U.S. embassy keen on expatriate Guyanese in local development
15,000 immigrant visas issued over last two years
Stabroek News
April 5, 2003

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The U.S. Embassy is keen on encouraging expatriate Guyanese to participate in Guyana’s development. To evaluate how it might encourage such participation, the embassy requested its United States Agency for International Development (USAID) mission to do a detailed study of remittances and a report was recently presented here on it.

“In other countries remittances have been a tremendous stimulus for economic and social development, and I want to make sure that we do everything possible to encourage this flow of resources,” U.S. Ambassador Ronald Godard said recently.

According to initial research, a conservative estimate is that there are about 300,000 Guyanese in the U.S., and the flow of remittances from there to Guyana is about US$100 million, Godard said, acknowledging that everyone believes it is much more.

He was addressing members of the Guyanese diaspora at a function in New York last month-end to launch the partnership between the U.S. non-governmental organisation Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and the Guyanese NGO, Volunteer Youth Corps (VYC). Big Brothers, Big Sisters is well known in the United States for successfully mentoring children who need a positive adult role model.

In partnership with the VYC, the U.S. NGO will begin operations in Guyana this year, a release from the U.S. embassy said.

It informed also that the U.S. ambassador over the March 29-30 weekend held a number of meetings with members of the expatriate Guyanese community in New York, said to be home to the largest concentration of Guyanese living abroad.

The ambassador informed the community that the embassy was exploring ways it can help to enhance the capacity of many “hometown associations” abroad to more effectively promote development here. He also congratulated the community for its many contributions to date and encouraged it to stay engaged in that worthwhile activity, the release said.

At the function, he told his audience that the so-called hometown associations are engaged in activities ranging from infrastructure projects to charitable aid to business investment. And according to the ambassador, there are some 200 such organisations in the U.S. and Canada.

Referring to the several exchange programmes between his country and Guyana that have been inspired by Guyanese in the U.S., Godard said he would like the U.S. embassy to play a helpful role in encouraging the activities of the hometown associations.

The ambassador who was accompanied by Mrs Godard, patron of the VYC, also met with a number of civic and business leaders of the Guyanese community.

According to the release, the visit was well received and the embassy will seek to build on the contacts established to strengthen ties between the two countries.

Diaspora factor
Ambassador Godard noted in his keynote address that although he had been a Foreign Service Officer for many years and served in seven different countries, never before Guyana did he serve in a country where the U.S. community in the United States “was so large and influential.”

The large size of the community was dramatized to him at the commemorative ceremony last year when he unveiled a plaque at the embassy dedicated to those from Guyana who were among the victims on September 11. “At that ceremony,” he said “I felt safe in saying that proportionate to its population Guyana lost more of its sons and daughters on September 11 than any other country.”

He also asserted that “a successful expatriate community gives a developing country a decisive edge.” This he noted is a factor development experts are increasingly taking into account as they prepare their strategies.

Money sent home to relatives and friends, Godard said, is an enormous source of private capital, adding that in the Western Hemisphere, nearly 80% of these remittances come from the U.S.

In that light, he said, the international financial institutions, with the Inter-American Development Bank leading the way, are giving increasing attention to this important source of private sector investment.

And according to a recent IDB study, Godard said, Guyana is third in the hemisphere for the percentage of remittances received - 16.6% of GDP.

He noted that in part because of migration, the phenomenon of globalization is a bad word in the Caribbean. He acknowledged that globalization is looked at by some in terms of the brain drain, with the teachers and nurses being actively recruited for jobs in New York. And during the past two years, the U.S. embassy has issued about 15,000 immigrant visas, representing over 2% of the population, the ambassador disclosed.

But he posited that massive shifts of population are common in the modern world, and with constantly improving technology, the world is inevitably getting smaller and more interconnected.

More Peace Corps Volunteers
Expressing full support for people-to-people programmes, Godard announced that because of the wonderful reception the Peace Corps Volunteers have received here, plans are underway to double their number. He pointed with pride to the work of about fifty PCVs who are now working in some remote corners of Guyana in health, education and information technology. He said too that there are countless American missionary groups doing good work all over the country.

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