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Guyana's Brain Drain

While the populations of most developing nations are rising rapidly, the same cannot be said for the northern South American country of Guyana.

Last modified: 25 Dec 2010 16:22
Photo by Taran Rampersad

While the populations of most developing nations are rising rapidly, the same cannot be said for the northern South American country of Guyana.

It is rising slightly but for many years has been in serious decline.

The brain drain in this poor nation has been going on for many years as people emigrate to America, Canada and Britain in search of a better life.

I went to a small first floor apartment in the capital Georgetown to meet a couple on the eve of their departure for New York plus the country's President who wishes more of his fellow countrymen would return home for good.

"We're excited that we're leaving," Affia McKenzie told me.

She and husband Richard are preparing for the trip of their lives.  They're taking their ten month old daughter Sasha to live with his parents in America.

"I would want to have just about everything, every necessity of life, which includes my own vehicles, my own house, a good job."

They had good jobs in Guyana - she a shop manager - he a repairer of hydraulic pumps ... but they couldn't meet all the bills and feel they can do even better outside the land of their birth.

And they're not the only ones packing their bags.  Over the past four decades Guyana has seen a huge decline in population as people leave the country in search of better education, better jobs and a wealthier lifestyle.  It's just after 7 am here now and the line at the American Embassy is already long.

And many head to New York's Little Guyana in Brooklyn.

Shop keeper Andy Jarbandhan left Guyana with his parents more than forty years ago and meets new immigrants from his homeland almost every day.

"It's not so much the economical hardship that we may have in Guyana but maybe exposing their children to education and giving them a chance to develop and grow."

In the Presidential palace in Georgetown President Bharrat Jagdeo thinks the global recession will pull many Guyanese back home but he admits despite major economic improvements there's a brain drain particularly among young people.

"Still we're not still generating enough jobs of the quality to keep all of our young people occupied particularly in some disciplines so some still do - do migrate."

Back at their tiny first floor apartment Affia's mind is very much on the future.  She and Richard want more than anything else to give baby Sasha a great start in life.  

Richard said: "Stuff that she might like, that we couldn't have afford when we were probably her age and our parents could not have afforded it to give us we would like to make that possible for her."