Organised crime probably greatest threat facing Guyana
-UK High Commissioner tells Rotary dinner
Stabroek News
March 17, 2007

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United Kingdom High Com-missioner Fraser Wheeler says organized crime is probably the greatest threat facing Guyana.

He was at the time speaking at a recent dinner hosted by the Rotary Club of Demerara. A summary of his presentation was released to the media by the UK High Commission on Thursday.

Wheeler noted however that this country was not alone in the problem which he said was also, "a global, regional and national phenomenon."

According to the UK High Commissioner the smuggling of narcotic drugs is a particular problem which not only stifles legitimate business and undermines the local economy but also contributes to the proliferation of small arms on the streets of Georgetown and also undermines governance.

"Guyana requires a comprehensive solution to deal with crime and security and I hope that the British government will be able to make a significant contribution to this effort in the coming months," Wheeler said. The release of the remarks on Thursday comes just days after a stinging report by the US State Department on deficiencies in Guyana's fight against drugs and money laundering. The US report was subsequently bitterly attacked by President Bharrat Jagdeo at the army's annual officers' conference.

Meanwhile as regards governance, the UK high commissioner noted that a number of Guyana's challenges are regional in nature and therefore require regional solutions. To this end he recommended regional integration using new regional governance models which are currently under consideration which may well be the future.

Wheeler pointed out also the critical need for the government to implement governance reforms which it had committed to doing, an effort he said that the international community stood ready to fully support.

He emphasized, too, the thrust of globalization which he said was about justice and fairness as well as security and prosperity. "We cannot for example call ourselves in Europe and North America open societies and close our markets to free trade with the poorest countries. There is no prosperity without security and no security without justice," he contended.

He argued too that all these issues were inter-linked and solutions to them would therefore have to be cross-cutting.

"It is not possible to reduce poverty without for example containing crime, improving governance, creating an economic regime conducive to investment and mitigating climate change", he asserted

On the human resource side, Wheeler alluded to the large percentage of University graduates that were leaving these shores, a loss which he said is partly explained by the lure of higher salaries.

He said the 90% loss in graduates was not sustainable, but noted that there were other factors responsible for this.

"It is about the interaction of the economic, security and governance issues I have highlighted and the loss of capacity from those graduates leaving means that it is harder to make the necessary reforms. Fewer reforms means more leave," he added.

It is in this vein that the UK High Commissioner posited that "the breaking of that cycle is critical to the future of Guyana and the international community stands ready to help".

Wheeler however express-ed optimism regarding Guy-ana's future. He congratulated government and the private sector on agreeing and finalizing the national competitiveness strategy and said that the key now was the strategy's full implementation which is the most important factor in Guyana achieving sustained economic growth.

"Within that strategy the ongoing programmes on diversification of agriculture and promotion of tourism appear to be going well…there remains a great deal to do and the international community is ready to help," he insisted.

In this regard he recommended too that after the Cricket World Cup games are over this area be given priority since there are major opportunities to be realized for Guyana.