Elections stalemate, COVID-19 present risks for Guyana despite fast-growth – World Bank

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While Guyana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is projected to grow by 51.7 percent in 2020 and 8.7 percent in 2021, the still incomplete national election outcome, the current low oil price market and the ongoing battle with the COVID-19 pandemic all present risks to the emerging South American oil economy.

This is according to a new semiannual report of Latin America and the Caribbean – The Economy in a Time of Corona – published on April 12, 2020 by the World Bank.

The report noted that while Guyana’s economy expanded by 4.7 percent in 2019 with anticipated oil revenues spurring an expansion in non-trade sectors, oil production which commenced in December 2019 is expected to boost GDP growth to unprecedented levels in 2020.

“While this could transform Guyana, there are risks, as illustrated by a still incomplete election outcome, and compounded by falling oil prices and the COVID-19 epidemic,” the report said. “Weak public service delivery and monitoring systems constrain the development of policies to reduce poverty and protect the vulnerable,” the report added.

The final results for Guyana’s March 2, 2020 general and regional elections are still to be declared as the matter has been engaging the attention of the South American country’s high court. There have been widespread allegations of electoral fraud and vote rigging with some parties in the matter calling for a partial recount of votes cast while others are calling for a full recount.

Several local, regional and international observers have written off the elections as non-transparent and the international community, including United States through Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others, has warned against the installing of any government on the basis of the results which have been deemed fraudulent.

The elections crisis, low oil prices and COVID-19 make for a convergence of unfortunate events which have triggered concern about the country’s ability to withstand the shocks and retake its ‘place in the sun’ as the fastest growing economy in the world.

Regional political and economic experts believe that even in face of the COVID-19 pandemic and weak oil price, it is Guyana’s political crisis which holds the strongest potential to do long-term damage to the fledgling democracy.

Caribbean academic Sir Ronald Sanders has said Guyana’s leaders need to take advantage of the narrowing window of opportunity to produce a credible elections result, or risk losing any chance to maintain its democracy.

“Worse it will itself invite the sanctions that will certainly come and the ostracization and pain that will follow. CARICOM should help, but Guyana must save itself,” said Sanders, Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States and to the Organization of American States.

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