Guyana and the wider world

In this week’s column I shall continue the discussion started last week on governance. I had presented governance as constituting the pivotal interface between the outcomes and activities of the ruling elite, organized crime, corruption, the political economy and such other features of the criminalized state that I shall consider later. Last week I was at pains to stress that in the context of its present usage, governance refers to both the political and economic forms and modalities used in the management of society. Traditionally, the political forms and modalities of governance have been the more prominent in Guyana, which is not surprising given the intensely politicized nature of our society. The significance of economic governance should not however be underestimated since it includes both international as well as domestic dimensions.


Internationally, governance is mediated through two main types of institutions. The first of these is foreign directed investment (FDI). Throughout our history this has been focused on natural resources exploitation to service external markets. From the early sugar plantations to the recent logging and mineral extraction companies Guyana has not been able to develop beyond the stage of what economists classify as primary, if not primitive forms of export production and accumulation. The other is the International Financial Institutions (IFIs), which since 1989 and the inception of the Economic Recovery Programme (ERP) has given these institutions an exceptional influence over domestic policy conception, design, implementation and evaluation

Domestically, however economic governance is principally being mediated through the activities and outcomes of two agencies, namely the local private sector and the government. The private sector has created an array of corporatist structures like the Private Sector Commission, Chambers of Commerce, Manufacturing and Services Association, which in theory are supposed to define and express their collective determination of standards of good economic governance in Guyana.

As far as the government is concerned I do also include in economic governance its economic policies and regulations, as well as the nature of the regulatory and incentive framework in operation. This is a far broader conception of governance than the stricter and more traditional one widely used. As I have been at pains to stress last week, corruption is an expression of poor governance, if only because it represents “the abuse of authority for private profit”. Regrettably, in this particular sense corruption has spread far and wide in the society. It is not solely confined to the agents and agencies of organized crime and the ruling elite. If truth be told it has become the “day to day activity” of substantial portions of our citizenry.


Because of the far-reaching nature of the term governance when used in present sense it must also serve as a pivotal interface with the explosive multi-dimensional forces of “globalization”. The pertinent question at this stage is: how does this occur? Despite its complexity in my view the effects of globalization on governance in Guyana have flowed through four major channels. The first of these is that Guyana as a nation state continues to become increasingly obligated to binding international treaties and agreements as well as the authority of international institutions, Both of these commit the country to definite standards of governance. Good examples of these two influences are the obligations flowing from membership of the United Nations and as a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The second channel through which these influences flow is the commitment the country undertakes when it subscribes to regional and plurilateral arrangements. Good examples of these are membership of CARICOM and the obligations, which flow out of its Civil Society Charter we subscribe to, and the Organization of American States (OAS) and our consequential commitment as a member to the peaceful resolution of hemispheric conflicts and the promotion of democracy within the region.

The third channel through which these influences flow is as a result of the worldwide, although uneven evolution of global standards and “best practices” that foster the promotion of good governance. As part of the international community Guyana cannot avoid being influenced by these developments and therefore being required as a consequence to justify recorded departures from these to the satisfaction of the international community (including both governments and civil society). A good example of this influence is the rising expectation that all public institutions are bound by the tenets of transparency, accountability, participation and self-empowerment in the execution of all projects, programmes and policies.

The final channel through which these influences flow follow from the situation that organized crime bosses are deeply embedded among the ruling elite. As a consequence governance in Guyana is being influenced by the insidious spread of the practices of international organized crime. This has penetrated almost every fissure and interstice in the society. This influence promotes secrecy, conspiracy, cronyism and chicanery rather than openness and public dialogue.

Without these pathological forms of governance organized crime cannot prosper. This however conflicts directly with the more positive features of the impact of globalization on governance. It is in fact its antithesis and in Guyana these contradictory tendencies are being played out in what we must bear in mind is a very small, poor, open economy being buffeted by the explosive multi-dimensional forces of globalisation.

In summary this situation more or less completes the circle, which first began with the criminalization of the ruling elite and has reached this discussion of globalization. Governance is the prism through which the pathological degeneration of the state into a vehicle for criminal enterprise expresses itself.

Next week we shift focus to the legacy of the PNC authoritarian regime in the present day criminalization of the state.

Around the Web