Guyana has world’s biggest diaspora, seen as asset to country’s development


Guyana has the world’s biggest diaspora, according to a recent report by U.S business magazine Forbes. Foreign Secretary Robert Persaud, however, believes that this is an asset to the country’s development.

Based on the Forbes report, which assessed data from German database company Statista, over one-third (36.4 per cent) of Guyana’s native-born population lives abroad.

After Guyana was Bosnia and Herzegovina, with 34 per cent of the population living abroad, Albania with 30.7 per cent of the population living abroad, Syria at 29.8 per cent and Jamaica with some 28.6 per cent of the population living abroad.

Importantly, the information compiled by the magazine only includes sovereign nations with populations of 750,000 or more. The data is from 2020.

Forbes reported that the list of countries with the largest share of the native-born population living abroad “reveals stories of war and displacement but also of economic stagnation and a lack of perspectives.”

It added, “While there are many reasons why someone might leave the place where they were born, small countries are most often affected by the phenomenon as they are inherently at a disadvantage when offering opportunities and chances to move within the country first.”

Foreign Secretary Persaud, in an invited comment, reminded Guyanese that Guyana grappled with mass migration in the 1970s and 80s due to economic degradation and political oppression.

This chart shows the share of the native-born population living abroad, by country (2020).STATISTA

Added to his reminder, the phenomenon of a Guyanese “brain drain” has been widely-ventilated. Many skilled Guyanese, some reports indicate, migrate for greater academic and employment opportunities.

But the Foreign Secretary believes that these migration patterns are changing now.

“Today, with the great economic prospects, a climate of political freedom and a population hopeful, migration has slowed down.

“In fact, we are seeing interest from members of the diaspora to return,” Persaud highlighted.

At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Persaud is among those leading diaspora engagement efforts. And he believes that Guyana is increasingly attracting Guyanese in the diaspora, eager to return home, and other nationals.

This is not viewed as a bad thing.

“Having one of the largest diaspora is an asset,” the Foreign Secretary posited.

Persaud, in recent months, was among those who urged members of the diaspora to return to Guyana with their skills and investments.

In May, he told Guyanese living in Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) that Guyana needs about 100,000 additional workers to meet local labour and skill demands.

Cognisant of these needs, he told the News Room that President Dr. Irfaan Ali has made diasporic engagement a foreign policy priority. He said the government hopes to attract capital, knowledge, skills and their influence.

“We will continue to engage the diaspora- a rich, untapped asset to support the transformation of our nation and realise the objectives of the President’s One Guyana initiative,” the Foreign Secretary underscored.

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