Control Risks: Corruption in Guyana

Guyana: Diplomat’s remarks highlight persistent operational challenge posed by corruption

During an address to an investment conference in the capital Georgetown on 27 June, Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana David Devine said that the country needed to combat corruption to avoid deterring investors.

  • Devine’s comments highlight the persistence of corruption despite the passage of a number of laws aimed at tackling the problem. Economic hardship, institutional weaknesses and inefficiencies in the criminal justice system provide fertile ground for widespread corruption. The public sector is especially affected, in particular the security forces and customs service.
  • The persistence of corrupt practices and the authorities’ failure to tackle the issue undermine the investment climate both directly and indirectly. As Devine outlined in his speech, frequent demands for bribes and kickbacks make the country significantly less attractive to investors. Meanwhile, widespread corruption within the security forces has undermined efforts to tackle crime, creating a precarious security environment that is a deterrent to foreign companies.
  • Control Risks believes that corruption will continue to undermine operating and security conditions for the foreseeable future. The response to Devine’s speech by Prime Minister Donald Ramotar, in which he said that there was no evidence of ‘strong and entrenched’ corruption in the country, highlights that the government’s reluctance to acknowledge the extent of the problem will prevent the implementation of comprehensive anti-corruption measures.

Diplomat’s comments

Speaking at the opening of a two-day investment conference in the capital, Devine said that the authorities’ failure to tackle corruption was a key factor deterring many companies from investing in the country, and called on the government to use the conference as a starting-point for introducing measures to ensure greater transparency in the future. His remarks were criticised by Ramotar, who claimed that there was no evidence of ‘strong and entrenched’ corruption in the country, and that his government did not get the credit it deserved for its efforts to improve transparency.

Corruption

Despite Ramotar’s claims that Guyana’s reputation for corruption is the result of perception rather than reality, numerous global institutions have attested to high and increasing levels of corruption in the country. In its 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index Transparency International ranked Guyana 133rd out of 174 countries, putting it among the most corrupt countries in the region (ahead of only Paraguay, Haiti and Venezuela).