by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 5 October 2006)
The World Economic Forum released its 2006-2007 Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) Report last week. According to the organisation's Website, "This annual study is a valuable tool for shaping economic policy and guiding investment decisions. It is one of the leading monitors of the competitive condition of economies worldwide."
With the importance of this report in mind, it did not offer very encouraging news for Guyana at all. In fact, out of 125 countries, Guyana ranked an overall 111, a decline from last year's ranking of 108. As I browsed through the relevant comparator group for Guyana, none of those countries, most of which were in Africa and have been racked with various types of civil unrest, had the vast amount of natural resources readily accessible here in this nation.
If we compare Guyana to countries closer to home, this is what the report said, "A lack of sound and credible institutions remains a significant stumbling block in many Latin American countries. Bolivia (97), Ecuador (90), Guyana (111), Honduras (93), Nicaragua (95) and Paraguay (106) achieve low rankings overall and, in particular, are among the worst performers for basic elements of good governance, including reasonably transparent and open institutions."
In listing Guyana as one of the 25 least competitive countries, Forbes Magazine echoed the summation of the GCI report and drove home this walk of shame by detailing the specific scores received in the various categories in which the country was graded.
Guyana ranked 101 in technological readiness and 106 in market efficiency. Although the nation ranked a respectable 75 in health and primary education, receiving a 114 in higher education and training obliterated the optimism of that number. Remember there are only 125 nations listed in the report, so coming in at 114 out of 125 is highly undesirable.
However, that was not the lowest rank for Guyana. It ranked 115 in institutions, 116 in innovation and a morbid 121 in macroeconomy. A ranking of 121 means there were only four other countries that scored worse than Guyana in this category.
I am completely aware that the government likes to brush these scores aside with a wave of its hand and make it seem as if these rankings means nothing or that the information is skewed, which is what it did last year. In reality though (reality is the place the rest of the world lives and the PPP cannot seem to find), these ranking are actually quite significant and aids businesses around the world in determining where they should invest their money.
If Guyana is to know how to remedy this embarrassing position on the world stage, it will need to know what caused the nation to receive such poor ratings in the first place. It will need to examine those aspects of the economy that inhibit competitiveness on a local basis as well as on an international scale.
This is what the report concluded about Guyana and the other Latin American countries listed above, "These countries all suffer from poorly defined property rights, undue influence, inefficient government operations, as well as unstable business environments. Perceived favouritism in government decision-making, an insufficiently independent judiciary, and security costs associated with high levels of crime and corruption make it difficult for the business community to compete effectively."
I would like to go one step further and speculate that it is not simply fear spawned by the "high levels of crime" that hampers competitiveness, but that since so many business owners are being killed by these criminal elements, this will surely slow down the nation's ability to be competitive.
With each death of a business owner, that is one less business that can compete. Surely, with such a fantastic team created by the President to address the issues plaguing the Guyana Police Force, a plan can be fashioned to finally put a halt to all of the killings, robberies and gunmen roaming the streets unchecked.
This year has seen enough death already with the murder of a minister, the killings in Agricola, the execution of Waddell, the deaths of newsmen and countless murders every single day by thugs who own the streets more than the law-abiding citizens or the government.
Every day brings another headline of another businessperson killed. It is not as if there are so many business people in Guyana in the first place that this vital commodity can be squandered indefinitely without regard to the end result.
If the government cannot find the time to combat this escalating problem simply because there are vast amounts of people who are dying and it is the government's job to protect them, perhaps the government should consider how embarrassing next year's CGI ranking will be when all competitiveness is erased with the death of the nation's business people.