Managing the resources
For a country with immense natural resources, Guyana is not doing that well to harness these resources. We know that gold is the booming industry and we know that bauxite has been holding its own although there is not much hope for the future of that industry.
But there are other money spinners that seem unable to attract governmental attention. One of them is the marine resource. Fish is still in demand all over the world, and the waters in and around Guyana teem with fish.
It could be that the administration firmly believes that the private sector should control this sector, and that may not be a bad decision, since Government is about collecting revenue rather than controlling economic activities. Yet we feel that the government is not controlling the fish resources as it should. Indeed that is the responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture.
When we look at what some countries do with their fishing resources, we recognize that we take too much for granted and we do not seem to care if there are slippages in our efforts to monitor our resources.
We have seen other countries that were once in our position, both economically and socially. The vision of these leaders helped take those countries to levels that we still dream about and hope to attain. One of them is Singapore. Another is the Falkland Islands, with a population of no more than 3,000 but with money that we could find enough things to spend on.
Two years ago, the seismic survey suggested that there was oil offshore. With the revenue it acquired from industries like fishing and farming (sheep and cattle), the Falklands was able to fund the oil exploration. Oil should be coming to the surface within three years, because the well has been discovered.
In Guyana’s case, we constantly need to seek external funding to execute just about every large project. This has an impact on the economy because we have to pay interest. In the past, because we could not pay, we had to seek debt relief.
In our case, we sold the licences to the various parties interested in exploring the oil and today we are being fed excuses for the failure to find oil, although there is every indication that there is oil. But be that as it may, there is a lot that Guyana could do to maximise the returns from the fisheries sector.
In these days of electronic monitoring, one must wonder why after issuing fishing licences, Guyana does not monitor the location of the fishing vessels. In the Falklands where the locals do not fish much, but where the ships from the countries of Spain, Japan and some other European countries do, the Fisheries Department is able to monitor every ship in its waters. And by being able to monitor, the islanders are able to record the size of the catch.
Needless to say, fish provides the bulk of the money to the island—some £15 million last year—and being a natural resource, the islanders take special care to ensure that this source of revenue is not exhausted by overfishing.
But there is more. Guyana closely monitors its local fishers, but this is not as efficient as it should be, because all too often the local fishers simply sell their catch to vessels that drift into the waters.
Close monitoring on the part of the government would not only detect the intruding vessels, but also know what is happening with the catch.
Two years ago Guyana sought to close the fishing season because there were reports that the catch was disappearing.
The word was that there was overfishing, and this came about because the local fishers took the opportunity to report to the authorities.
We are not sure that there are charts indicating the levels of catch over the years.
This is important, but one constantly gets the impression that the government is not keen on record-keeping. It is also known that Guyana is not big on enforcement of regulations.