Statistical evidence defeats Gibson's theories - Misir
Stabroek News
May 18, 2004

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Comparative statistical evidence of the consumption expenditure of Guyana's ethnic groups defeats the thesis of domination of Afro-Guyanese by Indo-Guyanese put forward by Dr Kean Gibson in her controversial book, The Cycle of Racial Oppression in Guyana.

Pro-Chancellor of the University of Guyana, Dr Prem Misir made this submission on his own behalf, to the Ethnic Relations Commission on Monday at the continuation of the inquiry into the complaint by the Indian Arrival Committee that Gibson's book is "peddling and spreading racial hatred between Guyana's principal ethnic groups."

According to the Household Income Expenditure Survey between 1993 and 1999, Misir submitted, the household consumption expenditure incurred by both Afro-Guyanese and Indo-Guyanese was almost the same. Guyana experienced a 129% increase in this type of expenditure in 1999 and during that year, the consumption expenditure of Afro-Guyanese increased over that of Indo-Guyanese.

"Given East Indian and African proportions in the population, African disposable incomes seem to be disproportionately higher than those of East Indians, based on their consumption patterns. African consumption expenditures demonstrate that Africans are not marginalized, for marginalized people, by definition, do not have the resources for high consumption," Misir told the ERC.

According to Misir, Afro-Guyanese dominate the majority of the positions in the upper echelons of the Public Service and this attests to his submission that Afro-Guyanese are not marginalized.

"In the Public Service, there are nine East Indian and six African permanent secretaries; five East Indian and 21 African accounting heads; 13 African senior personnel officers and no East Indians in this category; 11 East Indians and 27 Africans employed as deputy permanent secretaries and other similar positions," Misir related.

In his earlier presentation on behalf of the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha, Dr Madan Rambaran, had denounced what he termed Gibson's assertions, in her book, that Indo-Guyanese have a programme to remove Africans from the Public Service and replace them with Indians, as an "extreme conclusion".

Rambaran said: "Dr Gibson writes [on page 45 of her book] of Dr [Cheddi] Jagan expressing concern 'about the high proportion of Africans in the Civil Service and Police Force relative to the population' and then goes on to conclude that this means 'Africans should not be part of the institution.'

"[Gibson's] assertions of a programme to remove Africans from the Public Service and replace them by Indians are not borne out by a close examination of the facts. The fact is that the Public Service is still predominantly black."

Rambaran also stated that Gibson's references to statements by Jagan and President Bharrat Jagdeo in no way support such a conclusion as she posits. Rather, all that could be concluded was that they were "demanding greater representation of Indians in the Public Service, not elimination of Africans from the Public Service."

But Commissioner Andrew Garnett pointed out that persons employed in the Public Service are generally paid poorly and further, that according to tradition, Indo-Guyanese have tended to gravitate toward seeking contractual employment, an area that offers better remuneration.

On the issue of consumption expenditures, Garnett contended that spending patterns are also defined by culture and that this ought to be taken into consideration. Additionally, Garnett posited, it is known that the income of many Guyanese is supplemented by contributions of foreign currency from overseas-based relatives.

However, Misir insisted that this should not be a key factor in determining whether or not there is ethnic marginalization of the Afro-Guyanese by Indo-Guyanese. He added that governments had numerous opportunities to rectify the Public Service since 1966.

According to Misir, the scales are relatively balanced in the education sector as well with an almost even percentage of the students in both the Afro-Guyanese and Indo-Guyanese groups among the country's highest scorers at the Secondary Schools Entrance Examination and the Caribbean Examinations Council examinations. He said too that the regional budgetary allocations are a reinforcement of the even-handed access by each ethnic group to the basic necessities of the Guyanese citizen.

It was determined that the salaries of persons who work in the Sugar Industry cannot be compared with the salaries of those who are employed in the Disciplined Forces since the former are seasonally employed while the latter earn a fixed, basic salary.

Commissioner Shahabudeen McDoom, who had been out of the country, was present for the first time on Tuesday while Commis-sioner Cheryl Sampson was said to be ill in bed. Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry Chief Executive Officer, R.K. Sharma, another substitute commissioner, was also present.

ERC Chairman Bishop Juan Edghill informed that the ERC intends to meet the ruling PPP/C and the Opposition PNCR shortly. Also, Edghill disclosed, on May 21 and 22, the ERC will engage in sessions of strategic planning in relation to its mandate.