IN his latest trip to the US, President Irfaan Ali appealed to the Guyanese diaspora to return home and invest in the development of the country. The President has been making such appeals over the last two years in every trip to countries where Guyanese have settled. It is not known how much diaspora investment had or has been made over the last two years or in previous years. But investment has been sorely needed to fund capital projects to promote development. The government has turned to borrowing and Chinese investment. The Chinese have been the major beneficiary of investment in Guyana as opposed to Guyanese or members of the diaspora.
I have studied the role of diasporas in the development of several developing countries including India and China, African, Caribbean, and Latin countries. In fact, almost every diaspora in the developed countries has helped their former homeland not only in sending remittances but also in investing in them to achieve growth and create jobs as well as raise standard of living. The Guyanese diaspora has been contributing some US$400M annually over the last several decades in remittances plus tens of millions more annually in material assistance and direct cash assistance through unofficial ways.
Guyanese diaspora has been investing billions of American dollars annually in their adopted countries like Canada, USA, and UK plus other countries creating wealth and jobs. They can do same in Guyana. Clearly, they have capital to invest. They also have enormous technical skills, laboring in and building industries. Thus, the diaspora can lead the role in development of Guyana with its enormous capital as well as technical skills. The Guyanese diaspora should heed the call of the President to contribute to the development of their former homeland. Favorable terms should be offered to them.
As I have found in my research, diasporas in developed countries tend to be flush with money to invest in addition to possessing technical skills and having political connection in their adopted homeland that would be assets to their home countries. Not surprisingly, every developing country has appealed to their diaspora to invest in their former homeland – in business and industries as well as contribute with their skills to help transform the nation. They have funded development in home countries when capital is hard to raise from lending institutions or at extremely high rates from private banks.
Some countries have been very successful in their appeal to diasporas to invest in home countries – China and India stand out among several others. China, for example, has diasporas in North America, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the UK, and other European countries. With diaspora investment in tens of billions annually as well as investment from non-ethnic Chinese from the West and Austral-Asia, China has grown continuously from the 1980s till now registering record growth rates. It had built up surplus capital and savings of over US$1 trillion. With so much unused money, it has been investing in or lending money to other countries including the US and European countries. Similarly, India, which opened up its economy only since the early 1990s and began appealing to its diaspora since the late 1990s has also been registering record growth even overtaking China’s over the last decade. India’s diaspora as well non-ethnic Indians in North America, UK, Europe, and Australia have been pouring large amounts of funds, tens of billions annually, into industrial projects in India. Some of us also invested in India. Such huge investments have allowed India to move up from outside of the top 10 global economies in the 1980s to number six today in terms of value of GDP and is on course to become number three by end of decade. Guyana needs investment from her large diaspora to grow and create jobs. The diaspora should give consideration to invest in infrastructure like roads, agriculture, forestry, energy, gold and other mining, and other industries.
The diaspora should respond to the call to invest in their former homeland.