gt;

Dear Editor,

I grew up on the adage ‘Youths are the future’; I say youths are the now. It’s a great time to be young, and especially in Guyana as opportunities abound. And as my mother says, “The opportunity of a lifetime must be seized in the lifetime of the opportunity.”

President David Granger rightly said also, that, “Youth development must equip young people with the right education, the right attitudes and the right values if they are to go out into the world and become productive and useful citizens. Youth development must overcome the challenge of unemployment. Youth development, also, must give birth to a new generation of Guyanese entrepreneurs; of leaders; of pioneers, young people who are prepared to explore new avenues and opportunities in our economy.”

There is no excuse for someone who escaped the formal education system as there are enough opportunities to bring oneself on par with those who have been exposed to formal schooling. Locally, I have identified eleven significant investments government is making in our youth; literally millions of dollars are being invested or are ready to be channelled toward our youth.

The suite of programmes includes the Small Business Bureau (SBB); Sustainable Livelihood & Entrepre-neurial Development(SLED); Local Areas Economic Profile (LAEP); Local Economic Development Strategic Plans (LSPs); Community Infrastructure Improvement Pro-gramme (CIIP); Citizen Security Strengthening Programme (CSSP); Micro and Small Enterprise Deve-lopment (MSED) Project; Youth Entrepreneurial Skills Training (YEST) programme; Hinterland Employment and Youth Service (HEYS); Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) platform; Youth Innovation Fund (YIF).

Allow me to elaborate on just a few. The Small Business Bureau was established to Promote policies and programmes which foster small business development. The Minister of Business recently lamented that the SBB’s targets are not being met.

One publication noted, “Though it has been implementing the programme for three years the bureau is still to disburse more than 80% of a targeted 800 loans under the programme, it has only disbursed 233 of a targeted 300 grants and has created and sustained only 735 jobs under both programmes. It was expected to have created and sustained 2,200 jobs.” Why aren’t our youths taking full advantage of this opportunity?

I was privileged have launched in my constituency (14) the Ministry of Public Security’s Citizen Security Strengthening Programme (Component 1: Community Crime and Violence). The specific objective of this component is to improve behaviours for non-violent conflict resolution in target communities which will contribute to the overall aim of the programme: contributing to a reduction in crime and violence in Guyana, especially in the targeted communities and among youths through skills training.

300 youths will benefit from entrepreneurial training initially, training approximately 4,000 at-risk youths over the next four years. Students will be supported with small grants to facilitate small business start-ups. Each youth will be given approximately 70$US per month to cover transportation to and from school, meals and other expenses. Teenage mothers and fathers will be provided with additional resources to cover day care support. This is a US$5 million investment overall.

In 2017 government aims to focus, “on the empowerment of individuals and the facilitation of small and micro-enterprise, expanding existing programmes aimed at fostering youth entrepreneurship. The Micro and Small Enterprise Development (MSED) Project will continue with its financing, training and development activities, targeting prospective and established entrepreneurs and small businesses. To this end, a total of 660 clients are targeted for training and business support.

Additionally, a total of 600 micro-enterprises will be visited to review their business plans and the results of training facilitated by the Project”.  It is my sincere wish that our young people would grab hold of these opportunities.

In his 2017 Budget presentation Minister of Finance Winston Jordan introduced the Youth Innovation Fund (YIF). “This Fund will provide a financing platform to launch exceptionally innovative ideas, harnessing the energetic and creative minds of our young people. The criteria for accessing this programme are still being finalised, but will include level of originality, viability, applicability beyond demonstration, and maintaining zero net impact on the environment. This Fund, which will be overseen by a multi-stakeholder steering committee, will be endowed, initially, with a sum of $50 million with the intention of supporting successful start-up applicants.”

Editor, as 2017 beckons it is my fervent wish that our young people take to action what is embodied in the phrase, ‘carpe diem’, seize the day; remembering in their pursuit of all things what Dr Steven Covey suggests, “The single most powerful investment we can make in life is investment in ourselves.” Kudos to the government for providing the opportunities.

Yours faithfully,

Sherod Avery Duncan

Deputy Mayor

Municipality of Georgetown