The Diaspora and Guyana
The intense interest that people in the Diaspora show in Guyana is understandable, but at the same time something to cause raised eyebrows. For starters, there are those who send money (make remittances) to their relatives back home. This, perhaps, is the most popular sign that people have a lot to think about when it comes to their homeland.
This is not common to Guyana, but given the size of the population, remittances are huge. According to figures released by the Inter-American Development Bank, two years ago Guyanese remitted some US$447 million.
But that is only the cash. The people in the Diaspora look for other ways of helping the country. Nurses would collect material that they believe is needed by the various medical institutions and post them. But for the most part, they would travel to Guyana on their vacation and deliver these things which are always well received by the Ministry of Health. And the travel is done at no cost to the government.
Just recently, some Guyanese amassed a number of doctors and specialists in the medical field to come to Guyana for what is now known as Guyana Watch. It is not that Guyana does not have doctors and specialists. It is not that the population is so large that the few doctors there are cannot attend to the population; it is not that there are no medical clinics for the people who live away from the capital.
Rather, it is a case that people sometimes refuse to travel to the medical facilities, either because they feel that the distance is too great or because they feel that they do not receive the kind of attention they need, or simply because they feel uncomfortable outside their district. The result is that medical missions like Guyana Watch attract huge crowds.
Schools also receive a lot of attention from the Diaspora. Over the weekend in Canada, some former students and teachers of Queen’s College met in Scarborough to discuss situations at the school. They looked at funding scholarships, assisting the less fortunate, and this time around the possibility of boosting the teaching staff. Again, whatever assistance they give is done at no cost to the government.
Most of the people at the meeting have been visiting Guyana and going to the school to meet with the teachers there to get a grasp of the situation.
The casual observer would wonder at this interest when the very people had an opportunity to remain at home and do even more. The answer lies in the ability of the government to pay the kind of money that would allow people to give back.
This has long been a talking point. Everyone who has migrated insists that had the pay been what it should be then they would never have migrated. A small country like Guyana says that it would like to pay better salaries but that it simply does not have the money to do that and undertake development at the same time.
But is this really true? Recently, the Minister of Finance told parliament that there are contract employees who are paid very high salaries for doing things that are not important to national development.
There are about 40,000 teachers in the system. The head of the premier school receives a salary of about US$700 per month, the same as the head of some of the lower schools. But a spokesman for the government gets as much as three times that figure.
The then President Bharrat Jagdeo once said that the number of teachers is too great and any salary increase would bump up the spending by the public treasury. Yet education is something that one cannot toy with.
Kaieteur News recently conducted a study of some of the contracts awarded by the government in the other sectors and found that many of these were so overpriced that the conclusion was that there was corruption in the planning and the award of these contracts.
One suggestion is that the people in the upper echelons of the school be offered contracts and paid the kind of money paid to those other contract employees. Indeed, the government has been known to import teachers and to pay them such sums.
After all, these very lowly paid teachers are being gobbled up overseas and after awhile these very teachers then begin to give some of their earnings back to their counterparts at home.