Emigration is not only a Guyanese problem
Stabroek News
April 6, 2002

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Dear Editor,

I noticed that the assistant Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Mr. Byron Blake, has noted that migration is affecting not only the teaching but other professions and the problem is not restricted to Guyana. He further said that the entire region is affected and that migration did not start recently. At the same conference the General Secretary of the Guyana Teachers' Union, (GTU), Mr Lance Baptiste, also admitted that migration of teachers "did not start now." "It started many years ago during the previous government."

The comments by the two gentlemen will serve to debunk the propaganda that migration from Guyana is a result of the depressed living conditions in this country, and more especially the low salaries received by government workers.

Mr Blake alluded to the worldwide nature of the problem when he referred to India. This should cause people to be more alert when some elements, with their own political agendas, start casting blame on the Government for the high rate of migration from this country.

The government has done quite a lot to lift the standard of living of Guyanese, and more especially, the level of wages and salaries to its workers. Over the last decade the government has raised salaries by almost 600 per cent, which works out to about 60 per cent annually. For last year the government again paid out a 5.5 per cent salary increase to public servants although the economy was experiencing difficulties. In fact teachers received much more than this, from 6 to 17 per cent increases for last year. In addition, the inflation rate has been contained and the exchange rate of the Guyana dollar in relation to the US currency has been kept stable. These are all solid achievements and the government should be commended for its efforts.

However, there are those who would like us to believe that migration from this country is unique and it is a consequence of low salaries and it is only of recent origin. The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) must tell us where in the world salary increases to government workers have surpassed those in Guyana over a sustained 10 year period. If they cannot produce this information, they are in fact admitting that the government has done a remarkable job in the raising of salaries here.

By now people realize that the salary issue is just a smokescreen by some elements to put pressure on the government with the hope that they could eventually topple the government. Salaries and living conditions are being used as political weapons against this government.

There is still a lot to be done to bring salaries and living conditions up to acceptable levels but there is hope that we will get there not too long from now. In the meantime, Guyanese need to be on guard against those propagandists who continue to portray migration as an issue unique to Guyana and link it to living conditions.

The PPP/C government has a proud record and it can hold its head high.

Yours faithfully,

Hemraj Jaggernauth