The vast majority of Guyanese in the diaspora have realized the better life they sought

Dear Editor,

Re the Stabroek News editorial of July 7, it would indeed be enlightening for SN to tell its readers (especially the ones in the diaspora) how it arrived at the conclusion that “However, the majority of them [Guyanese in the diaspora] find themselves just middling, living pay check to pay check, on or on the verge of the dole/welfare.”

This misconception has been peddled around in Guyana for years without a single iota of documented supporting evidence. So what then is the reality?

In the early 1990s a survey conducted in the US concluded that Caribbeans (including Guyanese) are more upwardly mobile than African Americans and Hispanics.  That survey also emphasized the penchant for home ownership as indicative of status. In fact, today everywhere one goes in the Guyanese diaspora one comes into contact with Guyanese who are homeowners. Thus, based on empirical and anecdotal evidence one can conclude that the vast majority of Guyanese are homeowners, with a significant segment owning additional real estate, especially outside of the major metropolitan areas. Schenectady and Long Island along with parts of New Jersey are cases in point as are many areas in Florida, Georgia and other states. Furthermore most of those who rent are relative newcomers, retirees and/or the elderly.

While there are no stats for the Guyanese diaspora itself, stats for the Caribbean diaspora (Hussein et al, UWI, 2009) indicate that 84% are employed, of which 48% are professionals, 15% are students, 9% are skilled workers, 7% clerical/sales workers with smaller percentages as non-skilled workers, business owners, etc. Extrapolating these figures for the Guyanese diaspora one can conclude that a large percentage are professionals with a vast array of skills and knowledge. In fact, a significant feature of Guyanese society in the diaspora is the penchant for education and professional training; the Guyanese focus on education is an outlook established deep in the psyche. Everywhere one goes one would find Guyanese at various levels of industry and commerce as well as business owners, the latter dominating certain sections of various cities (Little Guyana in Queens, New York City or Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn, New York City, as well as parts of Toronto, London, Washington, et al).

The success of the diaspora is evidenced by the significant contribution to Guyana’s GDP (estimated anywhere between 25% and 40%), not to mention the various medical outreaches, NGOs, alumni associations, hometown associations and so on (Roger Hussein et al; Manuel Orozco etc).

In effect, contrary to the conclusion of the editorial, Guyanese have developed a reputation as hustlers who prefer not to seek welfare, food stamps, etc, because such are anathema to our spirit of self help, self pride and independence. Rather than become dependent on the state Guyanese often prefer to work two or even three jobs. But even for the few who are dependent on state aid the standard of living is far superior to that of the vast majority of Guyanese back home.

Thus the reality then is that for the vast majority of Guyanese in the diaspora, that better life they sought has been realized and thus the editorial conclusion that “the majority of them find themselves just middling, living pay check to pay check, or on the verge of the dole/welfare” is nothing more than mere speculation premised on no evidence of any kind whatever.

And while it true that most diasporans are not “willing to consider returning home” the reasons are not only those outlined in the editorial (blackouts, erratic potable water, etc ) but also include fear/insecurity in the face of the burgeoning crime rate, endemic corruption and bribery, a political culture that puts the average person at the mercy of the political ‘gods,’ forces of law and order that operate above the law they are supposed to uphold, the high cost of good medical care which at its best still does not hold up to what most of the diaspora offers and lack of basic social services.

In effect, the Stabroek News editorial does no credit to good journalism practice and this from a publication that has generally been lauded for the quality of its journalism, brings into question the motive of the writer.

Yours faithfully,
Annan Boodram
The Caribbean Voice

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