A Case for Immigration Reform

Written by

By Keith Bernard

It should be proposed that Guyana reform its immigration laws to allow for, at least, 1,000,000 new citizens from around the world, i.e. people that have specific skills needed to increase economic growth and prosperity in Guyana. Contrary to some economic theories, an increase in population growth is linked to economic growth. However, certain factors, such as a strong job market and the availability of skilled workforce, will make the linkage complex.
Guyana has never been able to reach a population of 1,000,000 citizens, except if you count those in the diaspora. According to the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) World Factbook, in 2013 the country’s population was 799,600, including a workforce of 313,100. As shown in the table below, the population growth was 1.1% from 2005 to 2010. Moreover, according to the United Nations (UN), the population growth rate was 0.5% from 2010 to 2015. In 2013, Guyana’s gross domestic product (GDP) – a measure of productivity – was US$3 billion. In 2013, Wal-Mart employed 2,200,000 workers and generated an operating income of US$27.8 billion.
According the Multilateral Investment Fund, a member of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), during 2014, US$438 million (up 5.5% year over year) were remitted to Guyana from
overseas based Guyanese. This number represented 14% of total GDP. As result, per capita GDP of $6,700 was misleading as most Guyanese supplemented or depended on these remittances to meet
their everyday need for products and services.
According to an IMF Staff Report dated September 25, 2014, to address economic growth and poverty reduction, Guyana needs to modernize its traditional sectors, such as agriculture, mining as well as divest into new industries to hedge its risk against volatility of world commodity prices. It is well publicized that the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) has endured many years of billion dollar losses due in part to volatility in world sugar prices. On the other hand, Banks DIH Ltd. has enjoyed years of profitability of billions of dollars.
To implement large scale divestments, the country needs a large and meaningfully skilled work force, one that is far more in excess of the aforementioned 313,000. The solution is to open naturalization process to a million or more skilled labour from places with underutilized talent and expertise in Information Technology (IT), Logistics, Mining, Agriculture, Advance Food Processing and light industry manufacturing in addition to Infrastructure Building such as roads, bridges, and irrigation systems. Where will you find these people? Try India, Africa, Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Haiti, Brazil and Mexico. Why would people want to come to Guyana to live and work? Because, among other factors, the dollar is fairly stable against the US dollar. Moreover, inflation is low at 2.5%, a positive for purchasing power. In 2013, household consumption was 89% compared to government consumption of 11%. This will change with an increase in population because of an increase in domestic consumption that will see the Government’s coffer balloon as a result of increase in tax receipts both from personal income and businesses. According to the CIA World Factbook, in 2013, government’s expenditure was $US875 million versus $US732 million in revenues for a deficit of 4.5% of GDP. Taxes and revenues accounted for a mere 23% of GDP. For the same period, public debt was 57% of GDP.
According to UN data, in 2012, exports were US$1.1 billion compared to imports of $1.9 billion – a balance of negative US$830 million. According to UN data, in 2012, Guyana’s main trading partners were: Imports – USA (26%), Trinidad (15%) and Curacao (11%) and Exports – USA (29%), Trinidad (15%), Venezuela (14%) and UK (12%). Surprisingly, where are Canada and Brazil or any major European, Middle East or Asian countries? These are potential major markets that could only be entered with a significant expansion in the labour force.

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