An analysis of population trends since the 1980s by chartered accountant Christopher Ram suggests that Guyana’s population would have been between 1.2 million and 1.5 million by now but he says nothing is being done to counter migration.
“If Guyana had maintained growth rates experienced during the decade of the turbulent 60s, or even at the lower rates of growth per decade of 20% and 15%, our population would have been in the range of 1,200,000 and 1,500,000, in other words our population would have doubled, we would have had a surplus of skills, a large number of consumers, entrepreneurs and businesses,” he said on his blog chrisram.net.
“Looked at another way, a 20% increase over ten years is only 1.84% compounded annually, while a 15% over ten years require an annual compounded rate of 1.41%. These are well below the annual growth rates of countries at our level of development. It is not however a question of fertility – the birth rate far exceeds the death rate – our problem is migration for which we seem to have no interest, let alone policy,” Ram, who is also an attorney, asserted.
He noted that 1.5 million may sound like a lot but pointed to the number of Guyanese in the Caribbean and North America and said that “the magnitude shrinks to nothingness.” The decline in Guyana’s population between the 2002 and the 2012 censuses is only the second time since the earliest censuses in the 1800s that Guyana has experienced a falling population, he observed.
Previously, Ram estimated that the findings of the latest census indicate that roughly 128,000 persons have left the country in the decade between 2002 and 2012.
According to figures released by the Bureau of Statistics on June 30, the 2012 census determined that Guyana’s population stood at 747,884 persons, down from 751,223 persons in 2002. The resulting difference is 3,339 and Chief Statistician Lennox Benjamin described the drop as marginal.
However, Ram has contended that Benjamin erred when he told reporters that Guyana saw a “marginal” reduction in its population from 2002 to 2012. The political analyst told Stabroek News that government budget speeches going back several years show that Guyana has had 124,805 births over deaths, which, when added to the population recorded in 2002, should put the 2012 population count at around 876,028, a difference of 128,144. “In other words, we have lost at a minimum 128,144 persons,” Ram wrote in a letter to Stabroek News. “I describe this as minimum because over the past 10 years Guyana has attracted an indeterminate number of mainly Brazilians and Chinese at a rate not experienced by this country for more than 70 years,” he continued.
In his latest blog post, Ram observed that this is not the first occasion on which a national census has revealed a decline in the population. He said that the decline in the population between the 2002 and the 2012 censuses is only the second time since the earliest censuses in the 1800s that Guyana has experienced falling population, the first was during the period 1980 – 1991 when there was a much more pronounced decline of 36,000 persons, and the current census.
The largest increase was between 1946 and 1960, reflecting the post-war baby boom that took place worldwide.
“The decline between 1980 and 1991 would confirm the widely held view that Guyanese were no longer prepared to endure the PNC’s shamelessly rigged elections, denial of fundamental freedoms, an increasingly long list of restricted food and other items of import, and foreign exchange shortages. 1980 was of course the year of the infamous Constitution that now allows the PPP/C to carry out all forms of excesses and plead that their action is consistent with the same objectionable Constitution. It seems reasonable to conclude that migration under the PNC was largely influenced by the push factors which drove people out of the country,” Ram wrote.
He said that the decline during the 2000 and 2012 period is no doubt due to a combination of factors including the crime wave following the 2002 jailbreak, the culture of corruption spawned by the PPP/C administration as well as what has come to be known as the pull factors of immigration with those who have gone before sponsoring those left behind. “With the more attractive jobs in the state sector reserved for the members and families of the PPP/C, our graduates are migrating in increasing numbers to seek opportunities abroad. In other words, the PPP/C’s contribution to migration is a result of both the push and pull factors,” the analyst contended.
“A comment needs to be made too comparing the decline of 35,894 between 1980 and 1991 and the decline of 3,339 between 2000 and 2012. There are no reliable records available, if at all, of inward migration during the many years of the PNC rule when the joke was that Guyana is a place “you come from not go to.” On the other hand the evidence is there of the large numbers of Chinese nationals all over Guyana and of Brazilians operating in the extractive and their support industries. Had it not been for these, the population decline would have been much more than the 3,339 reported,” Ram declared.
Looking forward, the accountant said that the PNC seems unwilling or unable to accept that it made very serious mistakes during the period 1968 to 1992 when under pressure from the USA it finally conceded free and fair elections. None of its current leaders seem confident enough to accept that that the 1980 Constitution was custom-made for an elected dictator, that the right of citizens to eat the food of their choice was criminalized and that the exercise of the right of assembly, association and demonstration was met with harassment, he said.
“It would be unfair to the PNC not to recognise some efforts at reform but these have been too tentative and not far reaching. As a result it seems unable to persuade its supporters that better days are ahead and that they should stay and struggle for change,” Ram observed.
For the PPP, he said that the party has rapidly accumulated its own long list of violations; denying democracy to the citizens of the country, exploiting the Constitution as much as the PNC, engaging in political victimization and discrimination, all the while building a kleptocracy cum plutocracy. “Many of its supporters see a party and government in which irreversible rot has set in. The preliminary results of the 2012 census confirm the results of past elections – that the PPP/C’s traditional support base is embarrassed and alienated from a party that has lost any sense of morality,” Ram said.
“Given half a chance, they too will continue the outward trek. Reaching 800,000 would be a challenge, let alone 1,500,000,” he added.
Meantime, Ram said that the two principal criticisms he has heard of the preliminary census report relate to a “gratuitous” comment made by the Chief Statistician about migration and concerns expressed by a number of persons that they could not recall having been enumerated in the census. Data for the years 2004 – 2013 published by the Ministry of Finance and the Bureau of Statistics show official net outward migration of approximately 12,700 persons per annum which accords with his own best estimate using figures published by the Bureau of Statistics from data supplied by the Registrar of Births and Deaths, he said.
“The second matter, if true, is serious but for a different reason. Population size feeds into two key economic indicators used for international comparison purposes – per capita GDP and per capita GNP. Age and geographic distribution are useful indicators for planners in education, health and pension policies, in determining the location of schools and medical facilities and estimating the expenditure on pensions,” Ram asserted.