Guyana - Domestic policy



As minister of finance, Jagdeo sought to remove the country from the international list of debt-ridden nations. Guyana was able to honor huge international debts with as much as 90 cents from each dollar earned by earmarking export income for payment of foreign debt. The Caribbean Development Bank praised Guyana in the late 1990s for its achievement of economic growth; it was the highest in the region and the highest among the bank's borrowing member countries. This resulted from increased economic activity and improved tax collections and compliance. Output in the mining sector has also increased in such areas as gold, bauxite, and diamond production. Increased sugar and rice production contributed to overall growth in the agricultural sector. During its years in office, the PPP/C has been able to preside over the economic revival in the 1990s.

The stable macroeconomic environment and the overhauling of social, economic, and physical infrastructure also revived business interests. Both local and foreign investors took advantage of opportunities created by the government. As president, Jagdeo has made it clear that he intends to build partnerships with "the major players of the Guyanese society." These major players are the private sector, the labor movement, civic society, and the political opposition. These partnerships, Jagdeo feels, will help to accelerate his goal of satisfying the needs and aspirations of the Guyanese people. As of 2001, the rate of unemployment was reported to be just over 9%, a figure analysts believed to be a severe underestimate, especially among Afro-Guyanese. The Jagdeo government sought to continue rebuilding the economy, achieving growth and, at the same time, ensuring that all citizens benefit from an improved economy.

Opposition PNC party members were growing dissatisfied with the lack of economic opportunities for their constituents. Guyanese politics follow racial/ethnic lines, and Jagdeo's party is made up primarily of Guyanese citizens of Asian Indian descent, while the opposition party members are primarily of African descent. On 3 July 2002, about 3,500 angry protestors, mostly of African descent and members of the opposition PNC, marched on Georgetown from outlying villages to protest what they claimed are the government's racist policies. About 50 people stormed the president's office complex, and two were killed by police. The protestors called for four days of demonstrations to coincide with a meeting of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) meeting in Georgetown, which was being chaired by President Jagdeo. Leaders of the protest wanted to use the presence of regional heads of state to draw attention to their rift with the Jagdeo government. The PNC accuses Jagdeo's administration of election fraud and economic discrimination against citizens of African descent. (Jagdeo's party, PPP/C, is supported by citizens of Asian Indian descent.) Businesses owned by people of Asian Indian were vandalized as part of the protest.

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