Future positive as Guyana discovers oil reserves but fears country not ready.

The United States Geological Survey ranks Guyana-Suriname as the world’s second-most prospective, underexplored offshore basin, with an estimated 13.6B bbl of oil and 32 tcf of natural gas yet to be discovered. In May 2015, ExxonMobil announced it made a significant oil discovery with the Liza-1 exploration well on the Stabroek block about 120 mi (193 km) offshore in the Guyana basin.  As of March 30, 2017 Exxon confirmed positive results of a 4th well offshore Guyana on the Stabroek Block bringing the total discovered reserves to around 1.4 billion oil equivalent barrels. Pumping should begin in 2020 with full blown production starting around 2023.

The Guyanese economy is at a critical time in its own industrial development given the burgeoning of its hydrocarbon sector. Analyst says that the discovery helps solidify the area offshore Guyana as an “exploration province” for at least the next fifty years and in light of Guyana’s small population (approximately 752,000), crude could make the country one of the world’s biggest oil producers on a per-capita basis.

Amidst the exuberance, some note that the Country is not ready for such influx of revenue and Guyana must be careful as not to negatively impact its economy In a country with no history of managing complex large scale industries except sugar and bauxite, the size and potential quick development timeline has civil society focused on the ways in which oil could boost the country’s economy or put it at risk.  If it is to successfully extract oil, Guyana needs to build the institutions and capacity to take advantage of the opportunity the discovery could provide.

The government faces a steep learning curve. Beyond fiscal revenues, Guyanese officials have to take advantage of the skills and technology associated with the complex oil space to build a more robust technocratic private sector and empower a new generation of highly skilled technocrats. Alongside the optimism that the oil discovery will be a major driver of the country’s development, Guyanese civil society are also acutely aware of the risks associated transitioning to oil production, particularly in a country already facing challenges with respect to measures of government effectiveness, rule of law, control of corruption, transparency and other governance indicators. One particular concern was how the oil sector could impact the country’s green growth agendaIt is critical that civil society organizations across Guyana to build a critical mass of citizen understanding so they become part of the solution to how Guyana can take decisions which harness the resource for sustained prosperity.


  1. Guyana is an emerging oil producer.  But country has no experience in oil production.
  2. The private sector is generally small and focused on agro-food processing, construction, retail  and distribution.   Little expertise in chemical manufacturing, undersea welding, fabrication, etc. and will likely face challenges in supplying local content to the sector in the foreseeable future.
  3. The country has a history of exporting skilled labor.
  4. The prospective oil production will occur at an  ultra-deep offshore site that requires a high level of sophisticated technology and skilled labor unavailable in Guyana.
  5. Country has weak institutional capacity especially environmental monitoring and enforcement.


  1. Significant revenue earner for central government.
  2. Significant generator of hard currency.
  3. Opportunity to learn from others mistakes and do it right.   Generous assistance is being offered by a number of governments—US, UK, Canada, Mexico, Norway and international organizations like the Inter-American Development Bank, Commonwealth Secretariat, World Bank and EITI.

 The immediate tasks of citizens and civil society is to

  1.  Advocate for a comprehensive energy policy, an adequate regulatory regime,  and a level playing field in terms of incentives and rules of the game.
  2.  Advocate of local content legislation.
  3. Advocate for rapid institutional strengthening and transparency.
  4.  Influence Government policies on human capital development for the sector.
  5.  Advocate for Sovereign Wealth Fund and clear allocation rules and a commitment to fight Dutch Disease.

Guyana is blessed.   Much needs to be done to assure broad distribution of benefits and resulting dynamism of this resource windfall. 

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Help! Stakeholder on the Warpath.

On the Warpath

A traditional Guyanese proverb says “slow fiah bile hard cow heel” which in plan english translates to mean that a consistent effort will eventually provide the desired results. So, as the largest development partner with an annual financial footprint of US$35 Million in Guyana, what do you do when a lone stakeholder is on the war path? 

The problem was that this particular stakeholder and some; were on the war path, and had been gunning for the Bank for at least one year. Each new week brought apprehension about the next critical letter to appear in the local media complaining  about the Inter-American Development Bank , questioning the institution’s commitment to indigenous peoples and the handling of development projects intended to benefit indigenous peoples.

To the institution’s credit, it understood that the only way to get good at handling difficult stakeholders, was to practice handling difficult stakeholders. The IDB took the principled approach of not responding publicly to the antagonism of the stakeholder – who many believed was writing under several fictitious names – but to bringing all of Guyana’s indigenous stakeholders into a conversation and a long term engagement to participate in its work and to lead their own dialogue on projects intended to benefit indigenous peoples. 

Living in the Matrix

In The Matrix, Neo (Keanu Reeves) discovers that what he thought was real was nothing more than a computer generated simulation intended to give human begins the illusion of freedom.  Too often, making assumptions about stakeholders keeps institutions boxed into a matrix of predictable and predetermined reactions toward them that are congruent with the matrix of conversations they have about what they think is going on. The matrix robs institutions of their ability to freely draw on creative solutions.  An example of this “matrix” of predictable and predetermined reaction is the current full blown conflict between the Georgetown Mayor and City Council and citizens over the parking meter project.

Traditional development approaches tell us that engagement and dialogue should aim for “quick wins” but these fail for a lack organizational investment, insufficient leadership commitment and few dedicated resources – not of money, but of time and effort. The IDB Guyana Office had long known that indigenous audience engagement was not a “natural act” as the political history of patronage removed the potential for partnership between some agencies and indigenous communities and that communities did not have significant experience in the skills required for substantive engagement.

How to Neutralize a Warmonger

Christopher Hitchens said that nonintervention does not mean that nothing happens. It means that something else happens. So what did the IDB do to stay clear of this war path.

  • The institution invested time and effort building an open and transparent relationship with the indigenous community as a key commodity to partnership.
  • The institution opened itself to listen generously. The major way community stakeholders negotiate is through complaining. When the institution listened to indigenous stakeholders generously, it communicated that they are worth listening to and what they are communicating is worth listening to.
  • It understood that relationship was only an entry point. Development requires a culture of coordination and inclusion and relationship is the only way to genuinely partner with indigenous communities. 

The lesson is that communities and their stakeholders should not be treated like objects. Some institutions shy away from exploring the fears behind “complaining stakeholders” because they assume they will have to pay a hefty price for addressing those complaints. When we think that the merits of a complaining stakeholder is worthless and hopeless that is the moment we need to be generous listeners.  It is said that complaining is “the thoughtful discipline of negotiation“. We are always negotiating the future together, regardless of circumstances and an institution with a vision of alternative possibilities will not be held hostage by circumstances but will invest time and effort in exploring those alternative possibilities.

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The silent battle fatigue that is crushing men.

It’s taken me a year to muster the courage or to wire this blog because of what readers may think of me. But I’m not perfect, I’m an infallible man with struggles and I have come across dozens of men and women who are struggling alike with this unique battle. I hope my story encourages others and start a conversation. And COVID-19 has made it increasingly difficult to bury under a rug. So bear with me.

Odds are that someone in your life either has dealt with or is currently dealing with the challenges presented by infertility, but something that some people might overlook is that oftentimes at least one of those people is a man. While women bear the physical and emotional brunt of the fight against infertility, men are often there, too.

We men suffer as well but in very different ways. My wife and I fought infertility for ten years. Hence the reason I refer to this suffering as infertility battle fatigue.

The Britannica defines battle fatigue as a neurotic disorder caused by the stress involved in war.  In social settings it is an anxiety related disorder resulting from prolonged exposure to emotional conflicts. Battle fatigue reaction is an acute reaction that includes a range of behaviors resulting from the stress of emotional battles that decrease the combatant’s fighting efficiency.

Infertility is brutal on men

Few men are willing to talk about the struggles we face in impregnating our wives. Husbands and dedicated men alike are silently battling infertility. We live in a culture that venerates parenthood for a married couple above all else. The literature says one in eight couples have trouble conceiving. My wife and I were one such couple for more than a decade. We suspected that we were struggling with infertility about three years into our marriage when we were not conceiving.

Medical tests pointed to poor sperm quality. These revelations were emotionally crushing and devastating for me, me especially, since men are expected to be virile. My wife and I sensed that there were going to be difficult years ahead. It also meant, ironically, that the previous three years of contraception use was pointless and a waste of money on condoms. Nonetheless, we followed our faith and the teachings of the “church” (with lots of prayers and the laying of hands, fasting for a miracle, prophetic utterances), invested tens of thousands of dollars in fertility testing, multiple medical opinions, the medications and health supplements and unorthodox sexual techniques to aid conception. But never did I contemplate the emotional and psychological price it would cost both myself and my wife to pursue our desire for children. Infertility is isolating, painful and discouraging and no one talks about – except to silently whisper that “like the husband firing blanks or like she barren“.


I lived for thirteen years treading the line between the hope that keeps us going and the despair that month after month, and year after year of failure brings. We married in 2007 and beginning in 2010 we settled on pursuing IVF treatment – an unimaginable expensive venture by Guyanese standards – opting for a treatment clinic in the Caribbean, though expensive by our standards I was committed to my wife and would pursue this relentless desire for a child and to start a new generation. The process and treatments became my life’s preoccupation and I was earning a living year on year solely to pay for the process (in hindsight we could have bought several house lots and built houses). It became my obsession. Time was getting away from us as we were aging every year.

The disappointment, frustration, guilt, shame and depression was setting in. Little did I know that the years ahead would be brutal on our marriage. Little did I know that infertility can ruin a couple’s sex life and threaten a marriage. We pursued IVF treatment for seven years conservatively costing million over seven years.

All the while the costs mounted – the cost of the treatment and the cost on our marriage. I took each drip of a failed implantation as a personal failing, and both of us were more and more separated from family, friends and each other. Instead we felt trapped, bitter, and unfairly persecuted by our God for a promise that is enshrined in the scriptures. And I was burying myself in my career as my way of escape. My job became my crutch and I became the best as what I did – top of my game.  People from all strata of society were seeking me out for advice, help, ideas and solutions to socio-economic, political and development challenges in our society but I had none for my own infertility dilemma.

How much is too much?

To put the emotional, mental, physiological and financial cost into perspective consider these; my wife underwent a medical surgery in Guyana in preparation for IVF treatment. At the Caribbean facility she endured the extraction of 16 eggs on three occasions over three years. Seven IVF implantation cycles, 5 failed cycles over 5 years 1 successful cycle that subsequently resulted in premature birth and subsequent death of our 1st child after 1 month of life (spent in excess of G$1 million for hospital charges to keep Amarie alive), with only two embryos remaining, we bit the bullet and decided to implant both embryos hoping and praying for the best and a miracle as we were on the verge of financial bankruptcy with no more embryos remaining.

Several flights to and from the Caribbean several times a year for treatment including hotel accommodation, 2 trips to Canada for medical treatment following the death of our 1st child who died 30 days after premature delivery as a result of a botched intervention at a local hospital by the attending Medical doctor. We discovered my wife’s placenta was not properly removed resulting in vaginal bleeding for one month. 

After a successful pregnancy test from the last two remaining embryos we implanted, my wife left her job and we opted for immediate travel to Canada with family who graciously agreed to accommodate my wife for 9 months to protect her health and gave us a fighting chance at a successful live and healthy birth – we are eternally grateful to them. But we were now a one income family with me returning home to continue earning to pay for the Canadian expenses associated with pre-natal care and delivery.

Infertility Distress and Depression

This stress compounded over five failed IVF cycles and the premature birth and death of our son, and the many years were wearing me down, made me want to escape many days, made me weak and vulnerable, and I allowed other influences into my life including ruminating about suicide. As Christ would have it, a friend from the UK reached out to me just when I needed encouragement and implored me seek professional therapy. I sought out more that a dozen social workers in Guyana who were unable to help, even some of my christian elders disagreed that I need professional help when “Jesus ” was the answer. While not discounting the value of my family and belief in God,  my experience with professional therapy brought me through the darkness days of my life and I’m ever thankful for my therapist Latoya Buckles who worked with me.

The struggle to call its quits

I was tempted to quit the IVF process on many occasions. I felt as though I was leaking money that could have built us houses rather than pouring it into a process that had no guarantee of success but my love for my wife told me to never give up and keep hope alive. It became increasingly difficult to engage or associate with friends who were getting babies. While I was secretly happy for them, I was avoiding them to not deal with my own disappointment and failure. Very few people knew my wife and I were pursuing IVF. Though I knew I wanted to talk to someone who would understand, I resisted doing out of caution that I would be judged and further, I thought by not talking about the IVF stress, it would shield us from embarrassment if it was not successful. I recall talking to my line manager Sophie Makonnen who I hold dearly as a mother figure, confidant and mentor about my struggles. She absolutely did not judge me. I came away from that conversation feeling she was the only person I could confide in about this struggle. I felt she was the only person I can bear that burden to.

Thoughts of regretting pre-marital unsafe sex.

in all of this, I thought many times, maybe my decision not to have children out of wedlock as a young man was a mistake or that practicing safe sex to prevent unwanted pregnancies with my girlfriend was a mistake. The again, she was of East Indian descent and her parents would never accept this young dougla boy who had his roots in Linden and Hope Town – predominantly black communities – to be with their only daughter.  This is not to say children out of wedlock is something I subscribe to because I practically grew up without a father and for all intents became an adult at eleven years old taking care of myself and sibling. I was determined not to repeat that cycle and to be actively involved and available in nurturing, caring and raising my child/children every day with love and affection – to be a hands on dad. Though I was committed to staying with my wife even if we were a childless couple, I was struggling with not being able to become a father or for my wife to become a mother. I felt my mind was not open to adopting a child because we would have no genetic connection to that child and it meant the loss of our lineage.

Where was my God?

I was conflicted and wrestling with the devil and God on the inside but my image had to be maintained. After all I was a Christian with a successful career. In 2017, in the midst of my depression, I became more desperate for help and saw a dozen Christian counselors who though well intentioned were not equipped to help as my problem was spiritualized and kept compounding until I began ruminating with suicidal thoughts one evening in my home. But through all of this I had determined that it was not another woman I needed and that my wife means everything to me, but I struggled to re-engineer a fix of myself. After 7 failed IVF cycles and only two embryos remaining, I was not optimistic. If there is no chance of conceiving a child, I felt like my life was basically over at that point. There was no more writing on the pages of my life. All I saw was blankness. It meant that I would just be a childless memory in the earth. I knew I was spiraling into depression, anxiety and acting out with unhealthy coping mechanisms. Sadly, my wife felt the brunt of my emotional instability which in hindsight, I regret. No. I did not blame her. None of this was her fault. She unfortunately, happened to be the person caught in the crossfire of my struggles and for that I take full responsibility.

In hindsight, I wished I had the good sense to know or for someone to advise us to work with a therapist through the IVF process and the death of our 1st child to cope with  the mental trauma of infertility distress,  (I am now learning that therapist skilled in inferility issues is effective in reducing infertility distress where I believe my faith community and my own ignorance failed me.) I have suffered increased social infertility distress. This infertility stress, psychological distress, financial burdens of treatment, and depression over the course of six to seven years  can be predispose a couple to un healthy social lifestyles.  Overwhelmingly, it often places their marriage under pressure.

But as God in his faithfulness intervened, I am delighted that my wife and I now have healthy beautiful daughter born in late 2019 who is a miracle. My message is that there is hope for many but as a society we have to desist from shaming and stigmatizing men and women who are struggling with infertility. If you’re struggling with the inability to conceive, please, please, talk to trusted medical professionals – travel abroad if you have to and see fertility Specialists. always enlist the help of a good therapist in the process. Our friends nurses Mandy LaFlur, Paulette Alstrom-Peters, and Sabrina Phillips who are excellent medical professionals are owed life gratitudes by us and have become our daughter’s spiritual aunts. Without them standing by us, we might still be childless. PS. On a side note, I do sometimes miss the simplicity of my previous life………lol. But she brings such joy.

Yes, the inability to conceive has taken a toll on our marriage relationship but I’m on to the next fight to rebuild it and to build back better. Everything I thought I couldn’t handle, I kept handling.

Blessings to all of you who are struggling to convince. I SEE YOU MY FRIEND. DO NOT GIVE UP. YOU. ARE. STRONGER. THAN. YOU. THINK.

You can judge me, hate me or love and support me if you get through this blog. In the meantime, I will continue to fight for my family as the most valuable resource in my life and to support and encourage those who are struggling.

In the face of a pandemic – a guide to safe guarding indigenous peoples.

When we think of the COVID-19 crisis, we often imagine cities and overcrowded communities. It rarely takes us to remote and isolated areas where indigenous communities live. But we now know that the pandemic has taken a serious toll on these communities.

How is that possible when most of the world remains under stay-at-home orders and world travel is almost at a standstill? It turns out that lockdown measures are difficult to enforce in remote areas deep in the Amazon rainforest. City dwellers in densely populated cities in the Amazonas State, such as Manaus and Boa Vista in Brazil, are fleeing to rural areas and bringing with them the virus. Guyana reported its first case of COVID-19 in Region Nine after an infected person from neighbouring Brazil, the country with the world’s second highest infection rates visited the region.

The impact of such novel infectious disease can be devastating on these communities. In Guyana, an imported case from Brazil led to more than 130 people in self-quarantine, 169 infections and 1 death across three indigenous regions, according to Stabroek News, a local newspaper. The coronavirus is spreading rapidly in the tri-border areas of the Amazon between Brazil, Colombia and Peru, home to hundreds of different indigenous communities. Countries like Guyana must be added as the quartet in that tri-border scenario as Manus and Boa Vista is 1000KM and 126 KM or 2 hours (driving) respectively from Guyana’s most southern region of the Rupununi.

Why this population group is vulnerable.

These communities are traditionally poor, lack access to basic health services, information and infrastructure. The rapid spread of COVID-19, insufficient data and strained local government budgets compound the challenges for these historically marginalized communities.

History has demonstrated that diseases like COVID-19 can wreak havoc on Indigenous Peoples due to a variety of factors, from lack of access to infrastructure to lack of basic government services including vaccination.

Already marginalized, Indigenous Peoples chronically lack proper access to health resources and information, further exacerbating the risk to their communities in times of emergency.

According to the World Bank, indigenous populations account for up to 42 million people (latest available 2010 census data), or up to 8 percent of the total population in the region. They represent approximately 14 percent of the poor and 17 percent of the extremely poor in Latin America.

This is exacerbated by the fact that COVID-19 spreads fast, meaning it can tear through Indigenous communities with little built-up immunity.

Guyana’s southern region is vulnerable on two sides – the Brazil threat and the movement of miners through indigenous communities from the coast of Guyana. Three predominantly indigenous regions have now recorded 354 infections.  With raising infections in Guyana, a disaster is at the country’s backdoor and unless citizens exercise caution and adhere to the emergency measures promulgated by the government, the model figures of 1,400 and 20,000 infections can quickly become a reality.

Indigenous Peoples are the most marginalized and ill-equipped to deal with the COVID-19 or any health pandemic. The lack of access to healthcare, lack of medical supplies and those cited by UNICEF are all factors that will impact the communities’ ability to respond. A further contributing factor is a lack of access to timely and credible information of this evolving crisis.

For decision makers, health providers, and indigenous leaders and organizations to better manage the health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in the indigenous peoples’ territories, they could consider the following 4 key actions:

  1. Direct coordination of national and sub-national government with the coordination structures of indigenous peoples is the most effective way to guide the design and implementation of effective responses to COVID-19 in their territories. This coordination includes: (i) forming community emergency committees to facilitate coordination between indigenous peoples’ leaders and governments in the delivery of health and basic services; (ii) designing coordination plans and food, hygiene products and medical supplies plans; (iii) designing protocols for handling suspected cases in communities without health services or remote location and with limited communication channels; and (iv) identifying local indigenous professionals to care for confirmed infected community members and take isolation measures;
  2. Adapt standardized health measures and protocols for COVID-19 in contexts of high cultural and linguistic diversity and with limited access to medical services and basic services. Some examples include: (i) sanitation measures cannot be carried out according to standard protocols in conditions in which indigenous peoples do not have access to resources such as drinking water, soap, medicines, etc.; and (ii) social distancing measures are difficult to apply when family and community structures are intrinsically collective and with strong social cohesion.
  3. Plan differentiated and immediate-reaching communication strategies for populations with limited access to information and communication technologies, and mass media. Some key actions include: (i) enabling communication channels between authorities and the community during the emergency; (ii) designing communication campaigns in native languages and with messages appropriate to the local socio-cultural reality; and (iii) training indigenous leaders on the key issues of COVID-19 so that they can disseminate them in their communities.
  4. Consider mobility restrictions relevant in rural and dispersed environments. Some considerations include: (i) strengthening mobile health care services with COVID-19 equipment, especially for communities that do not have health centers; and (ii) strengthening quarantine protocols for the entry and exit to the territories of people who do not reside in the communities which the government has commendable done.

The implementation of appropriate measures, in direct dialogue and coordination with indigenous peoples, has the potential to improve the effectiveness of the actions that Guyana can take to tackle this health crises. Time is of the essence to put these ideas to work to save lives and empower these communities to be part of the solution.

The Heart of the Matter.

We have a tendency to monitor our behavior while pretty much ignoring our hearts. After all, how do you monitor your heart? I can’t get too far off base in my behavior without somebody drawing it to my attention. But my heart? That seems a bit more complicated.

Jesus said “The things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart.”

The heart is such a mystery that we need to learn to monitor it. Like the seismic activity of a dormant volcano, what you don’t know can hurt you.

Suddenly someone files for divorce.

Suddenly our sons, brothers or families are in prison or exhibit disturbing attitude changes.

Suddenly a harmless pastime becomes a destructive habit.

Out of nowhere devastating words pierce the soul of an unsuspecting loved one.

What originates in the secrecy of our hearts won’t always remain a secret. Eventually it finds its way into our homes, offices, neighborhoods, onto Facebook and in the nation.

The heart seeps into every conversation. It dictates every relationship. Our very lives emanate from the heart. We live, parent, lead, relate, romance, confront, react, respond, instruct, manage, problem solve, and love from the heart.

Our hearts impact the intensity of our communication. Our hearts have the potential to exaggerate our sensitivities and insensitivities. Every arena of life intersects with what’s going on in our hearts. Everything passes through on its way to wherever it’s going. Everything.

Today I encourage you that we need the courage to watch over, understand, and purify our hearts for the sake of ourselves, our neighbors and our country.

My Dark Nights

I was at the edge of darkness. It’s not pleasant, your world slowly becomes wobbly, you constantly battle between sin and right living {righteousness}, call into question your faith beliefs and search for honest faith when your world is shaken.

But you hope to press through the valley of darkness believing that somewhere ahead there is light, holding on to the principles of your faith because light is a better option than darkness.  Sometimes a lightening bolt tears a dream apart leaving you with questions for your God, and these life experiences expose our mental and emotional fortitude.

A crisis of faith is often preceded by trials of seemingly unanswered prayers or unrelenting life circumstances, which shake us to the core. Yes it becomes so severe that you wonder if God is there.

A crisis of faith causes you to seriously question whether what you believe and live by is true.”

Crisis Point

I have struggled and faced my own crisis of faith when my wife and I lost our first child who was 4 weeks old {And I will tell the story of how our health care system needs urgent overhaul}. My fervent prayers for his life were unanswered, even though I was ready to give up mine for his. I was loved by many but a sense of abandonment settled over me and I didn’t know what to do. I felt those in the faith community did not know how to respond to my crisis or how to walk me back from the edge of darkness.

My life was at a crossroads. Do I walk away from my community of fellowship? Do I wrestle with and question the validity of my God or do I abandon my faith to explore life on my own terms? Responding to my crisis of faith became paramount if I was to survive as I was spiraling to depression {Yes, I will return to this silent epidemic in our society in a subsequent blog}.

I saw this crisis of faith in the lives of some of the great men of God in the Bible. Men who did some of the greatest exploits that have ever been done in the name of God. Men like King David, King Solomon and Joseph who we have read about, studied their lives and felt that we could never match up to their walk. Yet, these men reached such a great crisis point in their lives that some of them asked God to kill them and lamented their hatred for life (see Ecclesiastes 2:17).

I believe that Jesus of all men, suffered his own crisis of faith. Jesus is fully God, but He is also fully human. In the Garden of Gethsemane just before Jesus was arrested he prayed that if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me (Matthew 26:39-40). That “cup” to which Jesus refers is the suffering he was about to endure. It’s as if Jesus were being handed a cup full of bitterness and suffering with the expectation that He drink all of it. He struggled with the need to accept the torture and shame that awaited Him.

Walking Back from the Edge

All of these men ultimately chose not to abandon their faith. They were able to have a crisis and not lose their faith. How then do we overcome a crisis of faith? For me, it was important to be emphatic and patient with myself, and to examine my life to see if this was a gradual process. Our relationship with God is unique. Don’t compare your faith to others. Just because someone is praying more frequently than you or more active in fellowship doesn’t mean that God takes your concerns less seriously or that he loves you any less.

Like Jesus, my faith did not exempt me from life’s troubles. I experienced depression, and loss, and fear but nothing caused as deep a questioning of my faith as the loss of my son. I have come to realize that faith is not meant to be circumstantial. It means trusting in the midst of pleasant as well as painful situations. Acknowledging this did not silence the questions that arose, but I have embraced them as part of the process of growing as a person.

If you’re silently struggling with your faith, you are not alone. Many people are silently struggling with theirs. A crisis of faith could be a fundamental life trial. I am thankful for the few men and women in my life (both Christians and non Christians, Pastors, friends, colleagues and a professional therapist) who helped to walked me back from the edge of darkness. 

You can too. Talk to someone. Today I am more resilient.

In the meantime, keep your chin up and keep the Faith!

Why Should Guyana’s President take Responsibility for the Oil Sector?

So we have all just read, that the Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman has handed responsibility of the Petroleum sector to President Granger. This is not about general good governance. This is about how to get the economic decision chain right and managing that chain of economic and policy decisions around oil and gas. Economic and policy decisions around oil and gas depends upon a tripod of politics and requires a very high level of political activity which is commonly called the AUTHORIZING ENVIRONMENT. This tripod of politics includes rules, institutions and citizen understanding.

The first part of the tripod is rules. You need distinctive rules that address those key decisions. Second you need institutional capacity to implement those rules and third these institutions must be supported by a critical mass of citizen understanding. Now that Guyana has made a sixth discovery, it now needs a rules based system which says the government can’t just do a deal with whatever company shows up at the door of the Ministry of Natural Resources, there has to be an orderly system for selling the rights to resource extraction and that is a transparent process of competition or a policy decision which determines saving out of natural resources revenues. So that’s an example of a legislated rule. But rules need institutions – a team of people, public officials with a mandate – that actually understand rules and policies and has the capacity to implement them other wise what you have are institutions that are paper tigers. These rules and institutions then need to be scrutinized by a critical mass of citizens who understand the issues.

There’s a large waterfront of both rules, legislative and policy rules and institutions which have to be built and that takes us finally to the authorizing environment (view this video about understanding the authorizing environment), who’s going to do that? And the part of the tragedy, is that those decisions of managing natural resources are taken at too low a level of government. Since Guyana discovered oil, the implementing ministry has been the Ministry of Natural Resources but this Ministry has no competence in how revenues should be spent, invested or saved. The Ministry of Natural resources has no competence, no remit, no authority in this sort of investment process.

Guyana’s future is not investing in a lot of oil related activities like refineries, our future is in using those oil revenues to build a diversified economy, build a city and towns that functions well, get a transport system, a port system, an education system.

And so, the authorizing environment that builds and supervises the whole waterfront of laws and institutions that implement those laws, that authorizing environment has to be above the level of any particular ministry and certainly above the level of the Ministry of Natural Resources.

In the end, the only authorizing environment that can make sure that across the waterfront the rules are in place, the institutions are in place, and the critical mass of citizen understanding is built, the only institution that can do that is the Presidency. And so, what is needed is an authorizing environment, which is basically the Ministry of the Presidency plus the relevant ministers who span this range, the whole waterfront of decisions that have to go well in order for resources under the ground to be discovered and converted into sustained prosperity.

Watch this clip to learn more about the Decision Chain of Natural Resources.

About the Blogger

Kevin Bonnett is a leading development practitioner who has provided expertise in strategic development and public policy thinking, thematic sector mapping and analysis, strategic advice and relationship management in priority development areas of economic empowerment, the environment, private sector, crime & insecurity, water and sanitation, education, health sectors and governance among others to the Government of Guyana and some of the world’s leading international development agencies including the United Nations Development Programme, Delegation of the European Commission, United States Agency for International Development, Department for International Development, World Health Organization and World Bank.

Kevin holds a BSc in Public Management and Post Graduate Diploma in Development Studies from the University of Guyana and a Master’s Degree in Global Studies from the University of the West Indies. He also holds a Diploma in Anti-Corruption from the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Center in Sweden and a Certificate in Natural Resources Governance from the Natural Resource Governance Institute, Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment and The World Bank and is competent in working with UK Ministers and Parliament through training and attachment with the London School of Government.

Making Cents for At-Risk Youths in Guyana by Derise Williams.

SiddiqaSiddiqa Shabazz, a 21-year-old school drop-out became a single mother at the age of seventeen and now has two children ages three and two years old. These days her main sources of income are braiding the hair of friends and neighbors and operating a trampoline on weekends.

After the loss of her mother in 2016 who was her main support, Siddiqa found herself depressed and struggling to provide for her two children.  It was at this point that a village leader told her about a business entrepreneurship program being launched to target at -risk youths in her community of Sophia. Sophia is a former squatting settlement which still is characterized with high levels of crime despite having been regularized over ten years ago. It was for this reason that Sophia was selected under the IDB-financed technical co-operation, Support for the Implementation of the Citizen Security Strategy as a community that can benefit from the intervention.

From Risk to Opportunity

The Youth Entrepreneurship Program, popularly called YouthBiz592 [1] because of its focus on youths in business was implemented through a collaboration among the Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Business. The program provided entrepreneurship and life skills training to 87 young people considered to be at-risk from various communities in Guyana with an aim of providing support towards reducing negative behavior and to provide economic empowerment to this specific population group. Under this three-month program, participants received coaching on starting a business, and benefited from opportunities for work attachments with established firms. Networks were developed between students and with trainers and moral support and guidance were provided for persons who felt they did not have the skills and behavior to contribute meaningfully to society.

Birth of an Entrepreneur

In April 2017, Siddiqa’s journey started under the program. Although she facedFun Park 2 challenges such as being unable to work during the period of training and time away from her children, she was able to persevere thanks to the financial support and childcare provided under the program. Based on her business proposal, Siddiqa benefited from a US$1,500 grant which she used to expand her “Kids Fun Rental” business with the purchase of additional trampolines and a generator that allowed her to increase her working hours. In addition to the grant financing received, Siddiqa opined that the skills learnt on business strategies, socializing, empowerment and even parenting have been instrumental in expanding her business.  She now is not only able to comfortably afford her living expenses but also making a difference to someone else by hiring an employee who helps her with her business.

From being overwhelmed with the responsibilities of providing day to day for her family, under the program Siddiqa has transitioned to a life full of zest. Her self-confidence has dramatically improved. Currently she is in the process of applying for another grant to further expand her services to a full party service and rental. She has even decided to continue her schooling and will taking a few subjects inclusive of English and Mathematics at the next Caribbean Secondary Examination Council (CSEC) exams. “I would recommend such a program to anyone, said Siddiqa, “since it changed my life.”

At its closing, the program was deemed successful with 85 out of 87 beneficiariesFun Park 2 completing with an attendance averaging over 83%. 84 business plans were submitted, out of which 72 were approved and 66 beneficiaries receiving grants of up to US$ 1,500 to start their business ventures. The program was able to institutionalize a business model on youth entrepreneurship within the Small Business Bureau since this was the first such program implemented in Guyana. The success of the program has led to its replication where at-risk youths in 20 communities across Guyana will benefit from entrepreneurship training under the Citizen Security Strengthening Program.

About our Blogger

Derise WilliamsDerise Williams is a Senior Operations Associate at the Inter-American Development Bank Country Office in Guyana.  Since joining the Bank in 2007, Derise has worked in the Operations Department with responsibility for supporting the supervision of the Bank’s portfolio of development projects in the areas of transport, institutional strengthening, public sector management and housing and urban development. She also worked in the Procurement Division at the Bank’s Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Derise has extensive experience in operations, project and procurement management which she readily applies and has helped to drive the successful completion of several Bank operations which continues to improve the lives of Guyanese. Working at the IDB provides her with the opportunity to be innovative and creative in delivering results especially in the areas that she is most passionate about, that is, justice, security, youths and the poor.

Previously, she was a Commerce Officer at the Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce from 2004 to 2007 with responsibilities for domestic trade and creating a conducive environment for business. She also lectured at the University of Guyana in the Department of Economics. Derise holds a Bachelor Degree in Economics with Distinction, Post Graduate Diploma in Development Studies with Distinction and a Master’s Degree in Project Management from the University of the West Indies.


[1] 592 is in the international dialing code for Guyana


Normally, we walk on one side of the road, left side or right side. My colleague Alejandro gave me some good advice once and told me to always walk in the direction of the oncoming traffic. Did you know that? Do you always do it? Am I safe doing this?

According to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), on average 34 persons die each year for every 100,000 individuals in Guyana. For the Latin American and Caribbean region, IDB statistics reveal an average of 17 deaths per 100,000 individuals across the region. In the case of Guyana, pedestrians represent the highest percentage (30%) of deaths among road users to the World Health Organization. How’s that for walking on the sides of the road?

During last week, I was on my way to work one morning along the East Bank Demerara (EBD) Roadway in Guyana. Anyone who lives along the EBD knows how frustrating early morning traffic can be. We were almost at the end of the long traffic line and there on

Incomplete Bagotstown Pedestrian Overpass. Photo Credit, Clevern Liddell. 2017

the right-hand side of the four-lane road I observed a young woman and her daughter of about three years old.  

From my vantage point, I saw her lift her daughter up under her arms, secure her school bags and make a bolt across the road as if she herself were clad in a traffic police’s uniform forcing the oncoming traffic to halt in whichever direction it was flowing. “Oh my goodness!” I shrieked…The truck had stopped abruptly and so did we. This brave mother managed to quickly cross two lanes of traffic and make a pit top at the median for her next attempt to cross the other two lanes.

Surprisingly enough, the area where this incident took place is called Houston, a small neighborhood along the EBD roadway and home to one of the largest container ports in the country as well as a secondary school immediately opposite its entrance and a gas station nearby.

Houston is also one of the areas that will benefit from the construction of a new Pedestrian Overhead Crossing along the EBD Road, the first in the country funded with support from the IDB’s Country Office in Guyana.

Civil works began earlier this year in June 2017 with a plan to install a total of five (5) new Pedestrian Overhead Crossings along the EBD Road. The Bank is financing the total cost of construction and supervision amounting to about US$2.2 million. In addition, these crossings will benefit from unique features including a solar powered back-up lighting system along with elevators to facilitate the elderly, pregnant women and people with disability.

Picture 2
Pedestrian Overpass at Providence, East Bank Demerara. Photo Credit. Clevern Liddell. 2017

Now thinking about the young mother and daughter who daringly crossed the road… if they were walking in the middle of the road above the traffic, seems like that might be safer, what do you think? How many more Pedestrian Overhead Crossings need to be installed?

The IDB continues to improve lives in Guyana by making roads safer. This landmark project is expected to be completed during the first semester of 2018 with all five Pedestrian Overhead Crossings fully outfitted and operational helping to reduce exposure of pedestrians to fatal road incidents.


About our Guest Blogger

Clevern Liddell, Stimulator of Positive Change

Clevern works in the Operations Department at the IDB Country Office in Guyana. As an Operations Senior Analyst, she provides key inputs for the Bank’s portfolio analysis and works with various development projects across multiple sectors including transport, trade and public sector management.  Passionate about sustainable development, everyday she gets to share her expertise in project management and procurement to help deliver project results to Guyanese beneficiaries which improves lives. Clevern comes from a consulting background and is an advocate for evidence-based decision making, strategic planning, innovative ideas and results. Clevern has a Bsc in Economics and holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Bradford and a Diploma in Procurement and Supply Chain Management from the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS).


Reverse Innovation and the Poor

Innovation Farm

Innovation Redefined

The elimination of poverty is one of the most complex endeavours to undertake.  In the decades since the establishment of the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1864 as the first international development agency, none have yet innovated a solution largely because they have focused on the wrong goals and wrong systems for eliminating poverty. 

Innovation starts with people and vulnerable people are both capable of innovating and willing to work at it, not just individually but also with others. Collaboration between vulnerable people and development agencies will be crucial to our success at finding innovative solutions to poverty.

People Driven

Poverty elimination requires people driven and not government driven solutions.

I have always advocated to my colleagues at the Inter-American Development Bank that poor people know more than anyone else, the solutions to their vulnerability; a process called reverse innovation. Poverty elimination requires people driven and not government driven solutions. Perhaps the single most important factor in the limited impact of so many development projects supported by government and development agencies is the lack of influence allowed poor people in the conception, design, mobilization and implementation of the solutions.  We in the development community need to begin to look for the vulnerable groups of people that we can collaborate with and reach consensus solutions.

Diversity Will Help Drive Innovation in Development

Poor people can be considered the most innovative to be able to survive daily vulnerabilities and with little resources.

Innovation which is essentially ideas, comes from anywhere and anyone. Part of the solution to eliminating poverty is that magic happens at intersections, when the mindsets and ideas of vulnerable people from different circumstances and life experiences collide with the development thinking. People who experience poverty and vulnerability are the most innovative since they are able to survive daily vulnerabilities on very little resources. Poor think differently and come up with different solutions that can make life better for vulnerable people. 

Just having a diverse group of vulnerable people working together on development projects promotes innovative thinking.  Poverty elimination now requires that  vulnerable people be allowed to influence, conceptualize, design and implement the sustainable solutions to their vulnerabilities.

New Approaches With The Poor

What has been missing from the development approach has been the views of poor people who live with vulnerabilities and have the legitimate right to speak up for themselves and on behalf of their communities, and to negotiate and participate in the development process.  Perhaps the time has come for the role of development practitioners to be redefined away from being talkers, implementers and solution generators to being listeners, facilitators and funders of community generated solutions. 
This approach is innovative but could prove a difficult challenge for development professionals as poor people will question many of our conclusions, the accuracy of our “knowledge” and the relevancy of our proposals.  Poor people will raise questions we find uncomfortable, including who has the legitimacy to speak about the needs and priorities of poor people.
The only way to build a future where poverty is rolled back is to invest our time and effort in building a development driven relationship with poor people and their communities. 
Learn more about reverse innovation by viewing these videos.


The United States have long presented itself as a leader in global development. It is the single largest donor  in humanitarian and development efforts, with sizable contributions to development banks like the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.  Within the United Nations system, the U.S. remains the largest funder of the U.N. as a whole championing the urgency of meeting the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The Trump Administration announced it would slash US contributions to the UN system, discontinue its contribution to the IDB Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) that supports pilot development projects and withdraw from the Parris Climate AgreementThat would have a major impact not in money but in ideas

The consequences of potential declines in U.S. contributions to global development regimes and exit from agreements could result in a lost of seats and influence at important international policy tables with emerging powers like China and the new UK free European block deciding to step up and replace the US as the lead funders and influencers on global development ideas.  In confronting scenarios like these, the U.S. needs to ask itself one foremost question: amid a period of rapid and unpredictable global change, how much responsibility does it want to take on in shaping the world’s new normal?

As some emerging countries like China, India and Brazil become more innovative, opportunities for new entrants to the development arena will be created.  Already we are seeing countries buffeting the global norms and institutions that underpin the globalized economy as they feel that the U.S. is no longer a reliable partner committed to upholding the liberal economic order as we have seen Germany tell the US it had the wrong address when the administration tried to open trade talks with Germany telling the US “trade policy is the responsibility of the European Union.”

Developing countries have not seriously begun to think through the consequences of Trump’s policies for global development but it is creating great opportunities in some parts of the world. Countries whose development interests clash with the United States may have opportunities to win gains at the policy tables while the United States, the global hegemon, is distracted. In other parts of the world, institutions are likely to recalibrate their behavior, and in particular their dependence on the United States. They will not want their development priorities to rely entirely on a country that pursues erratic policies and hence will start to hedge their bets. If the current U.S. administration has decided that it no longer needs to rely on international institutions as much as in the past, the influencers at those policy tables are deciding that they cannot rely on the United States anymore and will start to forge their own arrangements, which will diminish the U.S. ability to influence their actions and decisions.



In this new, not so brave world, pervasive and violent conflicts are not and will not erupt because of religion but increasingly from civilizations which are culturally different. The world is in the simultaneous process of fragmentation and integration not because of religious difference, but because of a “Clash of Civilizations

The results of the 2016 BREXIT referendum, the US elections and the French 2017 Presidential front-runner whose campaign claims that French traditions are under threat from immigrants and Islamic fundamentalism is highlighting the significant changes and differences that is occurring in our civilization today. Civilization is a cultural entity which involves language, values, norms, ideals, modes of thinking of successive generations, a way of life, religion, customs, etc. However, of all the objective elements that define civilizations,  religion is the defining characteristic of civilizations, as Christopher Dawson said “the great religions are the foundations on which the great civilization rests“.

Of the five “world religions”, four – Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Confucianism – are associated with the world’s major civilizations (Sinic, Japanese, Hindu, Islamic, Orthodox and Western). The fifth religion, Buddhism is not associated with any civilization.

The most dramatic and significant contacts between civilizations were when people from one civilization conquered and eliminated or subjected the people of another civilization. As Geoffrey Parker observed, “the rise of the West depended upon the exercise of force“. To prove the point, he posits that the West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas, values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence to colonize territories as Europeans controlled 84% of the earth’s surface by 1914.

Western civilization however, has never generated a religion.  But globalization, championed by the West, have caused states and governments to lose the ability to control the flow of ideas, money, technology, goods and people; and civilization is bringing with it all of its major elements including religion.

Since Western civilization has not generated any major religion, its unfamiliarity with religion is at the root of its unwillingness to tolerate the  opinions, belief and practices of other civilizations or to accommodate religious diversity. Many in the UK who voted to leave the European Union (EU), voted to leave because they want to stop immigration into the UK and the US elected a President who wants to restrict the entry of the entire Islamic civilization into the United States under the assumption that Muslims are a threat to the US national security.

The real issue is that globalization has enabled the rise of populist movements and the West finds itself dealing with multiple identity crises, and has erroneously framed religion as the cause for the crisis of global insecurity and conflict. It is therefore in the interest of the powers of Western civilization to work with the Islamic civilization to address terrorism and fundamentalism. The level of cooperation will need to go beyond conventional security partnerships to tackle the deeply rooted political causes and ideological justifications of conflict.

We have allowed our civilization to outrun our culture; we have allowed our technology to outdistance our theology and for this reason we find ourselves caught up with many problems.“
—Martin Luther King, “Sermon at Temple Israel of Hollywood“ American Rhetoric (delivered February 26, 1965)



This is a re-posted blog of 2014 exploring the development challenges the Caribbean faces in diversifying its dependence away from the traditional development paradigms and re-constructing regional development to help it punch above it weight as small island states.

“Good living nah lang life” is an African Guyanese proverb that translates to mean that the good life won’t continue indefinitely without sustained contribution from the one giving or living it and that nothing free and easy lasts forever.  I could not help wonder if this proverb can very well reflect the state of Caribbean development ……..TO READ REST OF THIS BLOG CLICK ON THIS LINK THE CHALLENGES FACING THE CARIBBEAN BLOCK


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