Diaspora support

For those of us in the diaspora who have been assailed by negatively critical nationals in the homeland with the accusation that we left during difficult times, now is the time to be uplifted about the difference we are making in many lives back home.

During his address at the Virtual Guyana Diaspora Conference on May 22, Guyana’s President Dr Irfaan Ali thanked the diaspora, for among other things, its remittance support over the years.

Said President Ali: “Indeed, during very difficult times, it is remittances and the contribution of the diaspora that saw many Guyanese breaking the barriers of extreme poverty. It is the remittances of Guyanese in the diaspora that contributed significantly to the eradication of many social problems. It is your commitment over the years that have helped us during many difficult times.”

He added, “Your role in securing our democratic values, your role in securing the rule of law cannot go understated. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you sincerely for your interest, your time, your dedication, and your commitment.”

A diaspora is motivated for different reasons to retain its bonds with the homeland. Writing for the International Office for Migration Regional Office for Central America, North America, and the Caribbean, Gustavo Segura notes a study by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean that cites different incentives why a diaspora sends remittances to its homeland. He tells us that among the reasons are solidarity with the land of birth; self-interest, such as in savings or maintaining investments; and structured payments of debts in a retentive show of good faith to lending institutions back home.

However, Segura also notes altruism to be a main pillar in a diaspora’s commitment, loyalty, and support to its homeland. It is the altruistic motivation that predominates, as evidenced in our community’s commitment, which Guyanese writer, Debra Roberts, notes to be the force driving the Guyana diaspora’s support for the homeland. Roberts arrives at this conclusion from research done for her paper, ‘The Development Impact of Remittances on Caribbean Economies: The Case of Guyana’.

From the evidence on the ground indicating our generosity and open-handedness, there is no doubt in our mind that the hundreds of thousands of Guyanese abroad love the homeland, and that they action their affection via remittance commitments; and through other structures of ongoing support to loved ones back home.

The evidence remains compelling and incontrovertible – our community in the GTA, for example, is notable for religiously sending hard cash as gifts to relatives in Guyana; then there are our monthly electronic money transfers; also, our Canadian currency is converted into hard items as foodstuff, electronics, and clothing, which are shipped in barrels to Georgetown via overseas routes.

The multiplier effect from our gifts abroad cannot be understated, as Roberts notes. According to her research, our contributions go towards human capital accumulation in Guyana, with our gifts of money paying for tertiary education, an activity that attempts to right the debilitating brain-drain we left behind; there is also expenditure in real estate and property acquisition by relatives as they extend their wealth and ownership; and then there are recipients who invest our remittances in family businesses.

Among our more poignant contributions is the support we selflessly expedite for medical and medicinal care. In these critical, life-and-death situations, we do not hold back our hands; instead, our emergency infusion of remittances support the purchase of healing medications, or pay for life-saving surgeries for critically-ill relatives.

The diaspora has never held back its hand, which makes President Ali’s words visionary; and hopefully, concrete: “As we navigate into the future, we would like the hands of the diaspora to be a key element in the new Guyana that will bring with it great opportunities, great prosperity... The unification and coming together of the Guyanese people is paramount to the prosperity we will achieve.”