Officials of the Bank of Guyana (BOG) and the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) need to be aware that the illegal trade of foreign currency appears to be very active among merchants and persons from other countries, which may be a contributing factor to the reduced value of the Guyana dollar.
Over the past month, I witnessed illegal activities first hand in two stores that I had only briefly visited.
At one store on Regent Street close to Wellington Street, a Cuban national purchased several items, which were paid for in US dollars. The goods, which were originally priced in Guyana dollars, were converted to a US dollar equivalent at an exchange rate that was not aligned to those of the BOG, local commercial banks, nor Cambios. Since I was next in line behind the Cuban customer, witnessing the transaction was indelible. When my turn came to pay for my purchase, I asked the female money collector, who appeared to be of Chinese origin working in concert with some persons of suspected Indian or Bangladeshi origin, if I could pay in US dollars too. Her curt response was “Not for you, not for you”. I continued my probe by asking her if she had a Cambio Licence and she responded in dismissive fashion by saying that she did not understand me. I left the store without desiring to press the matter further.
The next occurrence of this type of activity was observed again on Regent Street, but closer to Albert Street, in a hardware store. A group of Spanish-speaking men and women entered the store under the guidance of a Guyanese man. They were escorted to a section of the store where a man of Chinese origin, who apparently owns or manages the store, proceeded to purchase sums of US currency from the foreigners. I looked around in the store, then went outside, inquisitively searching for any sign that the store operated Cambio services. However, there was none.
I also heard stories, from usually reliable sources, about a store on Robb Street where mainly Cubans and Venezuelans are selectively invited to enter during the early morning hours. The grilled doors are then closed to permit the foreign nationals to conduct purchases using US dollars.
If this is the usual and daily practice by shop and store owners who bypass, evade, and subvert the established regulatory financial system in Guyana, the reduced value of local currency compared to the US dollar is merely a symptom of a much larger problem that officials need to extensively investigate in order to restore order, the value and stability of the Guyana dollar.