It has been said that there are now more Guyanese in the diaspora than at home and while this may seem an exaggeration, the fact is that Guyana’s economic migrants are continuing to leave in droves for the Caribbean, North America, Europe; anywhere that will have them.
On paper, their reasons for leaving differ; some are going to join relatives whose migration preceded theirs; some are going to work for a number of years; few are first generation migrants – the first of their family to leave; some, claiming persecution are migrating as refugees. But regardless of the rationale put forward, each is seeking a better life, which they so far have been denied in their homeland.
For the immigrants, the better quality of life will not necessarily translate to an estate in Connecticut and holidays in Martha’s Vineyard or their equivalent elsewhere, though some have exceeded even their own expectations. However, the majority of them find themselves just middling, living pay check to pay check, on or on the verge of the dole/welfare, and with the exception of the retired, few are even willing to consider returning home.
To them, home represents aggravation and a step backwards. Home is the place where, some three decades after they first started, blackouts are still a part of everyday life, while the cost of electricity has skyrocketed.
Home is the place where you are never sure what, if anything at all, will come through your taps when they are turned on. It’s a place where if you want potable water you had better be in a position to invest in building a trestle and buying a black tank and a water pump.
Home is where a large expanse of bush crisscrossed with mud dams is called a housing scheme.
Home is where your overflowing refuse receptacle can sit on your parapet for three weeks fattening maggots when there is supposed to be a weekly garbage disposal service in place.
Home is the place where, for most people, a month’s salary cannot cover a month’s basic living expenses.
When it is considered that Guyana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew from $393.76 in 1971 to $1,518.44 in 2008, the above boggles the mind. After all the GDP is one of the primary indicators used to gauge the health of a country’s economy and if it appears that the country’s economy is thriving then its people should be thriving also. And basic services ought to be up to speed.
That is the spin politicians would have us believe, particularly when they are in power. But it is obvious that a healthy GDP does not translate to a better life and is not a true indicator of progress and development. Clearly statistics compiled through measuring the dollar value of local goods and services, regardless of how good they appear to be, cannot measure people’s well-being.
Key among the many other questions that must be considered – cost of living, poverty, the environment and all of the issues mentioned above – are access to quality education and health care, which the entitled minority insist are in place here, while they scurry overseas to have their needs for these met. The un-entitled, therefore, will continue to look beyond these borders for a means to a better life. All signs still point to the grass being greener on the other side.