October 21, 1999
Ideally, aid to developing countries should be provided in areas and in ways which donors and recipients have worked out to be the most efficient and cost effective and provide the maximum benefit for the recipient countries.
Inevitably, given the unequal nature of the relationship, the practice has been somewhat different whether the assistance was provided bilaterally or through the international financial institutions. Aid also became a vehicle for providing jobs for experts and suppliers of services from the donor countries or for foreign contractors, said to be more experienced and better financed than local firms for undertaking the projects being financed.
Developing countries like Guyana were hardly in a position to oppose these conditions and there seemed some reasonableness to the argument that the taxpayers of the donor countries should gain some benefit from the "investment" by their governments in providing assistance to another country.
But do the same conditions apply when the aid being provided is ultimately for the benefit of the donor countries? President Bharrat Jagdeo obviously does not think so. Witness his instructions to his negotiators who were in discussion with the United States government on a co-operation agreement aimed at upgrading Guyana's drug interdiction capacity. He told a press conference in New York during his visit to the US last month that they should reject the conditions being imposed by the US for providing some US$50,000 for the programme.
Drug interdiction co-operation is part of the US administration's strategy for restricting the flow of narcotics into the United States. The success of this strategy has caused heavy collateral damage for Caribbean countries with the shutting down of the established drug routes into the United States from South America. As countries like Guyana become more used as transshipment points in the new route, the corrupting influence of the drug culture becomes more and more entrenched here. Not only is the integrity of law enforcement agencies compromised, and it is only the perversely naive who would deny that that has been the experience of Guyana, but drug abuse is now a serious cause of concern, especially among our young people.
Moreover, the very conspicuous lifestyle of the local drug underlords provides a compelling alternative lifestyle model to our young people when they contrast it with the experience of their parents who struggle to make ends meet on honest toil.
The co-operation programmes do not address these ills. Assistance in detecting money laundering and shutting down drug-smuggling activities is laudable and should be pursued. But this does not address things like dealing with drug addiction. These programmes do not provide for assistance in confronting the long-term damage caused by drug abuse nor do they provide funding for AIDS programmes, though a number of persons contracted this deadly disease because of the lifestyle associated with drug abuse.
The governments in the region need to take a different approach in their discussion of these programmes. These are not handouts for which they go cap in hand. In these discussions they are at the table as partners, equal partners, in combatting this scourge. Moreover, the conditions which to some extent make their societies rich recruiting grounds for the drug barons, homegrown or expatriate, have in part been caused by the actions of the US administration. A sleep-over in the White House by a fat cat contributor to the presidential re-election campaign of Bill Clinton has precipitated action which puts the political and economic stability of the Caribbean region at serious risk.
The lack of awareness by US legislators of the fact that helping to make the economies of the countries in the Caribbean internationally competitive also contributes to the security of the developed countries is a condition which the US administration should address with urgency.
In the coming millennium, it should not be beyond the ingenuity of the governments of the developed and developing worlds to design programmes which are mutually beneficial not only in terms of their outcomes but in the disposal of the resources provided for these programmes.
A © page from: Guyana: Land of Six Peoples