Economy persevering despite crime -Jagdeo
Stabroek News
December 1, 2003

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Crime and violence continue to stifle investment while promoting national insecurity, but despite these and other challenges, the economy continues to grow.

This was the assessment of President Bharrat Jagdeo who described this year as an instructive one for many governments faced with rising tides of criminal activities in diverse forms, extremes of violence, narcotics trafficking and money laundering, arms and alien smuggling, terrorism, extortion and kidnapping.

Guyana has seen an upsurge in violent crimes following the February 2002 jail-break by five men - Dale Moore, Andrew Douglas, Mark Fraser, Shawn Brown and Troy Dick. Only Dick has survived, but a number of other criminal gangs have joined in wreaking havoc in the society, bringing the murder toll to close to 190 for the year, which is 50 more than the corresponding period last year.

During an address on Wednesday at Base Camp Ayanganna, Jagdeo said developing nations in particular had to confront the increasingly organised criminal networks involved in carrying out trans-border criminal activities.

"Crime and violence have created distortions in our developmental processes, stifling investments and promoting national insecurity and discord over the ensuing socio-economic difficulties. In Guyana, the resort of the criminals to violence under arms has sorely tested the administration and the law enforcement agencies, traumatised our families and communities and threatened the wholesomeness of the social and economic relationship," Jagdeo stated.

Nonetheless, he expressed profound gratitude for what he said was the selfless performance of members of the disciplined forces who had been combating the criminal scourge.

But crime was not the only setback for the economy. According to Jagdeo, this year has also seen the intensification of the international efforts at trade and economic liberalisation. He said many developing countries recognised how ill prepared their economies were to withstand this movement. And he pointed to Caricom countries which had already had brushes with unanticipated trade liberalisation, some to such an extent that there had been devastating socio-economic consequences.

"Notwithstanding these difficulties, our economy continues to grow. Our economic fundamentals are intact, and housing, education, health and water services are expanding. Our international profile has improved and the donor community continues to be responsive to our situation. We have to struggle together to safeguard these gains," he concluded.

The occasion for his pronouncements was the Commissioning Parade of the Standard Officers' Course # 36, on the army's Drill Square where eight members of the Guyana Defence Force and two others from the Guyana Police Force and the Prison Service were decorated as Second Lieutenants and Cadet Officers, respectively.