BONITA told me she is a salesgirl at one of the stores in Rose Hall but the $8,400 per week that she takes home is not enough for her to take care of her family.
She told me she is actively trying to get “hooked up” with a job and has some promising leads in Suriname. Over the last decade, she has gotten more desperate as her income bought less and less every year despite the loud boast that there were nine consecutive years of economic growth under the PPP.
For her, she believes all this talk about economic growth over the years was just a publicity stunt, since she has not seen the impact of the growth rate in her life. She still lives with her parents, she has little chance to own her own home; she cannot even afford to buy a bicycle.
It is her opinion that if the economy is so good, why almost all her friends from high school now live outside the country. Bonita said she feels like as though she is “running on the spot” while all her friends overseas, seem to be going somewhere. She wants a similar lifestyle as her high school friends and she has arrived at the conclusion before these 2015 elections that she had only one choice remaining – to migrate from Guyana legally or illegally, come what may.
This true-life story illustrates our great tragedy; many at the bottom of the food chain have little hope and do not believe that the good life can be gained in Guyana. This is the quality of the balance sheet that was bequeathed to the Granger/Nagamootoo Government by the Jagdeo/Ramotar Team.
This is where the real challenge lies – how to enhance the talent of Bonita, while at the same time bring the investments to Guyana that can create the volumes of better-paying jobs to motivate people like Bonita to stay and truly enjoy the good life that Guyana potentially has to offer.
Today, according to the World Bank, some 89 percent of university graduates migrate. The Minister of Education, Dr Rupert Roopnaraine, is on record as saying that this migration indicator is the highest in the world. Our best talent continues to leave the country in search of higher-paying jobs overseas, although they all have a much stronger chance than Bonita, of living the good life in Guyana.
According to UNICEF, on average about eight persons out of every 1,000 leave Guyana legally every year; that is over 6,000 Guyanese per year. If the illegals are added to the equation, we can see the quantum of the real developmental challenge facing the nation. The best teachers, nurses, public servants in the Caribbean continue to be Guyanese and these same professionals are making their mark as far away as New York City where all over the City Government you can find Guyanese in all sorts of top positions. So the issue has nothing to do with competence; it has everything to do with the young people believing that they cannot get a fair deal in Guyana.
I have seen people with elementary education from Guyana, endure a system that is stacked against them in New York, but persevered to improve themselves to the point that they can buy their own home, and their own motorcar. This, in their mind, would have been impossible in Guyana and thus robs Guyana of their newly acquired first-world talent since the chances of them returning remains low. Take the case of Uncle Sukram, a former teacher in Guyana. He migrated to the United States at 55 years and became a security guard because he felt he was too old to retrain. He lived in a basement while his daughter finished her teacher training studies.
She went to the regular CUNY system and is now a fine NYC teacher. Today, collectively, they all own their own home, their own car and can afford an annual vacation out of the country.
They even went on a Bahamas cruise a year ago. He challenged me on the question, “Where would my daughter be today if she was a teacher in Guyana?”
I left that conversation pondering this question and recognised that this is the real challenge. How can we make the Guyanese society more competitive to motivate persons like Uncle Sukram’s daughter to want to return with her skills to Guyana?
As the politicians go at each other’s throats in and out of Parliament, the people are asking what have they done for me lately. The verdict is out – over the last decade under the Jagdeo/Ramotar Team, the nation has marched backwards qualitatively, if one is to use the human development index. The people are not stupid – they see the under-qualified children of the ‘PPPites’ scoring all the big jobs is mass acts of nepotism and favouritism while qualified teachers are offered starvation wages. Who wanted to live in such a dysfunctional society?
That is why the change that happened in May 2015 remains so very important; it offers genuine hope for the hopeless. The Granger/Nagamootoo administration is now on stage and the hope is that they will seismically change the way we do business in Guyana to bring greater confidence to the economy and betterment for all classes of people, especially the working class.
As one of their first acts at public policy, a great stride was made for the poor and the working class by bringing the minimum wage to Gy$50,000 per month; not enough, but a massive stride. With one signature of the pen, the Minister of Finance has set the foundation for Bonita’s weekly wage to move from Gy$8,400 to Gy$11,540. It is now up to the Government Labour Officers and the Trade Unions to walk the street and ensure that people like Bonita are not underpaid. Such a service can make or break people like Bonita from staying or leaving. I recognise the sterling work of Minister Simona Broomes on Regent Street a few weeks ago.
But what about the youths and very talented; the university graduates? Where are the jobs that were created for them over the last decade? This will be the greatest developmental challenge for the Granger/Nagamootoo administration over the next five years and most of it hinges on how good a job GO-INVEST does.
Most of the current growth in the Guyanese economy is fuelled by consumption. But consumption is very fickle and can disappear as fast as it arrived. According to the 2015 Budget – Analytical Summary of the Balance of Payment, net current transfers are expected to decline by 7 percent to US$32 million in 2015. Most of these remittances came to fund consumption-driven growth which is a reliable tool for developing a country.
If one looks at Appendix G2 in the National Budget one can see that in 2014 Consumption was 114 percent of GDP vs. Investment at 33 percent. In 2015, the Budget predicts Consumption at 110 percent of GDP vs. Investment at 26 percent. If one looks at the better performing economies in Asia, the average Investment to GDP ratio is 48 percent, while the average Consumption to GDP is more around 38 percent. Achieving this kind of investment performance is what is really needed and it has been three months so far and all eyes are on GO-INVEST. Will it rise to the task?
Next time I shall be starting my sugar series which I held off on, out of respect for the work of the Commission of Inquiry which ought to be at an end by now. (email@example.com).
According to UNICEF, on average about eight persons out of every 1,000 leave Guyana legally every year; that is over 6,000 Guyanese per year. If the illegals are added to the equation, we can see the quantum of the real developmental challenge facing the nation