By Kiana Wilburg
Leading anti-corruption bodies and scores of international experts have warned Guyana about the resource curse—a phenomenon that sees countries endowed with a rich source of natural resources struggling to make effective use of it, eventually ending up with low levels of economic development.
While most of the advice local authorities received relate to the debilitating effects of the resource curse on a nation’s economy, a Report from an entity in the United States, is urging that attention also be paid to the effect it can have on the security sector.
In its report called, “Guyana: Building Sustainable Security,” the American Security Project (ASP) said it is imperative for the nation’s security that the politicians do, in fact, avoid the resource curse. Author of the report, Andrew Holland, who is also the American Security Project’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), said that Venezuela’s crisis should serve as a warning in this regard.
Holland said, “We need only look across Guyana’s western border, to Venezuela, to see how a country rich in natural resources can fall victim to this curse. This is a security and humanitarian crisis. Venezuelans are fleeing the country as hyperinflation rages while basic services like health care and food distribution fail. Meanwhile, the country has become a haven for transnational criminals and the government has become implicated in humanitarian abuses as it puts down demonstrations.”
The Chief Operating Officer said that these outcomes are directly attributable to the resource curse and the imposition of policies of resource nationalism. Holland said that there are models for how Guyana can build a prosperous, stable country with oil revenues. He noted that Norway has grown from a small, poor country to one of the wealthiest in the world. He said, too, that some Gulf States like the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have shown a remarkable rise from poverty to wealth in a generation, with some unsteady miss-steps.
Holland said, “The resource curse is not a prophecy: it is a warning. Through foresighted investment and smart policy, Guyana can overcome the resource curse. It can use its newfound wealth to build a secure, stable future for its people. Moreover, oil wealth could make the country into a model for the rest of the Caribbean and South America. Such an outcome will have deep geopolitical consequences for the region.”
SECURITY AND STABILITY
According to the COO, the opportunity that oil wealth presents for Guyana is clear. He said that more money will flow into Guyana, both to government coffers in the form of royalties, profit sharing, and lease payments; and to the broader economy, as workers are hired and local contracts are signed.
He said that the economic boom, if directed properly, could provide the basis for dealing with longstanding security problems. Holland stressed however, that throwing money on top of intractable social problems without reform could end up only making them worse.
The official said that a growing body of evidence shows that unexpected increases in resource wealth given to countries with weak and unstable political institutions can only make the problems worse and more intractable. He cautioned that it can add a layer of government instability and economic challenges to already existing internal threats. For that reason, Holland said that policymakers should acknowledge that money could solve some problems, while reform and foresight must be used to prevent others.
SOLVING SECURITY CHALLENGES
The COO also noted that some of the security challenges that Guyana faces can be lessened with more money.
In this regard, Holland explained, “For instance, Guyana is a common transit country for cocaine headed from Colombia and Venezuela to the United States, Canada, and Europe. In the last decade, under pressure from the U.S. to combat drug smuggling, the government passed legislation to address money laundering, terrorist financing, and extradition. It has created a new Special Organized Crime Unit and has launched an updated Drug Strategy Plan.”
He continued, “Each of these actions provided important legal and institutional ability to fight drug trafficking and organized crime, but the country has lacked the means to fund and support the efforts. Guyana’s large coastline, long navigable rivers, and sparsely inhabited jungles provide easy cover for illicit smuggling. Increasing funding and manpower in their Coast Guard, customs enforcement agency, and police will allow the country to more effectively manage its borders and understand how and where illicit goods transit to larger markets.”
The official added, “Guyana is a member of the U.S.-led Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, in which the U.S. collaborates with Caribbean countries to build the capacity to address transnational threats. Such collaboration allows intelligence sharing so that host countries can monitor and track illicit goods. With greater resources dedicated to law enforcement, the Government of Guyana can more effectively act on American intelligence.”
In connection to the rise of transnational security threats like drug trafficking, Holland highlighted that domestic criminal activity has increased in Guyana. From 2000 to 2015, Holland said that the homicide rate doubled, from 10 to 19.4 homicides per 100,000 people.
He made reference to the fact that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime ranks this as the fourth highest homicide rate in South America, after Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela. Further to this, Holland said that the violent crime rate is similarly high, particularly in Georgetown.
Although that statistics is separate from transnational threats that directly impact the United States, Holland said that the financing, weapons, and criminal organizations involved in drug trafficking are often the same as those involved in domestic crime.
“Of course, more money alone will not solve an intractable problem like violent crime: Guyana must ensure its judicial system is perceived as fair and equitable to all ethnic groups, and that corruption does not undermine the ability of the security services to do their jobs,” the official said.
He noted however that more resources devoted to police, criminal courts, crime prevention, and criminal rehabilitation programmes can reduce crime rates.
SEE LINK FOR FULL REPORT : https://www.americansecurityproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Ref-0216-Guyana-Building-Sustainable-Security.pdf)
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