Last Sunday, August 05, 2018, an article appeared in the print media with the caption “Coverage of Guyana’s Financial Sector deemed poor…Nation has fewer bank branches per capita than its regional neighbours – report.” The report being referenced therein is the Green State Development Strategy (GSDS), prepared by the United Nations in partnership with the Ministry of the Presidency. It was thus cited that coverage of the financial sector is still poor. The report noted that Guyana has “fewer bank branches per capita than its neighbours, Trinidad & Tobago and Suriname (8.4 per 100,000 in Guyana versus 13.0 in Trinidad & Tobago and 11.1 in Suriname).” The report also noted “fewer ATMs per capita (16.7 per 100,000 people in Guyana versus 41.0 in Trinidad & Tobago and 47.8 in Suriname).” It was acknowledged, however (in the report), that Port Kaituma and Lethem are the only hinterland communities with bank branches.
While it is correct to say that there are indeed fewer bank branches across the country, the analysis upon which such position was arrived failed to consider some other critical elements. To this end, the analysis is deemed to be deeply flawed, as the following sections seek to highlight these other important considerations that were omitted from the analysis, as it would appear.
Looking at the data illustrated in the above table, Guyana is 42 times larger than Trinidad in its Geographic size; or, put differently, a country with the size of Trinidad & Tobago can literally fit in Guyana 42 times. Secondly, Trinidad’s population is more than one and a half times the size of Guyana’s population; Trinidad’s GDP of US$22 billion is almost six times Guyana’s GDP of US$3.68 billion; and Trinidad’s GDP per capita of US$15,351 is about three times Guyana’s GDP per capita of US$4,900.
Suriname, on the other hand, is smaller than Guyana in terms of size by 19,749 sq. miles with a smaller population in comparison to Guyana’s of 187,000 less people, a slightly smaller GDP (by US$360 million) but with a higher GDP per capita of US$6,000 (largely because of its smaller population) when compared to Guyana’s. These are extremely critical elements highlighted herein, and they ought to have been considered in such an analysis, but the GSDS seemed to have ignored them, and this therefore inherently led to a flawed conclusion. It is in these respects that it is considered imprudent to compare Guyana’s financial sector coverage with two neighbouring countries with completely different economic dynamics and status relative to Guyana.
Moreover, citing the National Development Strategy (Guyana) document, recognition has been given to the fact that Guyana is very poorly supplied with roads. As such, “the transport system affects the country’s social and economic development in many ways. For example, it increases production costs, and as such, constrains our national competitiveness, particularly in the mining and forestry sectors. It also inhibits the country’s capacity to fully utilise those natural resources that are not located on the coastland. Therefore, by limiting communication between those who live on the coastland and those who inhabit the hinterland, the country is effectively divided into two almost unbridgeable cultures. There is also a restriction to the coastal population’s penetration of the hinterland regions, and this, as such, forces coastlanders to live in a cramped and crowded manner on the coast, struggling and competing for land space and other amenities, while more suitable areas are available farther south”.
(This discussion will be continued next week; and for simplicity, the author will explain what is GDP and GDP per capita as well).