Submitted by The Mahogany Coconut Group
A decade ago, many Guyanese living in the Diaspora, would have been negative about returning home. They feared mostly the racial and political tensions. Some sought to live in other Caribbean islands and were often accused of accepting lower wages than the workers in those countries. In many ways, Guyana had become the butt of many “island jokes” about its weak currency and shortage of consumer goods, taken for granted throughout the region.
Those travelling to Guyana on vacations and business often were amazed that Guyanese themselves, were so negative about such a bountiful land with natural resources not found in any other country in the region. They also marvelled at the gracious manner of the Guyanese people, even in the toughest of times. The Guyanese are known for their excellent cuisine and their incredible crafts people. They have long established themselves as intellectual giants in the region, by having Caribbean thinkers such as Walter Rodney. On the cricket field they can claim such icons as Clive Lloyd and Lance Gibbs among others. In both the pre-and post-independence eras, they have given the region politicians such as Cheddi Jagan and Forbes Burnham, whose political battles are still studied by engaging university students and political historians.
Ironically, it was these battles that eventually burst the socio-economic seams of Guyana and threw it into a social, economic and political turmoil for over three decades, causing the migration of thousands of citizens, seeking stability elsewhere. This movement resulted in some of its better educated and skilled citizens causing a technical and academic brain drain, that is now hopefully being impeded by a more settled political environment and recent discoveries of oil and other resources, that most observers believe, will push Guyana to the top of the CARICOM “best” off countries, in the very near future.
It is widely known that even during the very testing period, there was considerable trading between Guyanese and other Caribbean business persons. These small business persons traded in: gold, fisheries lumber and fruits. Pine apples, shrimp and green heart wood and buildings(houses) were often imported from Guyana and the quality of these products guaranteed them a ready market. Guyanese are therefore considered to be extremely skilful business people and this talent to survive during the now fading tough period, will be most useful as their country continues to improve. It was a classical example of Caribbean people’s resourcefulness despite the failings of the floundering collective political managerial class.
We therefore welcome the changing fortunes of this magnificent country. With most other economies gasping for air and many heading to international loan sharks such as the IMF, Guyana may be the only real frontier for those who want to remain in the region. At the 1986 CARICOM Heads of Government Conference Errol Barrow declared that, “We are a family of islands nestling closely under the shelter of the great Cooperative Republic of Guyana. And this fact of regional togetherness is lived everyday by ordinary West Indian men and women.”
His words might just be proven more profound than he ever imagined.