Former Commonwealth Secretary-General, Sir Shridat Ramphal, once said that “small is beautiful, but small is also vulnerable.”
There is no doubt that such statement holds true for Guyana whose small population may be good in one way with few people to feed, and at the same time, can be a hindrance to real development due to economies of scale.
Given the rate of outward migration, which had slowed down for a few years, but is now climbing again, and coupled with the low birth rate, it is unlikely that we would experience any meaningful natural population increase any time soon.
I take an arguable view that a solid economic base requires about three million people in the context of Guyana, and this can be achieved only by immigration from foreign climes. I hasten to add that any such policy/programme, however, must first be approved by Parliament and the subsequent process must be transparent. Any bypass, or perception thereof, is likely to give rise to all kinds of rumours.
GECOM’s insistence on house to house registration has spawned rumours that run like wildfire. Invariably, the major arguments in favour of registration have been on cleansing the voters’ list and disenfranchisement of voters.
However, as the wildfire spreads, different views have emerged; many have opined that the government’s support for GECOM’s insistence on house to house registration appears to be the potential gains at the next General Elections.
While Minister Felix has declared that fewer than 1000 people have been given citizenship, it is believed that the Ministry of Citizenship encouraged migration of huge numbers of immigrants from the Caribbean as well as other parts of the world, many of whom live mainly in suburban areas of Georgetown.
The grapevine-view is that many of these immigrants are employed in the public sector as security guards and drivers, while others are scanning the mines in our hinterland for riches.
If the rumours ran true on the potentially huge numbers, and rumours do have an element of truth, it would not be too farfetched to argue that the ‘newly registered’ would likely cast their votes as ‘thank you’ gestures for providing them with citizenship and economic opportunities. In essence, registration of these immigrants may potentially boost the government’s chances at the next elections.
However, while we have no control of such behaviour, there are other matters of grave concern. The biggest problem revolves around the lack of transparency in the immigration process. The issue becomes thornier in that the grapevine posits that many of the immigrants have not met the requirements for the citizenship status.
A serious investigation is therefore needed to set the records straight. If the grapevine turned out to be true, it would only be fair for the nation to view the citizenship and registration acts as translating to political gains.
In a nutshell, Guyana needs foreign skills. However, it appears that while some of us may have been distracted into thinking the house to house registration is a delaying tactic by GECOM and the government, or saw it as disenfranchisement or avoidance thereof, others opined that it may represent potential political gains at the polls.
Furthermore, the lack of transparency in the immigration process has cast doubt on the declared purpose of the registration drive.
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