Not a ‘marginal’ reduction in population

Dear Editor,

The 2012 census data are now out. The report shows that Guyana’s population has dropped to 747,884, down from 751,223 recorded for 2002. Taking an arithmetic approach Chief Statistician and Census Officer Lennox Benjamin calculates and describes the decline of 3,339 as a “marginal reduction.”

I would have had no difficulty with our Chief Statistician if he had simply provided the figures and let analysts and commentators consider their implications, or himself do so. In a matter involving so many components it is misleading, even dangerously so, to take two bald figures, subtract one from the other and then make a qualitative judgment therefrom about substantial or marginal. Mr Benjamin then adds the gratuitous comment that the “marginal reduction” was “mainly influenced by migration.”

There is nothing marginal about the numbers. If we add to the population of 751,223 persons in 2002 the 124,805 representing the number of births over deaths over the same period, the population at 2012 should have been 876,028 persons. In other words, we have lost at a minimum 128,144 persons. 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.

If the number of inward immigrants is put conservatively at 1,000 persons per annum, it means that Guyana has lost a staggering 138,144 persons to outward migration, on a population that is less than three-quarters of a million.

Surely, surely it is time for those who manage this country to reflect on the causes why Guyanese are still leaving this country in droves and on the implications for the country of its best, brightest, most productive and ablest persons opting to leave.

I will review more fully the preliminary report on the 2012 census in my blog chrisram.net this weekend.

 Yours faithfully,

Christopher Ram

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