Guyana can hasten progress with modern technology: UNDP

Guyana Chronicle
July 10, 1999

NATIONAL progress can be hastened if Guyana utilises modern technology fully, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative, Mr Richard Olver said Wednesday.

Speaking at a press conference in his Brickdam, Georgetown office, he said this country can "leapfrog" over a number of hurdles if the Internet, electronic commerce (E-commerce) and other enhanced information flow opportunities thrown up by globalisation are maximised.

But the disparity in access to such technology between countries of the North and South must be minimised if this part of the world is to share in emerging markets, the diplomat stated.

His remarks were made while discussing aspects of the 1999 UN Human Development Report (UNHDR), prepared under the globalisation theme for official release next week.

Olver said globalisation offers many breaks for human advancement and they can bear fruit if stronger governance exists at the local, national, regional and global levels, to ensure more equal sharing of the benefits.

The compendium, among other things, highlights the persistent growth of inequalities between and within countries.

For example, 20 per cent of the people living in the countries paying the highest incomes have 74 per cent of the world's telephone lines while only 1.5 per cent of those in the lower income bracket own phones.

Olver said the top 10 countries in telecommunications control 86 per cent of the global market and a similar number of them are responsible for 84 per cent of the research and development around the globe.

The envoy said the latter 10 States hold 95 per cent of United States patents.

But the most positive feature of globalisation, so far, Olver said, is that it adds efficiency and dynamism to the international economy.

The UNDP official acknowledged that the phenomenon stimulates increasing marginalisation and, simultaneously, widens the gaps between the rich and poor and learned and uneducated.

Olver agreed, too, that, in similar UN reports over the years, gender bias remains the "most persistent disparity" in development.

He said some 70 per cent of the world's poor and 66 per cent of the illiterate are women. Only 14 per cent of them hold managerial and other decision-making postitions and 10 per cent are parliamentarians.

Just six per cent have Cabinet posts, Olver observed.

He said one of the purposes for launching the UNHDR is to put "people" back on the development agenda.

The market was the primary focus on development by industrialists and, although it creates wealth, the human element is missing.

"...the market, driven by technology and a new global consensus, has created great opportunities, but also great problems. Markets do not produce human development by itself," Olver argued.

He said the structure and quality of economic growth should be emphasised.

In a body of proposals put forward to enhance the framework for global public goods, the UNDP suggested that the international community define the architecture for participation in the globalisation process.

A four-prong blueprint recommends reforms to the governing UN body and World Trade Organisation (WTO) to assure that globalisation does not create further crises.

It calls for strengthening capacity towards collective trade negotiations and Olver said UNDP wants enhanced measures for social protection at the national level.

UNDP says there is need, at the national level, for greater gender balance to carry services.

The documentation suggests that narrowing the opening between rich and poor can be attained by:

finding new sources of funding to enable the poorest countries to participate in the global communications


creating an international programme to develop high technology for poverty eradication and

launching a legal aid centre to help poor countries in trade disputes.

Olver said, for the first time, globalisation is not imposed by imperialism or colonialism nor fuelled by racist tendencies.

Participation is voluntary and "human development needs are not an option but an imperative for the 21st century."

A © page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples