Crime, security and the business climate… again

Crime and its implications for citizens’ security in the Caribbean have once again come into sharp focus through the first ever Caribbean Human Develop-ment Report in Citizen Security. Part of the study, ‘the Victimization Survey’, was undertaken in seven Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries including Guyana and one of the conclusions which the report appears to arrive at is that many Caribbean people not only feel unsafe but have little confidence in what is being done to combat crime.

This, according to a former chairman of the local Private Sector Commission (PSC) Captain Gerry Gouveia who currently heads the PSC’s Security and Governance Committee, is very much the case in Guyana. He noted that a combination of a proliferation of violent crime and the absence of a robust police response have combined to create an unsettling situation. The private sector, Gouveia said, is “obsessed” with the crime problem even though he concedes that sometimes the very private sector entities do not appear to be doing anywhere near enough to protect themselves.

An interesting point about the report and what it means for the Caribbean was made by United Nations Resident Representative in Trinidad and Tobago Dr Maria De Castro who is concerned that a report of that nature could “undermine the gains” which the region has made “in terms of economic growth and stability” and in terms of the Caribbean “being a desirable destination for investment and business.”

Dr De Castro is by no means the first person to identify the linkage between a security environment in which people can feel a reasonable level of comfort and the disposition of the business community to do business and, equally important, the way in which potential foreign investors see the Caribbean. So that in Guyana, for example, we come to see the linkage between the quality of service being provided by the Guyana Police Force and the level of investment which the country attracts.

In this regard, one of the areas this newspaper has touched on in the past is the mining sector where, according to Gouveia, the proliferation of violent crime is linked to criminals’ awareness of the limits of the police as far as providing a secure environment in the interior areas is concerned. Here, and not for the first time, the issue of a possible role for the military in policing our borders to staunch the flow of some of the very weapons that are probably used in mining camps and other robberies has arisen.

Then there is the question of the integrity of the Guyana Police Force or, more accurately, the proliferation of rogue cops whose actions do much to sustain what the UN report says is a lack of confidence in what is being done to combat crime. Again, in seeking to address the creation of a more convivial investment climate, account must be taken of the efficiency, effectiveness and integrity of the police.

The point about all this is that there is an inextricable link between the issue of crime and security, on the one hand and, on the other the state of the business and investment climate. It is a link which we ignore at our own economic peril.

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