'Development Watch' column talked about complementarities not that the diaspora should replace locals

Stabroek News
January 17, 2016

Dear Editor,

I refer to Mr Freddie Kissoon's letter 'The diaspora cannot come and decide where they want to work' (SN, Jan 15). First order of business, I have to apologize to Mr Kissoon for mentioning he labelled the diaspora as traitors in my 'Development Watch' column of January 13, 2016. I cannot locate at this moment the column, which I believe he wrote about six years ago. However, I apologize for writing this in my column.

Second, Mr Kissoon mentioned he and I spoke at an AFC rally in Stabroek Market Square. That is true. He did not mention that we also spoke at a rally in Grove, East Bank Demerara during the 2011 election campaign. At no time at these two rallies did Kissoon and I discuss a payment from the AFC or a position I requested. Lots of nasty rumours were floating around and people were making assumptions given my skill-set. No one, at least not I, requested a position should the AFC win. This is a gigantic lie.

Third, Mr Kissoon wrote that the AFC paid for my time in Guyana to campaign in 2011. This is a 98 per cent lie, and a big one at that. I paid my plane tickets on three occasions and for my accommodation for campaigning before and during the election. I was invited to an AFC youth forum in 2011. This is the single occasion the AFC paid an economy ticket for me. Minister of Business, Mr Dominic Gaskin, can verify this fact. On the trip for the youth forum, I paid for my accommodation while AFC paid the plane ticket.

While in the US, I did a lot of mobilizing and writing for the AFC in 2011 because I strongly believed the PPP had to go into the opposition to reform itself for the betterment of the country. I would do it all over again if I had to. The time spent doing political work meant incomes lost doing consulting with private firms in the US. That was an opportunity cost, plus the monies I spent to campaign in Guyana.

Fourth, I really do not care whether Mr Kissoon opposed my political participation. Mr Kissoon does not get to decide where I work and what cause I support, my CV does.

Fifth, my column mentioned above never said that members of the diaspora should replace locals. I always wrote about complementarities. As a matter of fact, the column made the point explicitly that for a diaspora policy to work, politically, re-migrants cannot interfere with the political patronage flows of the locals. Of course, it is possible to integrate diaspora members immediately once they fall within the ethnic networks. So, this is a straw man argument erected by Mr Kissoon, who is an academic.

Editor, the primary reason why I continue to participate in Guyana and write the 'Development Watch' columns is because I would like to live in my homeland again. I continue to ventilate ideas because I believe they can help to contribute to a stable, successful and safe society. I am not interested in taking anyone's job. If I am going to live in Guyana again, I want to make sure the country is stable politically and have ample foreign exchange reserves. I am aware if I move back to Guyana, I would have to take a very steep pay cut. Therefore, I will eventually do so when I have enough financial resources to survive as an academic and be completely independent of the political class. These things take time.

In 2004 I had a choice when deciding my PhD dissertation topic. In the United States, arguably the most competitive academic market in the world, the dissertation topic determines one's job potential and career trajectory. My choice was between writing on a topic in financial engineering (one of the hot topics of the current year) and writing on something that no one else was doing: the excess liquidity phenomenon in Guyana. My pay and job prospects would have been higher for the former, but I chose the latter because of the intellectual stimulation it brings. I was cautioned that writing on a small country like Guyana would make it hard to find full-time university employment; that the market's test can be brutal. I was again cautioned the top journals would not publish my work. Nevertheless, I was successful on the market in 2007 and had two tenure-track academic job offers. Three chapters were published as articles – two internationally and one in the Caribbean.

In spite of that, a finance PhD dissertation topic would have meant more lifetime income. I worked out the present value of lifetime income I gave up to write about Guyana. I chose a reasonable discount rate (20 year Treasury bond + a risk factor) and looked at pay in finance versus the offers I had. According to my calculation the present value income over my lifetime I will lose is US$2.3 million. I hope all the patriots would have made such a choice had they been presented.

Yours faithfully,

Tarron Khemraj