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Independence helped remove racial discrimination-Guyana-born St. Maarten insurance executive

Chief Executive Officer of NAGICO Insurances, Imran Macsood Amjad.

Chief Executive Officer of NAGICO Insurances, Imran Macsood Amjad.

An insurance agent, who fled Guyana decades ago at the height of economic problems and built a Pan-Caribbean insurance empire out of his adopted homeland of St. Maarten, believes that independence helped remove racial discrimination in employment practices.

“We have to give a lot of credit- we could say what we want about their political views and behaviors- people like Dr. Jagan and Forbes Burnham have done so much for a lot of us because they paved the way so that colonialism did not take away from our opportunities and they allowed the average Guyanese to flourish to become something by making us an independent country,” Chief Executive Officer of NAGICO, Imran Macsood Amjad told Demerara Waves Online News.

Guyana celebrates 50 years of independence from Britain on May 26, 1966.

You can listen to the full interview here. Mr. Macsood first tells Demerara Waves’ Denis Chabrol how long he has been living and working on St. Maarten. He also talks about the need for integrity in an era when financial institutions are coming under greater global scrutiny as part of the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

 

Sitting in his posh office in Phillipsburg, Macsood remembered the days when only fair-skinned people- mainly Portuguese and Chinese- held the supervisory and managerial jobs.

Evidently not an admirer of all of the policies of the then People’s National Congress (PNC)-led government of then President Forbes Burnham, Macsood credited him and Dr. Cheddi Jagan for creating the conditions for equality of employment opportunities through a politically independent Guyana. He remembered being told that the very first clerical person of East Indian descent was employed in the 1960s and that several  Afro-Guyanese were mainly messengers instead of senior clerical and managerial positions. “When Guyana became independent and the term was used ‘One People, One Nation, One Destiny, I think that sends a perfect message to everybody in Guyana and it sends a message to business people and sent a message to all the hierarchies in industry and otherwise that everybody has to be given opportunities and I am absolutely sure that independence had that benefit to all of us in Guyana,” he said.

St. Maarten's Prime Minister William Marlin addressing the Guyanese Independence Jubilee event at Port de Plaisance.

St. Maarten’s Prime Minister William Marlin addressing the Guyanese Independence Jubilee event at Port de Plaisance.

Macsood- then a young, highly qualified and increasingly recognised insurance agent- opted to leave Guyana in the 1980s at a time when the economy was reduced to tatters and rampant food shortages were the order of the day.

He said his main objective was to start and grow an insurance company “from scratch” and so when the opportunity presented itself, he quickly grasped it and was interviewed by the Board of Directors.

The former manager at Guyana and Trinidad Mutual (GTM) insurance company remembers moving to St. Maarten with his wife and baby son in 1982, struggling not only to  find the most cost-effective but good accommodation but also knocking on the doors of St. Maarten residents trying to convince them to invest in insurance policies.  Despite the economic turbulence in the land of his birth, the now prominent insurance executive had mulled returning to Guyana because of high accommodation rent. “I remember the first two months were very, very difficult for me because where I was put up to stay was a very nice place… but the amount of rent was almost seventy-five percent of my salary and I felt that when I do quick mathematics, if I continue to pay this rent then I will be better off back in Guyana where I was already a manager at GTM and I was doing quite well and I was getting all kinds of benefits,” he said. His most difficult experience was moving into four apartments in two months.

Macsood said he grabbed the opportunity to run NAGICO and become its Chief Underwriter, after realizing at that time that the conditions in Guyana to start up a new insurance company were more government-oriented.

The insurance executive, widely known in St. Maarten for his philanthropy especially to the Guyanese community, boasts that NAGICO is by far the leading insurance company there with branches in 17 English and Dutch-speaking Caribbean islands.  NAGICO was one of the major sponsors of an Independence Anniversary celebration that was organised by the St. Maarten-Guyana Association and the Guyana Hindu Association of St.Maarten and attended by hundreds of Guyanese at Port de Plaisance on May 13, 2016.

You can hear a podcast of the formal opening of that event here. The Master of Ceremonies was Frederick Ramprashad. The speakers were the Prime Minister, William Marlin; President of St. Maarten’s Parliament, Sarah Wescot-Williams; Guyana’s Director General of Tourism, Donald Sinclair and Executive Member of the Guyana- St Maarten Association, Cleveland Beresford Snr.

NAGICO has moved from a company that started with only US$75,000 and three staff members to one that today has gross assets of US$250 million and the net assets about US$100 million and more than 350 workers.

  • Col123

    Great Guyanese who is genuinely loved in the Islands….does a lot of good for humans and for the cricketing world…

  • ExPPP_Man

    If Guyana so good, why he living in the Islands.

    • Col123

      Guyana is a beautiful country….It is humbugs like you who make the lives of its citizens fearful!

    • rudeo

      because of the greedy and insidious politicians who run Guyana…..the country being beautiful does not become ugly because of ugly politics

  • rs dasai

    Really asleep for a long time.

  • Emile_Mervin

    Hahaha haha hahaha! Haha haha haha haha! Independence joke of the day! This guy sure has a funny bone!

    • Col123

      Macsood is a businessman who is surrounded by all ethnic groups…mostly blacks…selling insurance for a living cuts across ethnic lines…I know him. He sees the world differently , from the run of the mill Guyanese……

      • Emile_Mervin

        Note I never knocked the man’s business ethics or success; I am amused that he thinks independence ended racial discrimination when we had the PPP accusing the PNC of racial discrimination for 28 years and, only yesterday, Greenidge accused the PPP of racial discrimination during its almost 23 years in power.

        How can this guy say with a straight face, therefore, that racial discrimination ended in 1966? And even if his intended target were White people, then guess where almost half Guyana ended up living the last 50 years?

        • Col123

          Couple months ago, I recall agreeing to a comment you made on race relations in Guyana….that Afro,Indo and all other ethnic Guyanese live harmoniously prior to national elections…I still do…It is the racial politics that separate Guyanese…My comment today on Mr Greenidge’s ridiculous statement started with me noting that the PNC was still in an election mode…with him whipping the audience with his racist bs…

  • Half IndianHalfBlack

    Really HaHa Ha and he ha he ha. Macsood had to change his way of thinking to live among black people in St. Maarten. Ask him why some of his business entities in St. Maarten are 80% to 85% indians, guyanese indians?
    You can fool some of the people. Good going. Merry Indepence.
    On the surface Mr. Macsood is a nice person.

  • Appalled

    Seriously, it must be comfortable living on a lovely island with white sandy beaches and dreaming loftily of the ole Guyana. However, that is what it is, a dream. If you were living here for the many years you have spent in your island paradise you would know that Guyana did not and will never have racial harmony. It was in a sad state then and is in a sad state now….we just rotate the masters here.

  • Col123

    You need to get out a little more…put some time in and travel a bit…

  • Col123

    Can’t help if you enjoy reading and responding to it son…