Grist in the mill of vested interests
Readers’ note: The travails of technology
September 7, 2003
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After three years of this series I missed my first Sunday deadline on August 31st last. I was away at a Workshop for a week and managed to prepare the article and emailed it twice from London while in-transit on my way back home from Rome. It failed to arrive at SN. It pained after all the effort to complete it on the road. I thought I would wilt before the technology in meeting the weekly Sunday deadlines!
I am letting it stand as it was ‘sent.’
Last week’s article presented three further theses as I continue to summarise the main pillars of my presentation on globalisation and the criminalised state. The first of these focused on the contributions made to the criminalisation of the state, which arose from the double standards practised by the international financial institutions (IFIs) and the related moral ambiguity exhibited by several of their functionaries in regard to corruption in Guyana. The latter are driven by the pursuit of their career paths and are anxious not to rock any boats along the way (thesis 7). The second was related to determining the line of causation between governance, economic growth and development in the criminalised state (thesis 8) And, the third addressed the very important question of the empirical measurement of the quality of governance practised by states (thesis 9).
The importance of the last of these is that it allows us to advance the discussion away from the basis of personal impressions to empirical findings. It was for this reason that once again I directed readers’ attention to the findings of the first and only national survey of political attitudes, which has been conducted in Guyana (for the period August-September 2000) by the St Augustine Research Associates.
In presenting my main argument I had attempted to identify some of the more important consequences of poor governance for Guyana. As I had stressed, this places an enormous cost on the country, due to the misallocation of public resources and the retardation of economic growth that it entails. Thus I had indicated that what economists call the ‘potential output growth’ for Guyana was in the range of 5-7 per cent per annum in the post-ERP period. And, while external shocks have affected economic growth somewhat, public mismanagement accounts for a significant share of the disappointing average annual growth of only 0.3 per cent that Guyana has had since 1998. As with other social and political costs the country has had to carry in the past, most of the burden of this wasted potential has been borne by the broad mass of poor persons.
In relation to these matters I had further advanced the proposition in the series that the importance, which I had attributed to good economic governance and its concomitants of trust, openness, accountability, responsibility and respect for the public’s right to share economic information and participate in decision-making, does not seem to be supported by the Government. In support of this view I had occasion to draw attention to a report in Stabroek News Business (May 2, 2003), which stated that the Government had objected to this type of transparency and openness in economic matters.
The President was quoted in that reportage as claiming that the “Guyana government is of the view that such openness leads to policy information ending up in the wrong hands.” Amazingly it was indicated that the “unavailability of Guyana’s policy intention documents with the IMF... was deliberate as the information once in the wrong hands could get distorted.” (For readers’ benefit these are voluntarily published by governments to inform the public of their policy positions.)
This was truly an astonishing admission. As I had described it then, not only is the statement “a throwback to another age,” but it is also “grist in the mill” for all those with vested interests that cannot stand the light of public scrutiny.
One aspect of the phenomena we are considering, which is crucial to our analysis is that even as the process of the criminalisation of the state continues, globalisation has been progressively narrowing the scope for the exercise of independent and autonomous policy making. While as some have asserted this consequence of globalisation holds true for all countries, it is more so the situation in developing countries, for well-known reasons. To the extent that this is the case however, it means that policy failure and the corrupting of the state in Guyana are not solely dependent on the incumbent political administration, as some would argue. Obviously the incumbent political administration plays a vital role in the outcomes we have noted, but so too we need to acknowledge the role played by external agencies and the donor governments.
I had made this point both in the interest of fairness and also to underscore the profound and exceedingly complex underpinnings of the situation we are examining. In the series I sought to illustrate this argument by pursuing a discussion of a concrete situation, which I had referred to as “the misadventure of public sector reform” in Guyana (May 25, 2003).
There are some aspects of the phenomena I have been addressing, which I did not have space to pursue adequately in the series. Readers might wish to follow these separately. One such aspect is the subject of ‘corruption in aid.’ In the series I had referred to studies by Brian Cooksey carried in the publication Forum on Crime and Society.
Here Cooksey concluded that both aid agencies and aid-recipients are involved in the corruption of aid. Some of this Cooksey has attributed to the disbursement culture of aid agencies and the poor quality of project supervision.
Whatever the true situation, the point that my thesis seeks to emphasise is that the pervasiveness of corruption in aid is closely linked to the forms of corruption in aid-receiving countries on which I have been concentrating. This close relationship enhances opportunities for the entrenchment of criminal norms and practices within the state.
Next week I shall wrap up this series of articles on the criminalised state. I will be referring to two remaining theses and offering a few concluding observations.