LETTER: The Guyanese diaspora is important to national development and sustainability

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Dear Editor,

The Guyana Diaspora is Guyana’s second state. The population of the diaspora is almost as large as the entire population of our homeland. This has been because of direct migration and the existence of second- and third-generation Guyanese. This unique situation has great competitive advantages for Guyana: Guyanese in the homeland, in the United States, and in Canada. With such a distribution of our population, we can create great opportunities to harness the diaspora’s potential. There is the need to develop comprehensive strategic plans for solutions to national issues.

There are many national issues that cannot be solved by the Executive and their territorial coverage. Therefore, the need for a Diaspora Strategy Map is necessary. There are many individuals and groups that have been working to bridge this divide, but they have failed to develop a holistic approach. Many have specific purposes, and often work in isolation of each other. In analyzing what has been done so far, there has been some progress with education, youth and robotics, donations, and small cultural activities. However, these are very random, and do not mesh the entire country and diaspora.

It is necessary to develop strategies that take into consideration our current disposition in the homeland and diaspora. In the US, and specifically New York, we are distributed across the five boroughs, with a large population being in the Queens area. In analyzing NYC demographic data, it can be stated that South Richmond Hill and surrounding areas have the largest number of Guyanese. This concentration has advantages, since we can focus the development of social and economic plans for the community. The successes can ripple across the state, so that we can all benefit.

What are the benefits of pursuing this? An effective Diaspora Strategy is important to promote the consolidation of the two economies, create direct investment opportunities, and the utilise our professional potential so that we can bridge our homeland’s integration into the global economy. While we are very occupied with the development of the oil and gas sector, the diaspora community has always been a resource that has a higher return on investment if we pursue the right strategies. One of these is as a complement to a Sovereign Wealth Fund. How?

It’s important that research and development are pursued to determine the generation and preservation of wealth in the Guyanese diaspora in New York. Specific questions would be on determining overall diaspora engagement, awareness of our knowledge-based economy, business and employment types, professional skills, changes to immigration and demographic trends, and what types of local and homeland policies must be developed to address the top priorities.

In support of this, it’s important to discover and understand the various existing contributions to development, support groups and organisations, vulnerable populations, and the changing US policy and expectations. This is not everything, but a top output of this discovery would be to correlate remittances and family assistance data in support of our economy. Individually, many Guyanese have achieved great success in the diaspora. It’s important that we begin the discovery process to effectively encourage community involvement.

Many countries have obtained exemplary success in this domain. Those include India, Israel, Russia, and the Polish-Slavic communities. Their diasporas actively participate in the national economic development processes by facilitating the realisation of goods and services, as well as creating joint productions and investing in several areas of the economy.

For Guyana, we need to begin by bringing the right people together, and identifying and analysing the knowledge gaps. This would include an advance understanding of business activities in terms of imports and exports, the local economy, cultural activities, education and sports, employment, travel, and vulnerable populations.

It would also be very important to develop correlation with other economic data sources to create superior socio-demographic and economic diaspora profiles.

The Guyanese diaspora has a similar cultural affinity with the homeland. This is both advantageous and disadvantageous for the development of national economic cooperation. In the diaspora, it would be important to create a unified self-organisation, superior strategies, and policies that address all our concerns. This is important because, like with the other communities, we are all the same, since we share the same foreign national identity. This is not a paradox! The Guyanese diaspora can develop a world-class global shaping economy.

As we pursue a diaspora strategy, it’s important that there is the restoration of the trust paradigm. Any administration must understand that there may exist political indifference. The fact is that the diaspora is important to national development and sustainability.

Therefore, it is necessary to include us as we develop a common goal and vision for a modern Guyana. The activities like the annual Unity Parade demonstrate how emotionally attached a part of the community is to our homeland. However, this has a very narrow temporal interest. In the short term, there is the need to bridge the political and cultural divide between communities in Brooklyn and Queens.

Once this has been achieved, there would be an understanding of the dispersed realities of our people. We can then begin to create policies and strategies for sustainable national development.

Yours respectfully,

Dustin Fraser