By Leonard Gildarie
Kaieteur News – In the next few years, the country will be unrecognizable, especially when it comes to demographics.
The Venezuela crisis has pushed hundreds of thousands of residents of that oil-rich country elsewhere.
We have received, it is estimated, in excess of 50,000 of them here with a community established in Region One.
The figures would not take into account the number of returning Guyanese. Hundreds of them have come back home with hopes of reversing their dire financial situation.
Many supermarkets now have hired Venezuelans.
The auto repair shop I would visit in Grove, East Bank Demerara, has hired scores of returning Guyanese. Excellent workers, I spoke to one who said he grew up in Venezuela but the hardships forced his Guyanese-born parents back home. They are renting.
He was professional and efficient.
In almost all the Chinese supermarkets in Diamond and Grove, where I live, there is growing evidence of the employment of foreign nationals.
In fact, the presence of the Venezuelans has fuelled a demand for apartments.
Of course, the Venezuelan and Brazilian women are highly favoured as workers in the bars.
It is no surprise therefore that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the bars, especially on the East Bank of Demerara, remain filled.
Recently, during a call-in programme on Kaieteur Radio, hosted by yours truly, I learnt that a number of security companies are hiring Haitians.
In the hinterland regions, despite the border shutdown, it is reported that thousands of Brazilians have fled hardships in their country to the gold mining areas.
Guyana has to be real worried. At the time of writing on Friday, our death toll was 109 with over 3,600 cases confirmed.
There is no abatement in the rise of cases.
The US continue to lead the number of cases with over eight million persons infected since earlier this year and over 218,000 dead.
India has overtaken Brazil to record over 7.3M cases and 112,000 deaths. That country is surging.
Brazil follows suit with 5.1M cases and 152,000 deaths.
The above would drive home the harsh reality of how vulnerable Guyana is because of our open borders.
It appears that the Government is very much aware of the challenges.
In fact, this past week, President Irfaan Ali reportedly announced that a special committee is being established to handle the Guyanese remigrants from Venezuela.
It is timely. Many Guyanese are finding it hard to reintegrate.
“I am going to set up a special committee to be led by the Minister of Housing and the Minister of Local Government to see how we can bring the services to help you,” President Ali is reported as saying during an outreach to Essequibo.
It is clear that migration and oil and gas will play a major role in painting our outlook.
The demographics will change as eventually we will have to issue ID cards.
The addition of 50,000 persons to the country will always be placing an extra burden on the health care bill.
Oil and gas have brought challenges.
We will all recall how more than a decade ago, it was unthinkable that people were coming here as migrants in a big way.
Today, we can no longer boast the same.
Most modern countries have systems in place. There is an application process. There are fees for work permits.
It is a money making arrangement.
Notaries or Justices of Peace make quite a bit from processing and stamping documents.
There has to be a police clearance.
No country worth its salt can accept persons whom we have no idea about.
The Venezuela crisis has created headaches for Trinidad and Tobago.
The Twin-Island Republic is facing a growing problem from gangs which include Venezuelans.
We have hundreds of squatters who fall below the radar along the East Bank of Demerara from Grove to Herstelling.
There are hundreds of shacks erected with deep worry over health risks.
We have long talked about six races.
The schools will have to revisit this myth.
Suddenly, the situation has changed.
We will have to seriously look at the situation and look to overseas organizations with experience to advise us how to deal with the situation.
Not addressing it early is not an option.
We have to constantly review the changes and see how best Guyana can control while at the same time fulfil its international mandate of extending humanitarian gestures, including the acceptance of migrants.
It is a surreal situation.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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