Tony Vieira's Comments
18 October 2017

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Diaspora
(Aired 24 May 2005)

    No one in this country must ever underestimate the power of our people living in the Diaspora, even the people who are living in the Diaspora do not understand the power they have, and they could have done much more over the years to help us attain a true democracy here, if a significant amount of them organised themselves.

   Whether they are in Canada, the UK or the US, they are in a position to help us and they do, financially, but there are other equally if not more important ways of helping us which I want to address tonight.  

   This country should now have 1.2 million people if our growth rate was the same as Trinidad, I say this since when I was going to School in Trinidad in the late 60's the population of Trinidad and Guyana were approximately equal i.e they both had around 700,000 people. But notwithstanding a huge migration of Trinidadians especially those who are well educated it has not been comparable to the massive migration from Guyana. And the answer is simple the biggest beacon of freedom and democracy, "the land of the free" is very close and the language is the same as ours, I have no doubt that this is why so many of us have left for the US. If we were next door to China I don't think that the migration would have been significant, we are next door to Brazil the 9th biggest economy in the world but only 38,000 Guyanese live there, the language barrier stops huge migration to Brazil and in relative terms we are close to the US and Canada the distance from Georgetown to Rio De Janeiro or San Paulo in Brazil are about the same as from Georgetown to New York.

    Do these people in the Diaspora have a right to have a say in what goes on here in Guyana?  The answer is yes! I am saying this since a lot of them have as much right as anyone living here to tell us what they think on any matter because quite a large number of them still own property here, they send back enormous amounts of money a year to support relatives and the property they have left behind, some economists speculate that the amount that they send back could be as high as $150 million US a year. Let's put this figure in context on a national level.

  The revenue authority will collect, this year, a total of 49 billion Guyana dollars in taxes and duties, approximately half of this amount i.e. 24.5 billion Guyana dollars will be income taxes and other related taxes not collectable by Customs so the remittances of overseas Guyanese is bigger than all of the taxes that will be collected from every individual and company, combined, working and operating in this country, this year.   

   This 150 million US dollars from the overseas based Guyanese plus what is generated from underground economic activity is what the International Financial Institutions tell us fuels this country's economy.

   The people living in the Diaspora who have left property behind, and most of them have, will gain financially if the right government gets into power and Guyana experiences a reversal of fortunes. For example I bought the Quamina street property for 25 million in 1996, despite numerous modifications to it since then it is valued at maybe G$15 million now, that is how far property values have fallen in the past 10 years. So the Overseas Guyanese with property here have a vested interest in how property value falls, the deeper into the abbess of poverty this country decends.

     So lets sum up, notwithstanding that they do not actually live here they are contributing significantly to the economy of the country on an ongoing basis, and they lose financially the further down the economic tube we go, so it is very much in their interest to have a good open economy in their home land and that their property which some of them even harbour a secret desire to return to some day after their children have been taken care of educationally and some measure of peace, prosperity and progress is restored here, unfortunately the PPP will not provide the breeding ground for this to happen.

   Where our overseas comrades have fallen down is in not using their influence abroad to propel the government of the countries in which they now reside to use diplomatic pressure to force the government of Guyana to put a more fundamentally sound democracy in place, since what we have now is completely unacceptable and does not approach any sort of democracy at all.

   And this goes for all the governments we have had since independence, but essentially we have never seen more bacchanal going on in any government we have had previously, than we are seeing now.

   The Guyanese living in the Diaspora should approach their local Congressman in the US or Member of Parliament if they are in the UK or Canada and ask them to put some pressure on the respective Foreign Affairs entities of the countries in which they reside to force this country's government to change their dictatorial policies and attitudes, for example at this time I consider it crucial to sanitise the voters list for next year's elections, overseas Guyanese applying some pressure on the governments of the donor countries in which they live can have a profound effect on this becoming a reality.

  These are the repercussion of owing so much money to the International Financial Institutions, any business man who owes significant amounts of money to any Commercial Bank will understand this, it is a whole new type of enslavement and rightly so since if you are doing the right thing you and the Bank will prosper, but the overseas Guyanese do not seem to want to, or care about, doing this job of advocacy for us, sure it will take up your time, sure it will take effort but in the end it is your property here that will gain; all we are seeing in the newspapers are letters telling us that they want to vote from overseas and I have no doubt that these letters are coming from the US, Canada and the UK via Robb Street.

   Acknowledging all that I have said here about the overseas Guyanese and their importance to this country's economy, I am nevertheless saying that until this country produces politicians who can be trusted to conduct our elections without tampering with it, I am against any form of overseas voting.

   All Guyanese who live abroad and who vote in the countries in which they live, have the right to ask the representatives they voted into office to put pressure on their respective governments to do something about the Guyana situation. That is what I want to see happening and there are a lot of you out there, nearly as many as there are living here.

   Form yourselves into action groups and agitate for democracy in Guyana, those living here receiving the remittances from the overseas Guyanese should encourage this, it can change everything but it will take commitment, so the real question is, do the overseas Guyanese have the will to do it? You have more power out there to effect real change here than we have! Since we are bogged down by economic starvation, judicial and legislative gridlock and political victimisation which render us impotent to curb the massive misuse of power by the Executive in this country, which is choking us on a daily basis, denying us any possibility of a Democracy.