Guyana and the wider world

Methods of rule

I have been at pains to point out in the current series of columns, which are assessing my earlier thesis of four years ago about the state in Guyana being transformed into a vehicle for criminal enterprise that the “methods of rule” of a particular state do not exemplify its intrinsic essence. For example, many states have practised dictatorial methods of rule but yet can be fundamentally differentiated into different state forms such as fascism, military dictatorship, absolutist monarchies, the colonial state or even socialism defined as ‘the dictatorship of the proletariat.’ Based on this observation I argued last week that there were both similarities and differences in the “methods of rule” of the criminal state and its immediate precursor the PNC-led authoritarian state.

Ultimately, there are three fundamental differences between the methods of rule of the criminal state and its immediate precursor, the authoritarian state The first of these is that the methods of rule of the PNC regime was centred on the systemic rigging of national elections, distortion of the electoral system, and abuse of state power over the media. Significant residual elements in these methods of rule continue today, but I would be less than fair if I did not indicate that in my view there was a qualitative difference in the degree of regime domination over the electoral process. While many valid criticisms of national elections held since 1992 can be made, the national elections in 1992 allowed for a change in government via the ballot box. Since then, judging by the actions of the main opposition parties in the National Assembly this principle has continued.

Secondly, in the authoritarian state the composition of the PNC ruling elite did not accommodate, and indeed it can be fairly said, had no place for organized crime. This is not to say that the PNC regime was either free of criminal elements, did not commit crimes or did not harbour individuals who might have had expectations of becoming organized crime bosses. The truth of the matter is, however, that the PNC regime promoted an ideological flavouring to its methods of rule, which had no place for organized crime bosses and their criminal endeavours in drugs, money laundering, smuggling and trafficking in persons. If truth be told, prior to 1992 organized crime had not yet developed into the transcending force it is today.

The third crucial difference is that in the area of economic governance the Inter-national Financial Institutions (IFIs) so dominant today had no place in the authoritarian state. Indeed one of the hallmarks of the PNC authoritarian regime was its resolute resistance up to 1989 to the IFIs and their structural adjustment programmes. It was only in the final stages of the regime that the Economic Recovery Programme (ERP) was adopted and the IFIs were later to emerge as the dominant force in economic formulation, design, implementation and evaluation.

Political economy of the

authoritarian state

The political economy of the authoritarian state also has both similarities and marked differences to that which presently obtains today under the criminal state. Since the heyday of the authoritarian state in the 1970s the economy has shown little fundamental variation. Overall, economic growth has been low averaging about 1% per annum between then and now, despite the spurt in GDP growth between 1991 and 1997. The economy is still principally dependent upon the same products dominant in the authoritarian period (sugar, rice, bauxite, gold, forest products and other similarly natural resources-based activities). The country remains poor, open and producing and exporting primary products. Economic growth, as I have shown a few weeks ago in this series, is still dependent on extensive factors rather than the intensive and productive use of existing resources. Overall, I claim that then as now the economy can be classified as “backward capitalism” in the way I have defined it earlier.

There are, however, three major differences in the political economy of the authoritarian state when compared to now. First, ideology and economic policy were inseparable in the authoritarian state. Economics and politics were fully fused but unfortunately this did not yield expected results. Secondly, the authoritarian state had a large state property sector following the nationalization of the mainly foreign transnational corporations operating in the primary producing sectors of the economy (mainly sugar and bauxite). This state property sector constituted the building block for co-operative socialism and the ideological goal of “feeding, clothing and housing” the nation. The state property sector spread into the utilities, basic services like transportation and even major retail outlets previously owned by the transnational companies.

The third distinguishing feature in the two political economies lies in the fact that the authoritarian state treated macro-economic stability as a matter of low order priority in the pursuit of economic development, and proclaimed the major concentration had to be on economic growth. The criminal state has reversed this and under the influence and direction of the IFIs has placed macro-economic stability as the top-most priority. As I have shown at length in previous columns dealing with this re-assessment both priorities were misguided and proof of this is seen in the stagnant growth of the Guyanese economy over the past three decades.

Next week I shall conclude this discussion on the authoritarian state as a precursor to the criminal state and also deal with the final distinguishing feature of the criminal state.