President David Granger: Thank you for that mercifully brief introduction. I think by this time most Guyanese know me so I think you can very well get away with saying that I need no introduction. But I am happy to be here. Regrettably I missed the graduation of the first module and even though I have a very busy year – as you know at the beginning of this year I became Chairman of CARICOM and in a few days’ time we have the Intersessional Meeting of CARICOM – I felt it is important to be here to respond positively to this invitation and to share with you the happiness of this graduation ceremony.
Chairperson, Presidential Advisor of Youth Empowerment, Mr. Aubrey Norton; Director of Youth, Ms. Melissa Carmichael; Deputy Director of Youth, Mr. Desmond Boyce; Staff of the office of the Presidential Advisor on Youth Empowerment; graduants, ladies and gentlemen:
I took the trouble to bring with me this morning some exercise books and you would see 20 images on those books. I don’t know if you got the books as yet, if not, they should be coming along. I don’t know if you recognise any of the creatures on the books. I have also brought lots of buttons and those are the STEM buttons and you will see the four symbols: one for Science, one for Technology, one for Engineering, one for Mathematics and of course my credo that is- “Every Child in School” and you should also have some booklets on what I call the ‘green’ state. These represent some important aspects of my philosophy for this country but most particularly for young people. So, in congratulating you on your performance on this leadership programme and also in thanking you for having me here with you this good Sunday morning (so my parish priest is probably wondering where I am because he wouldn’t see me today) – I think you’re taking a step forward towards achieving the vision that we hold for all Guyanese – that is to achieve that that ‘good life’.
When we speak of youth, we speak of the future of our country, not a youth problem; I don’t like to use the two words together- ‘youth problem’. Throughout history and certainly throughout the history of Guyana, there have been challenges but those challenges have to be overcome; every person, every country in this world has challenges and civilisation is based on the response to challenges.
Egypt had challenges but they were able to overcome that challenge by conquering the Nile and using the Nile for their purposes. The Aztecs had challenges; the Incas had challenges but they were able to create an empire from Columbia down to Chile without the use of the wheel they were able to create the greatest empire- the greatest indigenous empire on this continent.
So, if you look at any part of the globe; history is about challenge and response and in Guyana, we are faced with challenges and we’ll be judged by our response to those challenges. We are faced with the challenge of equality and one of the major contributory factors to poverty is inequality. The question is, how will we overcome the challenge of inequality?
We are faced with the challenge of education and that is why I have given you those buttons- even if you don’t use those buttons some of you may have a young brother or sister or friend, who will ask you what those four symbols mean: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
There is a challenge of employment- all around the country you go: from the Aruka to Awarewaunau to Aishalton, from Orealla right across the country to Arau, many persons are unemployed and most of the unemployed people are young.
There is the challenge of empowerment; some people feel they are not in control of their communities; of their lives; of their households; they feel that their decisions or their opinions don’t matter. As a result they become marginalized or disenfranchised.
There are challenges of entrepreneurship. How will your country be developed if you’re not entrepreneurs? You can’t depend on the government alone, but let us look at these five challenges: challenges of equality, education, employment, empowerment and entrepreneurship.
You know there is a well-known saying by Dr. Lawrence Peter. Some of you might have heard about the Peter Principle, well it is not an antidote, it is not a joke – there was a real person named Lawrence Peter, a Canadian – and he said many things, many of you who remember the Peter Principle, but he said something else, he said, “If you don’t know where you are going then you will probably end up somewhere else”.
And in this regard, I would like to address a few brief remarks about youth strategy because if we don’t know where we are going we may busy ourselves; we may work up a sweat; we may get tired but we’ll end up somewhere else and we will not be able to overcome those five challenges which I mentioned.
Seventeen years ago in 2000, the government of the day felt it necessary to dismantle something called the National Service. They just erased it, they just removed it. What did they put in place? Why was it removed? As I said if you don’t know where you are going, you will end up somewhere else.
For several years we had no National Youth Policy. Back in 2010/2011 when we had the International Year for Youth- one year – nobody knows whether it made any impact or if anything at all was done to put a focus on youth during that International Year for Youth and; over the years we have seen a proliferation of youth organisations, the President Youth Choice Initiative; I don’t know how much we spent- millions? Where is it now?
Sometimes you go up the Demerara River somebody says, “Ah, that’s a President Youth Choice Initiative building” of course, apart from wood ants and bats nobody uses the PYCI and then there are several other organisations: The President Youth Award: Republic of Guyana and the Youth Apprenticeship Entrepreneurial Scheme. I’m not criticising these schemes but what I am saying is that if we don’t know where we’re going we will create a lot of schemes, but we will not have a theme for the development of young people in this country.
I feel injured when I picked up the paper to discover that five young men were arrested for a murder and among them were two 19 year olds. They could have been here but now they are heading for a correctional facility- 19 years old! They could have been here!
Last year July in Black Bush Polder another young man – his daddy told him, “Shoot that man, shoot that man!” – and every year, every month, almost every week, you see young people facing problems sometimes not necessarily of their own invention, not of their own making, but I would prefer to see them in a room like this thinking of planning and performing and working towards a good future rather than going into jail.
It costs me over a quarter million dollars to keep somebody in jail for one year. I prefer to give that… I’m sure some of you would like to get a quarter million. But it’s important for us to look at the challenges facing young people and one challenge is the geographical inequality. Those of you, like Chavez here, grew up in Region Nine would have a different reality. Chavez understands what distance is. To travel from Aishalton to Lethem you have to pay $5,000 one way in a minibus. You see children walking ten kilometres to school in the morning; ten kilometres back home in the evening.
Somebody is from Jacklow, Pomeroon ask him about the highways in the Pomeroon. There’s one way and that’s the waterway and it is when I go to the Pomeroon a father would say, “Oh, I spend $5,000 a week to get my daughter to Charity Secondary School”.
So we have different realities in Guyana and the geographical inequality is an impediment to young people because they don’t have an equal opportunity to get a good quality education and that is why I started in the Pomeroon by giving them a school boat so that the parents don’t have to pay $5,000 a week to get their children to school. Now the Berbice River has a boat, Demerara River has a boat, Essequibo River has a boat, Pomeroon River has a boat to get children to school; to reduce that geographical inequality and I would like in due course to make sure that there are highways so that people can travel from Kwakwani to Ituni from Ituni to Linden and from Linden to Lethem. People must be able to drive from Crabwood Creek in Region Six to Sand Creek in Region Nine without coming out of their cars. So we have to remove that geographical inequality between coastland and hinterland.
Secondly, there is gender inequality. Some of you may have noticed or you may not have noticed or perhaps you noticed and didn’t care, but for the first time in 50 years, I have appointed women Senior Counsel. Most of the lawyers in this country are women. I found it incomprehensible that after 50 years not a single woman could be appointed Senior Counsel. Well, I appointed the first three and the only reason I appointed three is because I couldn’t have appointed five but we need to understand that gender equality has to be a principle of good governance.
Last year was our fiftieth anniversary year and again, you may not have noticed that there was almost an equal number of women who received the Golden Arrow of Achievement to men. Again, you might not have noticed, but it is a deliberate act of equality to recognise that women are half the population and that we have to recognize that gender inequality is a problem.
You can’t hold back half the population and expect to develop. You can’t have a four cylinder car and decide- oh, you will only run on two cylinders. So we have to overcome the problems of gender inequality and that equality that we will establish must be based on respect; men must respect women and women of course must respect themselves and each other.
So we must take that respect into the schools. Again, I feel pain – by the time I’m finished talking you all will say, this is a painful man, how much pains he could feel? – that Christmas Day I went into the maternity ward of the Georgetown Hospital and saw this child, how old are you? Fourteen! She should be playing [games]; she should be in school, but now she has a baby.
Prince Harry, the Queen’s grandson comes to Guyana and the First Lady has some events and he meets young women who have been trafficked and abused. So he asked this girl how old is the baby. The baby is six weeks, three days. And how old are you? Twelve years, two months. Prince Harry nearly dropped down. But if we treat our young women with respect we will understand that that young woman has to go to school; has to qualify; has to graduate; has to have a full life; a full career and if at 12 she is carrying a child, she is probably unmarried but her education is going to be severely impaired and that very act is going to contribute to her inequality because she wouldn’t be able to have equal access. Her schoolmates will be going ahead to do their CXC and their CAPE and she will be mining baby.
And there is another inequality – generational inequality. Sometimes young people go for a job, just come out of school; what experience you have? Just come out of school. Sorry, no vacancies. You have to have experience. How are you going to get experience if you’ve never had a job and when you go for a job they want experience; it is like a dog chasing its tail. So we have to prepare young people for their first job, because unless you get the first job you can’t get the second job but we must come to deal with that.
We must come to deal with the educational system, which prepares people for that first job so that when they go for a job you could say yes, you are qualified and you have the ability; you have the right attitude. And another challenge we have in Guyana is the challenge of disparity of wealth or if you want to call it poverty. If your family is rich, you may go to school in a car, bought the books you need, you will probably eat well, when you go home there is light, you have a desk to work on, you might have a computer, daddy has a lot of books.
But if you are poor, sometimes people can’t get to school even here on the East Bank because they can’t afford the bus fare that is another reason I have started to get buses in addition to the boats. So there are buses on the Corentyne; there are buses on the East Bank of Berbice; there are buses on the West Coast, East Coast, buses in Tapacuma. We have got over a dozen buses now; not minibuses, buses to take 30 or more children to school because the very poor, if they can’t afford transportation to school they don’t go to school, they don’t go to school.
So we have to reduce that disparity of wealth by providing resources to help to make society more equal and to give children equal access. Most poor people, most poor children are children of poor people. When you see a poor child, look for his mother or her mother and she is poor too. Granny poor; it is a case of a hereditary poverty. Hereditary poverty! As far back as the child could tell you, the family has been poor. We have to break that cycle of poverty.
Sometimes somebody’s mother may be a guard at some enterprise, or a cleaner or a sweeper working for $60,000 or $70,000 and it is hardly enough to equip a child to go to school with the things he or she needs at home and if that children drops out of school that child will probably end up doing a menial job or doing a job which earns him or her $60,000 or $70,000 and so the cycle goes on.
Poor people get poor children and then of course when you have a young unmarried mother who puts a strain on the poor household; you can see how that poverty is aggravated and the household which hardly had enough for mommy and daddy and one or two children, will now have grandchildren and so it goes on. The next thing you know, you go in this house designed for four and fourteen people living there.
So unless we deal with the wealth disparity and overcome the problems of poverty we will contribute. Don’t worry with what Mr. Adolphus says; we will contribute to that cycle. What you miss on a roundabout you get on a swing- it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes you’re on the slippery slope and you just keep getting poorer and poorer, till you end up on the streets; you don’t always come back from the swing, you go on a roundabout and it is out the door. And you can see that for yourselves in some communities, the poorest children very frequently have the least opportunity to get a good education and to get good jobs.
And then, of course, there is the problem of discrimination. There are still in Guyana unfortunately, too many barriers to persons based on factors other than their ability and this is a very sensitive issue, but it is a very real issue. I have had the opportunity over the last seven years to meet a lot of people in different circumstances and for over 51 years I have been engaging people in different occupations as you would have heard from Dave Danny’s introduction.
I graduated from my Officer Cadet Training in Britain in 1966; the same year we got independence. So I have been around and I have seen that you have been unable to overcome the discrimination that once bedevilled this country and still bedevils this country; we mustn’t pretend it doesn’t happen but we, as young leaders, must try to overcome that problem, that challenge.
If you don’t know it exists, you can’t tackle it or if you pretend it doesn’t exist you can’t overcome it and I go to particular community, let’s say on the East Coast and I meet young women. I say, “Where are you all working?” They say, “We can’t get a job”. The moment I put the name of that village on an application form I will get back an answer that there is no vacancy regardless of my qualifications; and one told me she had to use the address of her aunt in another village and she got the job but as soon as we put the name of that village on an application letter we could be assured that the answer is no.
And you are well aware that discrimination goes into other areas of life, not just the village you come from. Sometimes it could be your religious belief, sometimes it could be your appearance, but we have to remove all forms of discrimination on the basis of race, religion or class because these barriers still exist in our country.
So, my brothers and sisters we are dealing with a huge portion of the Guyana population, the people between the ages of 15 and 24 probably constitute about one-third of our population about 250,000 [people] and that is an important group for me because if you don’t make it successfully through that ten year gap it means that your prospects of having that good life will be severely impaired and I have mentioned some of those challenges to you.
If a young woman gets a child at age 13, she probably will not (not always) be able to complete her education and when you think of it in a few weeks’ time at the National Grade Six [Assessment], over 15,000 boys and girls are writing that exam (over 15,000!) and I tell you something; over 8,000 will fail all four subjects. It pains me to think that half or more than half of our students at the National Grade Six Level will fail everything. I am concerned about that; I want them to pass everything. I want everybody to pass, perhaps there is an impossibility that everybody will pass everything but even at that level and I don’t have any qualms about admitting it; there is a problem! In the whole of Region Nine not a single child passed Mathematics at the National Grade Six [Assessment]! Not one and that is why I’m so concerned about giving children equal access to education.
So the numbers tell their own story because I believe in the greatest happiness for the greatest number and we have to do something about those 250,000 children between the ages of about 15 to 24. Those are the young people of Guyana and those are the people who concern me most and that is why I’m here today, that is why I have spoken so frequently about youth and about education.
Yes, we all know the catalogue of antisocial behaviour in the country. We see some young people advertising ‘rum till I die’, drinking. Sometimes you don’t see them working but they always drinking, binge drinking… some people in some areas smoke all sorts of peculiar substances.
When I go up the Berbice River I always mention a certain community, everybody starts laughing. I don’t know why but it’s a very important agricultural community, just that they don’t produce vegetables; it just produces leaves. And we complain about the dropouts – every year over 4,000 children drop out of primary and secondary school. Many of those people who drop out can’t spell bat, can’t spell cat. I’m sure you have met some of them.
I always tell the story of my barber who told me that he once went into a certain community – you see I’m a Head of State now; I can’t call anybody name… I’ve got to say a certain community – anyhow, this is a true story … you know two people [whom] you can’t run away from; your barber and your dentist. When they have you in their chair there you have to listen. So he decided to teach these young men in this community to cut hair. So now he got a piece of paper and wrote: keep your fingernails short, wash your hands, don’t cough; if you have a cold don’t go to work, don’t sneeze. So he gave them the piece of paper and he says, what you all think about that? You all think you can be barbers now? And after five minutes nobody is talking and then one person got up, he’s about 15 years old, 16 maybe. He said, “Big man, we ain’t deh pon reading you know.” They don’t know what’s on the paper because they “ain’t deh pon reading”. They’re 15 and 16 years old and they “ain’t deh pon reading”.
So dropping out of school is not fun; it’s fatal because it’s difficult for anybody to employ you if you ain’t deh pon reading. You see STOP and you don’t know what it means. Just keep on driving because you don’t know what’s STOP, you can’t read STOP. Some people can’t sign their name.
I mentioned before the question of teenage pregnancy; it is a serious problem. A young girl can’t get pregnant on her own and young men must learn to respect young women and give them a chance to get a full education instead of impregnating them, but unfortunately in some communities the rape is not infrequently by relatives, because making a 12 or 13 year old girl pregnant is rape, that’s what it is. She can’t agree. The law doesn’t even permit her to agree.
There’s another community where I’m told the average age of grandmothers is 32. Yeah, the average age of a grandmother is 32 so you can imagine what happening there, daughter and mother competing.
So ladies and gentlemen, we have to deal with these very serious challenges facing Guyanese society because jump high or jump low you have to inherit this Guyana. Where I am going I can’t take with me, I can’t take the building with me; I can’t take State House with me; I can’t take the roads with me. My generation has to prepare this country for you and when your turn comes – I’ve been told there are some prospective presidents in the room – when your turn comes, you have to do the same to bequeath this great country to your children and grandchildren and that is why I’ve given you this little book called The Green State.
Guyanese are very lucky. I would not like to have grown up in some of the countries in the Caribbean I mean I can’t call names, but this is a blessed country. I call it the second Garden of Eden. Guyana is part of what is called the Guiana Shield. There are four spellings of Guyana, G.U.I.A.N.A is a geographical area; G.U.Y.A.N.A is the country to which you belong, and G.U.A.Y.A.N.A is the Venezuelan part – Eastern Venezuela, and G.U.Y.A.N.E is the French, what we call Cayenne, which you know is part of metropolitan France.
So that is Guyane, Guiana, Guyana, and Guayana but all four of those areas are part of the Guiana Shield and the Guiana Shield is bigger than Greenland, it’s a huge area, but this area is part of the lungs of the earth. We help the earth to breathe because we absorb carbon dioxide, more carbon dioxide than we generate. That’s why countries like Norway have been asking us to help us to keep our forests intact because those forests help us to absorb the carbon dioxide generated by others, and our waterways, our fresh air.
The ambassador of a certain country went away; he came back in a week. I say, “Eh eh, back so soon?” He said, “Yes, fresh air, I need the fresh air.” But we are blessed. I don’t want to tell you which country that is. We are blessed. Those exercise books you have, you see 20 animals. Those animals are world class animals. The anaconda is the biggest snake in the world – right here in Guyana. The arapaima is the biggest freshwater fish in the world – right here in Guyana. The anteater is the biggest anteater in the world – right here in Guyana and every single one of those animals on that exercise book cover belongs to Guyana; not in pepperpot, not in souse, because they are more valuable to us alive than dead, and again, I feel so pained.
Some people tell me they go out hunting. A man see a bird flying, he say, “pass that gun” bap, he shoot it. What you kill the bird for? He can’t eat the bird, he just see a bird and he killed it! But we kill one of the most valuable parts, our most valuable assets of this green state. We destroy. Sometimes I go to areas that I used to live in when I was a young officer and I see the damage to the environment. I see a photograph of some hunter going into the bush, who going for bush meat because Saturday he’s going to have a big bush meat party- he’s got a big freezer.
He’s not killing for consumption; he’s killing on an industrial scale. The boat is built to carry a freezer. I hear in some logging camp a man goes out with an SUV, killed two tapirs. Well you know tapirs, they’re heavy animals. Vehicle crashed… vehicle left … tapir left … everything rotten and stink and that tapir is the biggest tapir in the continent of South America. Another man exporting dolphins, some of you have never seen river dolphins. Some of you have never even seen river dolphins; you probably will never see river dolphins. Guyana has more birds in the Kanuku Mountains than the whole of Western Europe.
This belongs to you. This is what we should bequeath to you, our children and grandchildren but that is why I speak of the ‘green’ state because it will be the foundation of that ‘green’ economy. We have abundant energy. This watch here is run by sunlight. I don’t have to do anything with this watch other than wear it. Every now and then I give it lil’ sun, it’s a solar watch and this entire camp should be run by solar power. [Applause.]
We have more than 50 sites for hydroelectricity generation; some people are demanding that we use one site, but that one site is highly overpriced and is bound to underperform. It cannot generate the electricity this country needs, and even if it’s made to work; I don’t know if they’ll have bucket brigade carrying water there during dry season because the river will dry up. You’ve seen it before. It can’t work but somebody is getting a lot of money out of it. Somebody is getting a lot of money, but we have 50 sites, more than 50 sites. If you sit on the banks of Iwokrama you will see the Essequibo River moving. As long as the river is moving you can get electricity.
So we need not worry about the potential of this country to generate electricity from sustainable sources whether its wind, whether it’s from water or whether it’s from sun. I grew up on the Corentyne and the rich rice millers, (well I can’t say the rich rice millers, somebody may criticise me tomorrow in the papers); rice millers, some rice millers. I know how old I am, I am 72 this year so when I was growing up on the Corentyne, 65/66 years ago, and people were already using wind chargers to generate electricity. I went to Rupununi in 1969 and the ranchers were using wind chargers, but suddenly we get addicted to gasoline, we have to have gasoline. Soon as you go in, we got to get a generator.
When I was a young officer, you go on patrol with your radio and the battery run down you open a solar charger and charge the battery but now we get addicted to gasoline. Well, petroleum is coming again, 120/ 200 kilometres offshore. Guyana will get petroleum but that petroleum should not get us drunk believing that we could live off of cheap energy. Cheap energy is right outside. That petroleum could be sold and we could use that money to build roads and bridges and schools, give our children a good life. [Applause.]
So, my brothers and sisters, we have a blessed country and the training you’re doing here for leadership is meant to prepare you to understand holistically, not only your destiny but also the legacy. There is no other country in this world that I would like to live in but Guyana. [Applause.]
We have the Wetlands. Our national bird comes from the Wetlands. You don’t see that national bird in Kingston or Charlestown. You got to go in Canje Creek, Mahaicony Creek. It’s a swamp bird and if you ever smell it you’ll say yeah, it’s true. A unique bird; it can swim in the water when it’s very young; it has claws, it can climb up and when it’s matured it can fly. That’s why we chose it as our national bird. It comes from our Wetlands; we have to protect those Wetlands. You don’t fill in the Wetlands. The Wetlands possess some of the most unique flora and fauna. The largest lily in the world comes from the Wetlands, the Victoria Regia lily. There are pictures, tourists would put their baby on the lily and send it home and say, ‘look how big this lily is’. They put the baby to sit down on the lily pad, the Victoria Regia Lily.
So we have to protect our Wetlands; our snakes, our birds, our caimans, come out of our Wetlands and it is one of the reasons why every single region should have a protected area, not just a Shell Beach here or a Kanuku there; but every region must put aside an ecological zone because this country has different ecological zones. The Wetlands are one, the Grasslands are another.
I remember I carried a young colleague from my party’s youth movement and he refused to sit down inside the vehicle; he just stayed at the back of the vehicle looking at all the [landscape] like he didn’t know which country he was in when he saw the mountains and the trees and the rolling savannahs. This was Guyana, not a house lot here, not a trench but as far as the eye could see – sometimes people come to this country and I say, “How you like the broccoli?” “Broccoli?” What you think you flying over? It’s an ocean of broccoli, a sea of broccoli. It’s broccoli. Yeah! You mean the rainforest? Some of them have never seen so much rainforest in their lives. We have different types of forest, we have rainforest, swamp forest, we have evergreen forest, and we have highlands.
The Bishop of the Catholic Church was telling me he tried to walk across Region Eight and then he realised that that is the most beautiful but also the most difficult region in this country to traverse because it has no highways going from east to west. Whenever you go across Region Eight you hear about the Pakaraima Safari. Well I don’t believe in safari, I believe in highways so that people can develop that part. That is why a man built that school in Kato, he thought nobody would go in and see the nonsense he did there because he felt it was so remote, but things have changed.
Then we have the lake lands. People don’t even know Guyana has lakes- big, beautiful lakes and we have islands and those three islands in the mouth of the Essequibo River: Wakenaam, Leguan and Hog Island, those three islands are as big as the British Virgin Islands. Some people say it is as big as Barbados. It’s not true. It’s not as big as Barbados. It’s as big as the BVI.
There’s no other place in the Caribbean like Guyana and it belongs to you but you can only possess this beautiful country if you confront the challenges we face and those were the challenges that I mentioned, the five challenges that I mentioned at the start of my discourse; the challenge of education, the challenge of employment, of empowerment, of entrepreneurship and of equality.
My brothers and sisters, if you do not get your education you will not be able, not only not to understand the world around you but you wouldn’t be able to get proper employment. Education is the key! The three most important things in your life right now are education, education and education. Those are the three most important …
The second thing of course is employment. Employment is the key to overcoming poverty. If you have no job, how are you gonna feed yourself? How are you gonna feed your children? How are you going to raise a family? Some people are proud of not working but what I try to describe to you in this ‘green’ state is that there is work out there for you, that every single thing you produce in this country could be sold. Pepper can be turned into pepper sauce, guava can be turned into guava jam and guava jelly. Pineapples could be turned into chunks. People come from France and export heart of palm.
We produce so much fish; fish shops are springing up all over the country. You could produce sweet potatoes instead of using other potatoes in those fish shops-try it. Everything you could produce in your backdam could be bottled or packaged or boxed and sold in our supermarkets or exported. So when we speak of employment we also speak of entrepreneurship. There is no point in coming to the government and asking for ‘lil’ wuk’.
Even if you were able to get ‘lil wuk’ you will join the ranks of the employed poor, I can tell you that because the government will never be able to pay you as well as you deserve because the government just doesn’t have the money. There is no money tree out there. You have to go out and earn money by becoming an entrepreneur. You got to sell stuff, you got to make stuff. Don’t ask for ‘lil wuk’, ask for a job.
I go to another community – I’m always on the move I don’t know if people think I’m sitting down on my hands all day – I go to another community, Saturday afternoon half past five, people just done playing football, who win? This village win. So where are you all working? We don’t work. So which school you going? We don’t go school. I say what you mean? So what you do? Well, I apply to the police, I apply to the army, I apply to the prison.
My brothers and sisters, we have to become entrepreneurs and we have to set up our own business enterprises so that we don’t have to depend on the government for ‘lil wuk’. We can simply become businessmen, become exporters. People come into your country and you want to know how is this miracle; that people come in with a suitcase and now opening huge stores and restaurants and we’re happy to go into those stores and restaurants and spend our money. So we need to grasp the opportunities for entrepreneurship. Let’s see those start-up plans in which we are going to launch these businesses.
So my message to you is very simple. I intend on the first of January next year to establish what I call the Guyana Youth Corps. It will be the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the first Guyana Youth Corps and I will bring together some of the agencies which are just nibbling at the edges of our youth enterprise in Guyana. They’re just nibbling.
I haven’t come here to criticise any particular organization. I mentioned the PYCI. Can’t criticise that, speak no ill of the dead, but there’s no point setting up these little organisations; spending billions of dollars and then people wondering what happened. You know there used to be a saying, there are three types of people in the world, some who make things happen, some who watch things happen and some who wonder what happened. Well, well PYCI is like that.
So from the first of January next year, 2018, 50 years after the Guyana Youth Corps was established, I will re-establish or establish a Guyana Youth Corps so that young people voluntarily, voluntarily – young people in this critical age group, people who might have faced challenges in their education can come in and learn skills and prepare themselves for the world of work. No compulsion, no coercion but purely voluntary so that we give our young people an opportunity.
So this will take place in the hinterland and the coastland. It will take place for boys and for girls [for] the time has come when we have to take youth education, employment and empowerment seriously and I’m saying here and now that we have to move further faster than we’re doing at present if we are to satisfy the aspirations of our young people. So I want to see a world of fuller employment, of greater empowerment, of wider equality and of progress for the young people of this country.
This is my message to you. Once again I’d like to congratulate you who’re graduating today and I would like to record my appreciation to Mr. Aubrey Norton and his team and to all the members of the Youth Department and to look forward to the establishment of the Guyana Youth Corps when they can move thousands of children out of poverty, into a life of prosperity.
I thank you and may God bless you all.

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