The US and Guyana

A new US Ambassador to our country has arrived. She is Ms Sara-Ann Lynch, who described herself to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations as “serv(ing) as a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco…(then) in international affairs as a USAID Foreign Service Officer, serving for the past 25 years overseas in Bangladesh, Peru, Afghanistan and Iraq; and in Washington, most recently as the Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator in the Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean.”
There is no question that Ambassador Lynch brings a tremendous wealth of knowledge and, more importantly, experience to her new posting after that background, which should advance the mutual interests of our countries at this critical juncture. As she promised later in that hearing: “I will proudly promote US values and represent the United States in Guyana, a melting pot of ethnic and religious diversity. I pledge to work with Guyana in areas of mutual interest as we seek to:
(1) support the Government of Guyana as the country emerges as a petroleum producer and leverages its newfound revenues to expand economic opportunities and social services for all its citizens;
(2) increase fair and reciprocal bilateral trade and investment, including promoting opportunities for US businesses; and,
(3) work with the Guyanese Government and people to build upon gains in democratic governance, the rule of law and citizen security. A secure, democratic and prosperous Guyana will be a key ally for the United States for years to come in the region that we share.”
Ambassador Lynch would have been briefed on the clear and present danger posed to our “gains in democratic governance, the rule of law and citizen security” by the refusal of President David Granger to adhere to the pellucid command of the Constitution to schedule elections three months after the successful passage of the no-confidence vote on Dec 21, 2018. The transparent manoeuvres of the PNC-led Government to cling to power outside the ambit of the Constitution betray their reversion to their historic contempt for the rule of law. This doctrine demands that no one is above the law, not even a king or a president.
Ambassador Lynch continued: “This is a particularly momentous time for Guyana, a country the World Bank currently identifies as middle-income. However, the discovery of significant reserves of oil in recent years could alter the equation for this small nation. It is estimated that Guyana holds over 4 billion barrels of offshore oil reserves, which could put it into the top twenty oil producing countries in the world. As such, it is critical the country not fall into the trap of the “resource curse.”
“Guyana must continue to look for opportunities to diversify its economy, improve its governance, and strengthen its civil society. If confirmed, I will look for ways to build upon the work that Guyana has already done to chart a productive course for its future.”
Her warning about avoiding the “resource curse” trap is especially apt in view of the Government’s strangulation of the agricultural sector in a world faced with growing food insecurity. Their refusal to utilise the 40,000 acres of drained and irrigated land made available by the closure of four sugar estates, by leasing them to the fired workers and transitioning them from field workers into cash crop farmers, is a case in point.
Finally, she concluded, “We only have to look to Guyana’s west – to Venezuela – to see how poor governance and corruption have destroyed what should be one of South America’s most prosperous economies. Venezuelans are fleeing their country in droves, with thousands now entering neighbouring Guyana.”
This is a cautionary tale that this newspaper has consistently emphasised in this space, as the PNC-led Government has become overrun with corruption and has demonstrated a studied contempt for the need to diversify the economy by encouraging value-added agro-manufacturing, for instance. Yet they emphasise only “oil revenues”, as exemplified by Minister of Finance Winston Jordan’s recent boast of one million barrels per day by 2025.