Way back home Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
June 14, 2004

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PRESIDENT Bharrat Jagdeo is in the United States meeting with Guyanese migrants to update them on government's stewardship and to encourage them to help in whatever way they can to propel the growth of their homeland.

His visit, which precedes his going to Canada for this year's GUYEXPO, comes at a time when foreign agencies are trying to lure Guyanese to work and live abroad.

Some estimates indicate that as many as 100,000 Guyanese are residing in the U.S. alone, and analysts say even this is a conservative figure. Yet more Guyanese are traveling, either to work or to live overseas, in what is called the push-pull factor.

It is traditional that a President of Guyana urges overseas-based Guyanese either to return home or to in some way invest in their homeland.

How successful President Jagdeo is going to be is anyone's guess.

It certainly isn't an easy task.

For one thing, Guyanese opposed to the government paint the gloomiest of pictures of what's happening back home, hoping their rhetoric will give them some political mileage while hardening the hearts of their supporters against returning or making any tangible contribution to their country's growth.

For another, experts do not believe returning folks make much difference in the advancement of their country.

In their 1998 essay, 'Consequences of Migration and Remittances for Mexican Transnational Communities,' Dennis Conway of Indiana University's Department of Geography and Jeffrey H. Cohen of the Department of Anthropology, Texas A & M University, noted thus: "A general consensus of Latin American and Caribbean regional scholarship is that return migrants are unsuccessful agents of change and rarely contribute to progressive transformations of their home societies."

As for those abroad supporting their families back home, Messrs. Cohen and Conway said their evaluation of the potential costs and benefits of remittances on the migrant-sending communities in the Americas "bemoan the impacts."

"Drawing on numerous community studies," they added, "conventional wisdom holds that remittances and migrants' savings are largely spent on current consumption -- family maintenance and health, housing and consumer goods -- with little left over for productive use."

It would be interesting to learn from the remigrant programme here specifically how much of what these university researchers had to say holds true for Guyana. We do know that some remigrants have set up reasonably-sized, successful businesses since returning home. And that other Guyanese who still basically reside overseas have also invested substantially in the country's commerce and industrial sectors.

Many Guyanese have gone abroad to qualify themselves and to earn enough money to enable them to enjoy a relatively comfortable lifestyle on their return home. It is desirable that our leaders continue to encourage them and all other Guyanese to hasten their return or to make as big a contribution to their country's development as is possible.

We expect President Jagdeo and other mainstream leaders to maintain this tradition.