Widespread news that Guyana is about to exploit her massive oil and gas resources will see people, from all over the world, flocking to our shores. The promised El Dorado, spoken of since I was a boy, is not only confined to our precious minerals, gold and diamond, but has encompassed our ‘black gold,’ oil and gas. Already, the Brazilians are here. Not for oil and gas, necessarily. Their earlier studied movement and presence, in the last two decades, to our shores, where they have established settlements as in church, supermarket, restaurant, strip club and other forms of entertainment, are demonstrations of permanency.
Then there is the Venezuela political and economic crises. Though in significant part these have to do with external interference, as the USA and Russia test their might and seek world dominance using Venezuela as a guinea pig, we are not spared the impacting effects. Note is taken of government’s effort in providing some level of comfort and accommodation for those fleeing, but there exists doubt that Guyana has the capacity to address the escalating crises and attendant fallout. We are already bearing witness to criminal elements crossing our porous border and terrorising our citizens in unprotected border settlements.
The Panamanian Copa Airlines is already being used as a conduit by Latin Americans to arrive in Georgetown regularly. Planeloads are coming ever so often from this region, not only for trade as the Cubans are wont to do, but to get a piece of the action in the oil and gas sector.
The studied and focused exodus from China, bearing hallmarks of a form of recolonisation, in the form of an economic model described as the belt and road initiative, cannot be ignored. Chinese immigrants are assured of the protection of China’s Government in the host countries.
A marked feature is the taking over of the retail sector which for some years has been dominated by East Indians, whose forebears fought indentureship. For instance, the Georgetown retail district and East Coast Demerara (ECD) corridor have been bought out, and where new businesses are not being established, Guyanese are being forced out by the Chinese businesses.
We are facing a pending catastrophe which we must seek to avoid at all cost. To further explain – there is a furniture factory on the ECD owned by two East Indian brothers. In 2017 they employed about 119 workers, but today only employ 17. The brothers said to me the competition from the Chinese left them with no alternative to survive in the business but to let go of over 100 workers.
The above is also likely to exacerbate ethnic tension and division. Where one group is being forced out of his/her traditional economic means, and opportunities are limited in the areas traditionally occupied by another group, competition will intensify, then resentment and charges of being discriminated against will follow. What is happening here is different from the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), which has within a structured programme for the free movement of skills throughout the region, including qualifying conditions.
We are a small nation in population size and the only English-speaking country in South America. Unplanned immigration brings with it consequences such as stress on the education and health services, housing overrun, the creation of slums, and our resources exploited by others willing to undersell their labour. We also face a crisis of submerging our culture further, only this time not by imperial powers. This threat comes from others who do not speak our language and share a common culture. Recognition of this does not make one xenophobic or racist, but seeks to highlight the socio-economic and political consequences of a nation unprepared and on the cusp of economic greatness.
They are coming by land, air and sea. Many are already here. Are we prepared for them? Are we looking at our geopolitical safety, which is critical to our survival as an independent nation? There exists perception of being sidelined in preference for foreigners, not of the Caribbean Community where we share common history and values, but by others who are moving into our space, taking over and exploiting our resources.
I am not a pessimist by nature, but there is fear for our country, people, laws, and institutions of state. This fear has to do with whether Guyanese will be allowed premier opportunities in determining our destiny and exploiting our finite resources, foremost for our collective benefit.
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