Oil will not bring crime to Guyana – US ambassador
– warns of soaring production of coca in Colombia
Businesses are the driving force for economic development of any country. Among the factors determining investment climate and Private Sector development, a company’
s exposure to crime plays a significant role. Crime may cause high costs and damage to businesses.
These points were underscored by United States (US) Ambassador to Guyana Perry Holloway at the Guyana Manufacturing Services Association (GMSA) luncheon at the Pegasus Hotel on Tuesday where he zeroed in on the potential threats that crime can have on the economy.
During his feature address, the US diplomat said one of the things that everyone is concerned about is what will happen when oil production begins here. While there is a general perception that oil may cause an upsurge in criminal activities, he said that he views this differently.
Holloway, who has worked in many countries where crime is at its peak, like Afghanistan, told the attendees of the luncheon, “I don’t think that it’s oil and gas that attracts crime. It’s more people, more money. So, Guyana could be having a boom in an agriculture product but if it brought more money and more people… you guys are good business people but let me tell you that the criminals out there are good business people also and what do they want? The same thing you want, more profit.”
He said since being appointed ambassador to Guyana, he has had a thorough look at the local crime statistics and he has seen some improvements over the past years. “…not to say that there isn’t a lot of work to be done and not that crime isn’t going on every day all round us, but is a long process.”
Using Colombia as an example as one country that moved from being one of worst in the world for its high crime rates to a democracy, the US ambassador said it took political will to get to that place.
“Its fine for the Americans to come in and offer some help and okay for the Brits to come in and offer a security programme but if the Government, people, Private Sector and civil society doesn’t want it, all programmes will fail. It requires political will and not just at the political level but this is something we want to deal with,” he added.
The US diplomat told the packed audience that while crime in Guyana is not at its worst like in some countries, there is some level which needs to be tackled collaboratively.
He said, “You can’t have Police…go after 21st century criminals with 19th utilities and equipment. It just can’t be done. I think that everyone’s heart is in the right place and I think both the previous and current Governments have spent a lot of money on security.”
Holloway also declared that the US Government has invested close to US$80 million over the past 10 years in Guyana’s security sector, while hundreds of millions have been spent in the Region as a whole.
But the US diplomat said one of the most major concerns that should be on everyone’s mind is the production of cocoa, a prime material to make cocaine, which is soaring through the roof in Colombia. Since Guyana serves as a transshipment destination for cocaine trafficking, the country stands to see a possible spike in these criminal activities, as other such destinations will also have to prepare for it.
Meanwhile, GMSA President Sham Nokta in his remarks also touched on the high crime rate which is a key factor to the defects of national security and by extension the business climate.
“In such an environment all citizens and businesses are vulnerable and are potential victims of crime. However, small business are particularly vulnerable, as often they do not have the safe guard in place to prevent or to detect criminal activity. And I believe recent events in the last week or so has clearly brought this to the forum,” he added.
For small countries like Guyana, Nokta said the state suffers disproportionately both from crime which originates within society and from crime driven by actions sometimes many miles from here. However, he said because the drivers of crime are ever changing and increasing in the international nature in which it is done, it is becoming ever more important.
Referring to an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) study, the GMSA President said the Caribbean circle has some uniquely high levels of violent crimes. According to the study, estimates of the cost of crime and violence range between 5 to 10 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“There is the view that intra-regional drug trafficking is a main force behind the upsurge in violent crimes in the Region, more recently there have been indications that crack downs in parts of central and south America have displaced cartels who are now intentionally moving into the Caribbean,” he added.
Nokta said this is not good news, considering where Guyana is geographically between suppliers and markets coupled with inadequate patrols of the expansive coastline and territorial waters.
“The Caribbean appears to be swimming against the tide. That said, addressing drug trafficking and the violent crime that accompany it cannot be done by any single country or region, it is a global problem which requires global solutions. Guyana is not exempt from the scorch of increased crime in the Region.”