The state of borrowing from the bank

By SASE Singh, M.Sc. – Finance, ACCA

The economy is struggling, that is an established fact. Over 30,000 jobs were lost since 2015, growth in real wages remains sluggish (just ask the teachers how the negotiations are progressing), and foreign exports accounted for only 40.3 percent of the nation’s GDP in 2018 (the worst performance since 1960). These signs indicate the state of an unhealthy economy.
This article looks at the borrowing by the respective sectors from the local banking system, to ascertain who are investing and who are not. The data is sourced from the Bank of Guyana Report – Table 2.13.
Overall, borrowing from the local banking sector went up by 6.4 percent as at the end of January 2019, compared to January 2018. This performance was supported by a massive G$3,622 million (11.5per cent) expansion in the distribution and trading sector to G$35,568 million. Sadly enough, this sector experienced the least job losses since Team Granger assumed power. It reflects an unfortunate situation wherein Guyana is now more a trading post than a mecca of value-added production of products. That is a strategy that will surely bring hardship to the people, since it exists at the whims and fancies of the major trading powers of the world, who will set the prices for all products traded. The nation is on a fast track to economic enslavement to the dominant producers of the world. And Guyana continues to import pigeon peas from Jamaica and plantain chips from Costa Rica. These are signs of this economic meltdown.
On the production side, there is much to celebrate in the rice sector, and the borrowings from the commercial banks reflect this situation. The rice sector borrowings increased by G$1,868 million (22.9 per cent) more, to G$10,028 million as at the end of January 2019, compared to a year ago. Most of this borrowing occurring at the rice-planting end of the value chain, which means more people went back to the land compared to a year ago. This is good news for Guyana, since it points to a possibility that the rice sector is absorbing some of the employment fallout from the sugar sector, albeit seasonally, at lower wage levels, and without benefits like NIS. This begs the question, how active are the NIS inspectors in monitoring the rice sector to ensure that the seasonal workers are being covered?

Another area that saw an expansion of borrowing was the housing sector, for the first time since Team Granger arrived. The Housing Sector experienced an increase in borrowing from the commercial banks of G$1,658 million (18.8 per cent) to G$10,482 million over the period under review (Jan 2018 to Jan 2019). Team Granger finally seemed to have gotten the message that the economy cannot grow without the housing sector doing better every year.
On the flip side, the borrowings in the sugar sector declined by G$1,792 million (50.6 per cent) to G$1,752 million in the year under review. This reveals a reduction in the cash flow needs of the sugar sector as the operations contract and shrink. The third party impact across rural Demerara and Berbice is devastating, as I witnessed with my own eyes in Corentyne, East Coast Demerara and West Demerara. The economic energy in all the villages I visited illustrated economic degeneration as if they were in an economic coma. The worst of these villages appear to be in the Wales/Patentia and Canje/Lower Corentyne areas. But my biggest shock was on my visit to Buxton. It reflected an economic atmosphere in regression.
The borrowing in the transport sector also declined by G$458 million (9.0per cent) to G$4,620 million over the review period to January 2019. This decline endorses the word on the street that the minibus people are not travelling as they used to in the past because they have less cash in their pockets. Plus there seems to be an oversupply of minibuses in the country. As people experience declining disposable income after rent/mortgage and food bills are covered, we now have a new cash-eating phenomenon, higher utility bills. There is not much cash left to spend on travelling.
Lastly, the beverage, food and cigarette sector reduced its borrowing from the local banking sector by some G$447 million (8.7per cent) to G$4,720 million. This is a clear indication that the food and entertainment sectors are struggling as a result of the working class now having less cash in their pockets.
The bottom line remains that, for the rest of 2019, the economy seems to be on a slow march as it stumbles along in this period of political uncertainty. The regime is forced to falsely prime spending by borrowing 25 per cent of the budget to artificially prop up Government spending. The Guyanese economy cannot progress without the non-rice agriculture, mining, construction, and manufacturing sectors firing up; and clearly, they are still in a coma. Wither Guyana under Granger!