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Guyana’s Political System and Economic Development Essay

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Updated: Nov 21st, 2020

Politics of the developing world plays a crucial role in the understanding of global politics that is essential to consider this phenomenon in a comprehensive manner. The political system of Guyana was shaped by a range of events that occurred in the course of history. Nowadays, there is a strong cooperative Republic represented by the President, Prime Minister, and the unicameral National Assembly. At the same time, there are several political parties, each of which has its own assumptions related to the country’s overall well-being. It is necessary to point out that politics is important both for the economy and society of Guyana as its political culture promotes the engagement of citizens in politics. Considering the challenges set by the modern globalized world where people and countries tend to be closer to each other, and national boundaries are likely to be blurred, Guyana is also involved in the global political scene. In this regard, this paper aims at revealing the essentials of Guyana politics, including the elements that were enumerated above in order to understand the role of this developing country on the global scale as well as its own tendencies and challenges.

The Formation of the State

First of all, it seems appropriate to identify the making of the state by reflecting some key points in its historical milestones. Guyana is a small country located on the northeastern coast of South America that borders Venezuela, Suriname, and Brazil and is located on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Guyana coast was opened in 1499 and 1500 years during expeditions that were initiated by Ojeda and Pinzón accordingly when the local population was approximately 90 thousand people. The coastal areas consisted of Warao, Arawak, and Caribs communities (Wilson, 2012). At the time of the discovery of Guyana, its population lived in conditions of pre-class society in which Indian tribes were at war with each other. The colonization of these territories began only at the end of the 16th century and was followed by slavery.

In 1966, the Constitution of independent Guyana provided all residents of the country, including indigenous peoples, with equal political rights. The Commission report that was created in the course of working on the Constitution specifically emphasized the need to preserve the rights of the Indians to their traditional customs. It was stressed that the government policies of an independent country should be aimed at voluntary and gradual inclusion in the life of Guyanese society. Later, in 1970, the country accepted the philosophy of cooperative socialism, and many residents moved to Great Britain, the United States of America, and Canada – to their homelands (Grenade & Lewis-Bynoe, 2011). It should be noted that during the period of colonial ascendancy, all ethnic groups of the country were influenced by British culture. At the same time, the Indian population in its majority did not have direct contact with Africans, Asians, and those of mixed origin, as it was not involved in plantation politics. The Indians were united with other ethnic groups through the activities of the colonial administrators, clergymen, and businessmen. This led to some level of marginalization of indigenous peoples within the existing multi-ethnic community. Today, however, the Indians are beginning to emerge with other workers fighting for their rights, which, to a large extent, is a credit to the activities of People’s Progressive Party (PPP) – the party of Marxist-Leninist philosophy.

After the late 1970s, the economic conditions began to worsen as a result of falling prices for core export products. In effect, inflation, along with export restrictions and shortages, led to multiple strikes that were repressed by the government. After the death of President Burnham in 1985, the new President and leader of the National People’s Congress (NPC) party Desmond Hoyte declared the curtailing the public sector and increased focus on foreign investment. In the early 1990s, the government accepted recommendations of the IMF and the Inter-American Development Bank (Ghazoul et al., 2010). It declared an orientation to the market economy and capitalism. In the context of growing economic problems with sugar production fall and bauxite mining, the government was forced to begin negotiations with the opposition and initiate elections. The opposition led by the PNC accused the PPP party that won of rigging the votes. This led to another internal disorder and destabilization of the political life of the country.

After winning power, the PPP promised people to eliminate poverty, raise wages, produce more food, and increase investment in employment opportunities. Indeed, the PPP slightly improved the economic situation in the country. In the period from 1992 to 2015, the external debt decreased by two times, inflation – by 25 times (Ghazoul et al., 2010). The new laws allowed more intensive attraction of foreign investment in the country, leading to the creation of a significant number of jobs. The minimum level of wages in the public sector was increased seven times, and the number of people who live under the poverty line decreased by more than twice.

Political Economy and Development

State and Economy

The basis of the Guyanese economy is composed of agriculture and mining. It holds fifth place in the world for the extraction of bauxite and has some reserves of manganese, iron, gold, and diamonds. According to Canterbury (2016), “bauxite production and gold declaration declined between 2013 and 2015, while diamonds increased consistently in three years. However, around mid-May 2016 gold declaration was 243,000 ounces compared to 151,000 ounces in 2015” (p. 691). Guyana has significant hydropower resources. The manufacturing industry is underdeveloped and primarily specializes in the processing of certain types of industrial raw materials and agricultural products. In agriculture, the leading position is occupied by the cultivation of sugar cane and rice. Among the key export products, there are alumina, raw sugar, and rum, while major trading partners are the USA, England, and Canada.

In spite of these attempts to develop, Guyana remains one of the poorest countries in the Western hemisphere, having middle per capita income among the South American countries, namely, US$ 4,090 in 2015 (Metadata on Guyana, 2016). Both recommendations of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and considerable foreign aid allowed Guyana to restrain inflation and partially resolve the challenge of payments on foreign debts (Krieger, Joseph, & Kesselman, 2013). In recent years, one may note moderate economic growth through the expansion of the agricultural and mining sectors along with the attraction of foreign investment. However, such problems of the state and economy as the lack of skilled labor and the loss-making infrastructure remain alerting – approximately 20 percent of the current population are unemployed. Comparing to 2010, in 2015, both Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Gross National Income (GNI) of Guyana increased from US$ 2,3 billion to US$ 3,3 billion (Metadata on Guyana, 2016). These facts show the level of the country’s development along with the need to improve on exiting challenges. Nowadays, the government is also encouraging the program of housing, expansion of the educational funding, and reduction of health care costs.

Society and Economy

Speaking of welfare issues, it is essential to note that Social Welfare and Labour Department controls this area. Through collaboration with a range of agencies, this department promotes the social and economic well-being of people. For example, it resolves such issues as payment of compensations, labor injuries, counseling, and human trafficking. However, according to Krieger et al. (2013), “more people need welfare than actually contribute to the welfare state. That means the government must finance the shortfall with debt” (p. 112). In other words, the provision of welfare requires the number of resources that are difficult to cover from the country’s own budget that, in its turn, can be dangerous to the economy. Therefore, it is of great importance to elaborate and implement a comprehensive distribution of resources among social needs.

According to the ministry of education, Schools Welfare Officer (SWO) can significantly improve the awareness of the population, child advocacy, and empowerment. Working with a certain case related to their competence, SWOs can assess either the necessity or the implementation of various Welfare Programmes (The role of schools welfare officers, 2013). In particular, visiting such places as schools, hospitals, and communities, SWOs reports the identified issues to the corresponding institution so that the latter can initiate some appropriate measures to improve the situation by addressing challenges or suggesting new strategies to a problem. Thus, the above observations prove the high level of awareness regarding the welfare of adolescents in the country.

Guyana in the Global Economy

Recent research shows that Guyana strives to follow the global direction of economic development. It should be emphasized that “between 2005 and 2013, the economy grew by 4,7 percent per year on average, ending a disappointing decade of alternating years of growth and contraction” (Metadata on Guyana, 2016, para. 3). This illustrates considerable economic growth, yet the elections went in 2015, worsened the situation due to uncertainty. Besides, the fact that export prices dropped lately can be considered as an adverse factor as well. Among the positive points, one can note the increased local prices that compensated the lower global ones. The global crisis and inflation are also reflected on the economic state of Guyana. These conditions can cause the so-called domino effect when a decline in the international economy will be transformed into the Guyanese system.

Speaking more precisely, it is possible to claim that the country’s economy is also connected to the global one through such areas as investment, remittances, and migration. All of the mentioned elements identify trade, knowledge, and other spheres, thus determining the level of their well-being (Khemraj & Pasha, 2012). For example, in case the country’s export will be reduced, it is possible to forecast significant loss of revenues as they are closely connected to export rates. In particular, it distributes gold and bauxite to Russia, China, and other countries that compose a huge part of export products. According to the estimates of the World Bank, the economies of the above countries tend to be in deep recession, thus creating threat to the Guyanese economy.

Governance and Policy-Making

Organization of the State

The form of Guyana government can be referred to as a republic the head of which is the President. In the role of the highest legislative body of Guyana, there is the National Assembly represented by the unicameral parliament. Being a cooperative Republic and independent state within the British Commonwealth, the country is a presidential-parliamentary republic (Grenade & Lewis-Bynoe, 2011). The current President David Granger, the head of state and government, is usually elected for a period of five years from the party that won the general election. According to Krieger et al. (2013), “ultimate authority nevertheless remains in the hands of the President, who may replace the cabinet ministers “(p. 116). In other words, the President becomes the chief of the armed forces and acquires the right to suspend the work of the parliament and dismiss it.

The supreme executive body of Guyana is the Cabinet of Ministers. Thus, executive power is concentrated in the hands of the Cabinet of Ministers that is, as a rule, appointed by the President and responsible to the National Assembly. The current President is Moses Nagamootoo. He can also act as the President in the case of death of the head of state before the expiration of his term of office.

As for the local authorities, it is necessary to point out that according to the administrative division of Guyana, the state consists of ten districts, including Barima-Waini, Cuyuni-Mazaruni, Demerara-Mahaica, East Berbice-Corentyne, Essequibo Islands-West Demerara, etc. In each of them, there is an elected democratic council presided by a chairman. The city of Georgetown and New Amsterdam are controlled by the mayor and the city council.

The head of the judicial system of Guyana is a Chancellor appointed by the President. The highest court is represented by the Supreme Court, consisting of the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. There are also several disciplinary courts. The Chief Justice and his deputy are appointed by the President after consultation with the leader of the opposition and on the agreement on candidates to the judicial commission headed by the Chancellor.

State Institutions

A range of organizations can be regraded as Guyana state institutions. Let us consider some of them. For instance, Audit Office of Guyana (AOG) is one of the institutions that operate in the framework of the judicial system. In particular, it is considered as Supreme Audit Institution (SAI). Another state institution is The National Insurance Scheme (NIS) created by former president Jagdao implies that helps people to cover their spending in case of insurance occasion (Wilson, 2012). NIS is composed of contributions made by citizens. It should be noted that such a system benefits both population and the state. By insuring, a person realizes one of his or her most important needs, namely, the need for security. Adequate insurance is likely to reduce human errors or malicious intent, when solely natural disasters can put individual lives, families, or business on the brink of disaster.

NIS provides an explanatory politics regarding people and claiming that insurance is a special mechanism of market economy, which contributes to mitigation of the negative economic provisions as well as serves as a potential investor that is able to invest capital in the development of the domestic industry. For Guyana, insurance is not mere financial mechanism but also a source of refinancing of the credit sector and one of the largest areas of institutional investment. Insurance also can replace some government social programs, removing this burden from the state budget. Reliable and stable security system ensures a high level of economic protection of its members and market economy in general that is a prerequisite for growth and stability of the whole economy. However, insurance in Guyana is not developed sufficiently, and, therefore, there is a problem of ensuring the proper development of this aspect of economic, state, and social relations.

Representation and Participation

The Legislature

Legislative authority is given to the National Assembly that is composed of 65 members which are elected each five years. The right to vote is granted to citizens of Guyana who have reached 18 years of age, and resident of the Commonwealth. At this point, 53 deputies are elected on the basis of proportional representation by universal, direct, and secret ballot. Ten members of the National Assembly are elected by democratic councils of different regions of the country, while another two members represent the National Congress of local democratic bodies. The National Assembly also involves two non-voting members who were appointed by the President as observers. Members of the National Assembly and the National Congress of local democratic bodies constitute the Supreme Congress that can be regarded as an advisory body of the government, having the right to discuss the actions of the President and provide adequate recommendations.

The Party System

Guyana refers to the countries with a multiparty system, yet the actual struggle for power occurs between two major parties such as the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and the Partnership for National Unity (APNU), while previously People’s National Congress was the core opposition of the PPP. Let us consider each of them in detail.

The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) is the country’s oldest political party that was founded in 1950 and is supported most of all by the Indian ethnic group. It was in power in 1953, 1957-1963, and 1992-2015 (Wilson, 2012). The PPP proclaimed itself as Marxist-Leninist Party and advocated for building of socialism in Guyana. Moreover, it maintained relationships with Cuba and the Soviet Union – the countries that recognized communism as their political ideology. In 1990, it changed the economic course towards the market economy, integrating public, private and cooperative sectors and taking a leading role in the economic development of the private sector. Nowadays this party continues to consider itself as a socialist party, yet declares that socialism is not currently on the agenda. On the recent elections in 2015, “the Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change coalition, led by former army brigadier and publisher David Granger, won 206,817 votes versus 201,457” (Guyana opposition wins election in first change of government for 23 years, 2015, para. 2). This fact shows that the old thinking Guyana used to consider is outdated to some extent, thus making people vote for the opposing party.

A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) formed in 2011 is a political alliance that encompasses the Guyana Action Party, the People’s National Congress (PNC), the Guyana National Congress, the Guyana People’s Partnership, the Guyana Association of Local Authorities, the Guyana Youth Congress, the National Democratic Front, the National Front Alliance, Justice for All Party, and the Working People’s Alliance. Canterbury (2016) argues that “nationalist politics commenced in earnest with trade union organized anti-colonial struggles to improve the working and living conditions for the masses, self-rule, and political independence” (p. 693). Thus, the paramount goal of APNU is to create a humanistic society with equal opportunities for all in the country. Currently, this political party has 33 of the 53 seats of the National Assembly that makes it possible to lead the country according to its viewpoint.

Apart from the two main parties in Guyana, there are several others such as Guyana Democratic Party (socialism), Working People’s Alliance (left party of social-democratic persuasion), Justice for All Party, National Front Alliance, and The United Force (conservative party, advocating for the neoliberal economic model).

Political Culture

The key feature in political culture of Guyana is the fact that it was subjected to homogeneous colonial experience likewise plenty of other countries located in South America. For instance, Guyana’s situation is similar to those of Brazil. Krieger et al. (2013) state that “immigrants added their ideas and value systems at the turn of the century, but they brought no compelling identities that could substitute for an overarching national consciousness” (p. 130). This statement means that it were local concerns that run the political actions. More to the point, this situation remains nowadays as well. For example, among the main problems encountered by the local population was the fight for their political rights expressed in participation in elections and recognition of their traditions. At the same time, the population of Guyana is primarily focused on their national political concerns rather than on the global ones.

Politics in Transition

Political Challenges

In spite of seemingly stable political situation, the country faces some challenges among which there is the d trajectory of politics and natural resources extraction in Guyana. In his research, Canterbury (2016) claims that “there seems to be a close relationship between activities of foreign capital in the natural resources sector and regime change due to foreign intervention” (p. 700). The author discusses the notion of extractivism that implies that foreign countries tried to use Guyana’s resources to the maximum and made it criminalized authoritarian state. In other words, extractivism is known as the destructive extraction of natural resources in pursuit of financial well-being (Smith, Halton, & Strachan, 2014).

At this point, it is essential to note that the developing economy of Guyana heavily dependent on exports of raw materials as it is the role that the colonial and imperialist countries intended to this region. Therefore, overcoming of extractivism is likely to be intertwined with overcoming imperialist control over the economy of the region (Smith et al., 2014). With this in mind, one can note that South America including Guyana experiences a new cycle of protests that are characterized by the conflict between pro- extractivism and anti-extractivism views. The nationalization policy that assumes the transitions of extractions to the host country can be considered. This newfound welfare resource can significantly contribute to the increase in the production and public investment from the government.

Global Connection

Speaking of the global connection, it seems important to note key points related to foreign politics. Guyana is a member of the Commonwealth, the United Nations (UN), and its specialized agencies as well as regional organizations such as the Organization of American States, the Caribbean Community, and the Caribbean Common Market. The country focuses on a policy of non-alignment that assumes the rejection to join any of military-political blocs (Wilson, 2012). In case of Guyana, it implies refusal to provide its territory under foreign military bases, the peaceful settlement of international disputes, and preservation of peaceful coexistence of states. Speaking of collaborative and friendly relationships with industrialized countries, Guyana supports the national liberation movements in the countries of the Third World and condemns the military methods of resolving the international conflicts. Guyana’s relationships with neighboring countries are complicated by border disputes with Venezuela, claiming the territory that lies west of the Essequibo River and Suriname, claiming the land between New and Coutard rivers. The total number of armed forces is approximately 12 thousand people. The Army involves the Guyana Defence Force that is divided into land forces, coast guard, and military air corps, the People’s Police, and the National Security Service.

Focusing on the global cooperation, Guyana works on the expansion and preservation of existing ties with other countries as well as trade, including joint investment projects. For example, it is possible to note, in particular, the basic aspects of the activities in Guyana of the Russian “RUSAL” company – one of the leading investors in the economy of the country, specializing in the production of bauxite (Wilson, 2012). Other foreign companies also operate in Guyana in such fields as gold production and mining. Besides, some countries are interested in the development of cooperation in the construction of small hydroelectric power stations on the rivers of Guyana. Taking into account the importance of foreign collaboration, Guyana pays attention to problems of updating of the legal framework, including the acceleration of the negotiation of a number of bilateral documents. These include the agreements on mutual protection of investments, the documents relating to cooperation in the field of public safety, law enforcement as well as intensification of educational, cultural, and humanitarian exchanges.

As for the international agenda, Guyana shares a commitment to international law, collective methods of resolving controversial issues, the UN’s central role, and the need for the democratization of global community. At the same time, the country supports the rejection of unilateral coercive measures and double standards. At the national level, Guyana attentively observes the situation in Latin America and the Caribbean, where political and economic processes are developing rather intensively. The problem of the joint fight against terrorism and drug and human trafficking is also under the attention of the country.


In conclusion, it seems appropriate to emphasize the fact that Guyana is the developing country the economy and politics of which are currently increasing their capacities. Starting from the pre-class society, the country went colonization period and ultimately turned out into cooperative Republic headed by the President. It was revealed that there are two main parties that struggle for power and consider different ways of the development of the country. Guyana has three branches of power that is represented by legislative, executive, and judicial. Gold extraction and bauxite mining compose the most part of export that is regarded as the key source of the country’s income. Being the developing country, Guyana realizes itself as a part of the global community, thus participating in the resolution of such global issues as terrorism or drug trafficking. At the same time, several political challenges are encountered and need to be resolved as well.


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