The spectacular discoveries of oil in offshore Guyana, with promises of a glowing future, must be tempered with what that future really means and with the realities of today. It appears that Guyana stands to receive $US300 million a year for the first five years after production commences and a little over that sum for the twenty years thereafter. The size of Guyana’s economy is $US1.2 billion. This means that Guyana’s economy will increase by one-fifth as a result of oil revenue. This will be a significant boost but by no means a spectacular transformation. This figure is probably based on production of 100,000 barrels a day. It may well be that Exxon will produce far more than that amount for various economic reasons. While all of this is in the future, Guyana has pressing economic and political problems that require immediate solutions.
The dismissal of thousands of sugar workers will intensify poverty and crime across Guyana, particularly in the areas affected by the closures. Communities will deteriorate, drug taking and alcohol abuse will intensify and the economy will suffer from reduced spending. All of this will impact negatively on economic growth for 2018. By the time divestment concludes and some job opportunities emerge, the damage to the communities and their inhabitants would already have occurred. There is no immediate potential investment in Guyana’s economy on a scale large enough to absorb the dismissed sugar workers, or even a portion of them, that will make a difference to their dire situation. Any impact that a new oil industry may have is at least ten years away. By this time, an entire generation of workers and their children will be lost to productive labour by a decade of deprivation.
The National Population and Housing Census was conducted in 2012. Published in 2014, it showed a decrease in the population from 751,223 in 2002 to 746,955 in 2012. The long awaited ethnic census in Compendium Two was released last week. It makes for interesting, but not surprising, reading.
The Indian population has declined from 326,277 or 43.4% in 2002 to 297,493 or 39.8% in 2012. The African population has declined from 227,062 or 30.2% in 2002 to 218,483 or 29.2% in 2012. The Amerindian population increased from 66,675 or 9.1% in 2002 to 78,492 or 10.5% in 2012. The Mixed population increased from 125,727 or 16.7% in 2002 to 148,532 or 19.9% in 2012.
I must confess that I have had an ambivalent attitude to ethnicity for most of my life. My mother was a Hindu and so were all my relatives on both sides of my family. I grew up in the midst of celebrations of Hindu religious festivals, tempered by the dominant influence of the Lutheran Church in my mixed community, as in much of Guyana. Even though I was socialized as a Hindu and, therefore, considered myself, whatever the reality, as Indian by race, my approach to my own ethnicity was determined by factors that had little to do with high principle.
In my mid to late teenage years after I discovered girls, I unconsciously developed a certain approach on the issue of ethnicity, dictated by my dark complexion and curly hair which caused me to be viewed in a particular way. I would defend my Indian ethnicity to certain girls, if asked, and refrain from explaining to other girls, if asked, that I looked like my father, who in turn looked like his mother, who in turn looked like her parents, who came to British Guiana from Bihar. As soon as I adopted this strategy I gained entrée to a much wider community of girls than my friends whose ethnicities were more easily determinable. This doubling up of my opportunities allowed me to stay ahead in the boasting competition in relation to these matters that is part of teenage life.