Ability to fight crime, threats reduced significantly with declining arms imports – Pres Ali

…defence strategies must account for climate change, disasters

President Irfaan Ali with members of his delegation and other stakeholders at the National Defence University in Washington, DC

Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Guyana, President Dr Irfaan Ali, has drawn attention to the lack of investments in defence architecture for the region, and the ripple effects it creates in security and protection of people.
He was delivering a presentation at the National Defence University in Washington, DC, on Wednesday when he zeroed in that if defence is to be provided for the region, authorities must look at the environment where this defence is needed.
In Central America and the Caribbean, arms imports increased by 23 per cent between the periods of 2010-2014 and 2015-2019. Mexico accounted for 70 per cent of those arms imports.
Looking at crime statistics of the sub-region, Ali indicated that the investments have in no way matched the level of crime or ability to fight crime.
In South American states, between 2005-2009 and 2010-2014, arms imports fell by 15 per cent. It fell by another 59 per cent during 2015-2019.
Ali stressed, “What that tells you is that there is very limited replacement. It tells you that there is a lot of inefficient assets, and the capacity to generate new capability to fight different forms of criminality and threats has been reduced substantially.”

A section of the audience

Climate Change
The Head of State has posited that building defence strategies and infrastructure must take into account the damning effects of climate change, particularly for the Caribbean and Latin American region.
Climate change is one of the greatest vulnerabilities of this region. Adaptation to climate change comes at a price tag of between US$80 billion and US$110 billion.
Ali disclosed, “That is the estimated cost of adaptation to climate change in this region. This issue is devastating, not only to economies and people, but infrastructure. Included in that infrastructure is the military infrastructure, the defence infrastructure. We cannot, in this new world that we are expected to lead in, develop defence strategies without understanding that climate change must be an integral part of that strategy.”
Focus was placed on instances of wildfires, flooding, hurricane events, and other climate-related disasters which can wipe out a country’s GDP overnight. These have consequences on migration and poverty levels, and further, create a domino effect on security and crime.
“How do we ensure that, in this world, where we’re speaking about energy transition, there is energy security? And what shape and form will energy security take? The third area is food security. All of these are issues that influence decision making, because when the COVID-19 pandemic hit us, militaries and Governments had to make decisions on which budget you will cut. Because you had to find all expected expenditure to fight the pandemic that was not anticipated,” Ali said.
President Ali went on to note that policies without security are neither resilient nor sustainable.

Research and Development
Globally, the region is outspending the required investments in military, but a parity to the expenditure per capita changes the results dramatically, Ali said.
He dissected this information by saying, “You will see that per capita investment between 2015 and 2023 in the US grew by 42 per cent. Per capita investment in China grew by 55.4 per cent and 54 per cent in India over the same period.”
In the top 10 countries, however, investment in defence research and development as a percentage of GDP leads at 5.9 per cent for Israel. In the Western Hemisphere, Brazil, the USA and Canada stand at just about one per cent of GDP.
“The burden of responsibility is placed on the US and Brazil to some extent when you look at research and development. This is critical for innovation and advancement of our defence system. We’re talking about cybersecurity, digitization, AI. These are all important aspects of what constitutes that research and development aspect,” he said.
In making this visit to the USA, the Head of State was accompanied by Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Hugh Todd; Tourism, Industry and Commerce Minister Oneidge Walrond; Foreign Secretary Robert Persaud; National Security Advisor Captain Gerry Gouveia, and Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force, Brigadier Omar Khan. (G12)