Nov 08, 2011 Letters
There is an election campaign going on in Guyana. This is an ideal time to introduce new ideas about the future course of this nation. Ideas introduced in the heat of a campaign have a very good chance of being debated and considered by all the movers and shakers as well as the great majority of the citizens.
And, if it is a good idea that attracts and holds the attention of the majority of the voters, particular Opposition parties can only disregard or condemn it at their peril.
I propose a union with Canada or any other country that has a similar language and culture as Guyana’s. Three hundred thousand (300,000) Guyanese have settled in Canada.
All of them went there over the last 40 years. If Canada is good for them to settle and call home, it will be just as good for the remaining 700,000 trapped in Guyana – except those remaining in territorial Guyana don’t have to root up and move; this proposal calls for turning Guyana into an overseas province of Canada.
If the two governments would agree to conduct a feasibility study and find it to be advantageous to both societies, and further if it is approved in a referendum or by both parliaments, the idea could become a reality.
Politicians and economists talk every day about economic development strategies. And, nothing happens. Well, considering a Federal Union or Commonwealth status with a developed country like Canada is as good and sound as any development idea you can think of. Let us call for a national debate. Let us make this election a referendum on a proposal to form a union with Canada (or any other suitable country).
I refer to a letter published in last Sunday’s Stabroek News by a member of the Bureau of Statistics who is pleading for her department to become eligible for government pension, as are all other civil service and
From page 4
public service workers. She chooses to remain anonymous for obvious reasons – Letter was published under “Name Withheld”.
I haven’t read a more poignant letter than this in a long time. You see, having spent summers of 2009 and 2010 in Guyana, I am keenly aware of the wages of the average worker and the cost of basic needs: transportation and food, rent etc.
Both transportation and cost for food in Guyana are more expensive than New York. From Georgetown to Parika, by minibus I paid US$4; I pay $2.25 to travel anywhere in New York City by subway. Food for four people at a restaurant in Georgetown costs US$100. In New York, same type and quality food costs $60. Average monthly pay in Guyana is US$300. Minimum monthly pay in NY is $3,000.
This letter writer states that her monthly salary is G$38,521 or US$200. She further states that after taxes, transportation and utility bills (fixed expenses), she is left with $12,200 or US$61 to pay for food, clothing and pocket expenses for herself and children. How does she survive? Cost for food and clothing and footwear in Guyana is the same as in New York or even more expensive.
I believe this lady’s letter is giving an accurate account of salary and cost-of-living for the average worker. (At several other government offices I did see several vacancy notices posted on notice-boards listing salaries ranging from $36,000-$41,000). I have always wondered how people survive in this land. I believe this letter-writer has relatives abroad and is receiving remittances – or else she just cannot scrape by on US$61 monthly for food and clothing etc.
To every office in Georgetown I went I befriended several workers. It was the same thing: their daily struggle to make ends meet. Several solicited money to buy lunch. I was moved by their plight. My wife and I never fail to provide adequate tips as a way to thank and empathize with these workers.
I feel for my fellow Guyanese people who still feel trapped in their homeland. Indeed anyone and everyone who can do better have gotten out. Today, fully half of the Guyanese population live outside Guyana, with large concentrations in the United States, Canada and Britain and smaller concentrations in Suriname, Venezuela and the Caribbean islands. I believe the great majority of people in Guyana depend on monthly remittances from their relatives abroad to survive.
Benefits and Arguments for a Federal Union with Canada
We need at least US$10 billion to flow to Guyana quickly to establish manufacturing and service industries to provide jobs with good pay. A federal union with a developed country is the surest way not just to attract investment dollars, but technology, managerial and marketing skills. Whole factories may move just as they do to Mexico and China and other low wage countries.
If China can attract foreign investment because of low wages, why can’t Guyana do the same? Can’t Guyanese people acquire the same skills and be good workers like the Chinese? And can’t Guyana quickly develop its infrastructure with the help of the central govt. of the Union to make it attractive to foreign companies?
A tourism industry will quickly take off. Becoming an integral part culturally and economically with North America is guaranteed to produce one million tourists a year.
Why Canada? Several magazine articles over the last several years say Canada has long been interested in pursuing a union with a warm climate overseas state (province). The Guyanese people should and must be willing to pursue new ideas to achieve economic development. Remaining a poverty-stricken nation is not an option.
The problem with the average Guyanese scholar is that they don’t want to let go of false ideologies; they consider these ideas as re-colonization, as somehow compromising your sovereignty. These have become obsolete concepts in a modern globalized world. No developed country seeks colonies; they want opportunities to manufacture goods using cheaper resources and cheaper labour.
Sir Arthur Lewis, Nobel laureate, got it right with his theory of Labour Surplus: initially cheap labour but very soon wages rise, output rises, greater market share, more exports. This is the model of development China has adopted. The only difference in this case is that Guyana will choose to become an overseas province or state – so as to attract investment dollars and be guaranteed a ready market as well a source of “foreign” tourists. These ideas need to be debated in the current election campaign.
Do you lose your sovereignty in a Federal Union? What are the lessons learned from Martinique or Guadeloupe or French Guiana? Their elected representatives sit in parliament in Paris – and great benefits flow to the overseas departments or provinces.
I conclude with this quote taken from the letter written by a staff member of the Bureau of Statistics: “[It is a] starvation salary. The 5% [salary] increase for 2010 amounted to a little over $1,000 (US$5) after tax, and that immediately went to increased transportation fares. But, the President [Jagdeo] wouldn’t know of this because he doesn’t have to travel in minibuses every day to face the embarrassment caused by abusive conductors who demand the increased fare”.
I believe the plight of this letter writer is the same for great majority of people -not a minority – living in Guyana. The poignancy of this letter should suffice to move all Guyanese who reside overseas as well as those at home. Let it serve to stimulate thoughts and new ideas.
How do we bring development to Guyana? A new era began in 1992. Now, 20 years later, per capita income is still only US$2,500. Average per capita income in the developed world is over US$35,000. India and China are still relatively poor countries – but their growth rates and per capita income are rising like a rocket. Should Guyana choose to remain locked as a poverty-stricken country?
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