Retooling the foreign service

16 May

Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge

…Greenidge urges alacrity in filling vacancies at MoFA 

…believes mission heads equipped, fit for duty

Efforts are continually being made to ensure that the country’s Foreign Service is operating at its maximum and Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge has assured that despite the limitations, he has a team of competent officials to get the job done.
Speaking with Guyana Chronicle, Greenidge who is also the country’s first Vice-President said his ministry’s primary focus is to ensure the security of our borders. Guyana’s sovereignty has been threatened by two of our South American neighbours and according to the Foreign Affairs Minister it was critical that his Ministry be equipped with personnel, support in the form of equipment and other forms of support.
“We’ve tried to recruit a range of skills, knowledgeable and experienced in the arena relevant to the issues of sovereignty. Analytical skills, diplomatic experience, language skills and the like …we’ve tried to recruit and to put in the units that deal with these areas, whether in GT or abroad,” said Greenidge.
But despite the recruitment of specifically skilled persons, the Minister made it clear that it is not a one off attempt on his part. He said there inevitably has to be a continuing exercise of recruitment. “You don’t fix it once and it is cured,” he stated while expressing satisfaction with those hired since he took office as Foreign Affairs Minister in 2015. President, David Granger has made it clear that economic diplomacy is critical to the advancement of Guyana as a nation and in light of this Greenidge said Guyana has worked with a number of groups including CARICOM and the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group and the Commonwealth to strengthen relations.
“In all the other aspects pertaining to security, we recruited skills looking at mapping, worked with technicians looking at the maritime space, the area above the land and sea for purposes of our protection,” he said while admitting that there is need for persons who are skilled in a multiplicity of areas. He reminded that Venezuela has sought to claim a significant part of Guyana for decades despite the arbitral ruling of 1899. That country has since recreated maps which show certain parts of Guyana as belonging to them and have distributed same.

Overseas missions
Additionally, Greenidge said there are also other mechanisms being employed to ensure that the other departments of his ministry are strengthened. He said priority has been given to the overseas missions and as such, officials that have served well locally for a number of years but never received postings have now been posted abroad. “We have tried to reassign them so that they can strengthen the missions we have abroad. We found in the existing missions abroad, new staff members many of whom have had experience working at home but without foreign experience they would have been given that opportunity.”
The end result will see many of those who have been posted abroad elevating to Heads of Missions as they have developed a wide range of skills. On the note of the overseas missions, the Foreign Affairs Minister said all of them have been staffed except the Consulate in Toronto, which is yet to have a consul general. That vacancy is likely to be filled by year end as someone has already been identified.
Asked to assess the work of the diplomats thus far, Greenidge stressed that they are not employed to sit at their desks and file documents but must be able to interface with other diplomats from different territories. “They must be rounded; they must go into the fields,” Greenidge added. Moreover, the Minister said Guyana has selected a range of professionally qualified and experienced persons to serve as ambassadors. “The ambassadors who have been posted range from economists, academics, UN technicians, people with experience in international agencies, language experts…the range is wide and whether it is in South Africa, NY, Washington or Geneva, the persons who have been appointed to head those places can stand proud in any crowd, they do have competence, experience, [and] are trained.”
He said the aim is to ensure that the younger people can get proper exposure so that they can take over in due course, effectively and smoothly. Thus far, the Minister said the feedback on the performance of the diplomats has been good.
That aside, Greenidge expressed much frustration with the slothfulness to which vacancies are being filled. He explained that there are a number of vacancies which he hopes can be filled soon and those range from the position of Foreign Service Officers to higher level staff. The lack of sufficient staff the Minister said places a strain on his ministry.

Inflated expectations
Meanwhile, Greenidge, a former Finance Minister in the Desmond Hoyte PNC administration believes it is important for citizens to understand that the APNU + AFC inherited a plethora of problems and is attempting to fix situations that have become undesirable. He said the number of complaints and concerns raised by the citizenry before the coalition government took office in 2015 has resulted in an inflation of expectations.
He accepted though that the political parties while campaigning did raise the nation’s expectations but quickly noted that there was no deliberate attempt to mislead the public. The inexperience of those involved in the political campaign led to promises being made which cannot immediately be fulfilled.
Additionally, he said promises were made on the assumption that the government would be one of a reasonable majority and can therefore effect legislative changes. The coalition government did promise Constitutional reform but according to Greenidge, in such a political landscape it is difficult to accomplish anything unless the opposition joins with the government.
“…and we have seen a situation in which the current opposition when it had never been in government, promised people that they would do lots of things, and after a few months in office said this wasn’t the constitution that was at fault, it was the people that posed a threat to the rest of us. Now with proper people in place we will ensure that things are right.”
According to Greenidge, the Opposition assisted in the damaging of the national psyche which he said has an implication on how people see democracy. “Expectations need to be tempered both by the government and by the people…those expectations would have to be tempered eventually. For me, I don’t worry too much about the expectations…we have put some mechanisms in place and added structures to them and within a year or two you would see them doing what they are supposed to do.”
He noted that his government is working assiduously to fulfil all promises made though “we are going a lot more slowly than we anticipated. “Some of the things in place need further refinement, so maybe we have to be given a bit more time,” he said while stressing that it is up to the public to hold the government’s feet to the fire. “The public has to demand what it wants and not simply look at the government doing what the government wants. They must know what they want and they must constantly keep the government’s feet to the fire; that is my view,” said the Vice President.

A trained economist, Greenidge also acknowledged the concerns of the citizens about the slowing down of the economy. “The concerns have been drawn to its (government) attention in a variety of fora…what we are trying to do is put mechanisms in place to treat with the expectations,” and noted that the plight of the young people. “We need to get assistance to help the small and medium sized enterprises…skills etc. we are in a business where competition is very sharp. We have to try to bring a sharper edge to the goods we produce and the goods we sell,” said Greenidge who noted that discussions have been had with Turkey and Chile in this regard.

Bitter parliament
On the Parliamentary front, the Vice President said the level of acrimony seen in the National Assembly leaves much to be desired. A former Minister of Finance, Greenidge is no stranger to Parliament, and noted that in his previous 10 years serving within government he has never seen such bitterness. He noted that as Minister of Finance many were not pleased with what he did but they never resorted to character assassination.
“That reflects that the society has changed; it has become in a way…the street finding itself in the parliament. It is also a case where the politics has evolved in such a way that is not helpful.”
He said too that the levels of acrimony is a representation of some political parties belief that it is acceptable to pursue both relentlessly and at other times, with only a little mask, the consolidation of racial support. The Vice President made it clear that the recent outcry by both the Amerindians and African groups over land is a perfect example. He said it is most blatantly and despicably seen where efforts are being made to drive a wedge between the two ethnic groups. “Everything that is examined by the opposition is examined in the way to suggest that all policies are directed to … to put down indigenous people and communities; it is really a despicable approach to politics,” he said.

(Sourced from Guyana Chronicle– May 15, 2017)

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