Guyana Chronicle
April 29, 2007

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THE CRIPPLING consequences of crime and violence on social and economic development in the Caribbean region are examined in a report to be officially released on Thursday in Washington.

Entitled "Crime, Violence and Development--Trends, Costs and Policy Options in the Caribbean", the report is a joint product of the World Bank and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Crime and violence have long affected economic growth and prosperity in most member states of the Caribbean region with some CARICOM countries being more severely affected than others.

Guyana, for one, shares the agony of many CARICOM neighbours afflicted by the horrors of murders and robberies involving drug traffickers and criminals linked to gangs with an armoury of illegal guns and other weapons.

At the same time, Guyana has also been in the forefront among CARICOM states arguing in favour of dealing with crime and violence in the wider context of national/regional economic development, rather than any knee-jerk response to emotional cries against rampaging criminals.

The World Bank/UNODC report being made available to CARICOM governments and institutions, identifies narco-trafficking as being at the core of the high rates of crime and violence in the Caribbean.

Narcotics trafficking, according to the report, "diverts criminal justice resources from other important activities and embeds violence, undermines social cohesion and contributes to the widespread availability of firearms..."

Revelations of the report coincide with a current national anti-crime consultation in Trinidad and Tobago where alarming incidences of murder, kidnappings for ransom and other vicious crime pose a major problem for that sole oil and natural gas-based economy in CARICOM.

Now, more than ever, it is imperative that plans to expand national/regional security structures in waging the battle against escalating crime and violence be pursued within the broader framework of social and economic development consistent with the vision to transform CARICOM into a seamless regional economy

To enable this process to be methodically advanced would require the international financial institutions, UN agencies and donor nations to do much more in the provision of meaningful aid packages to the Caribbean.

In contrast, that is, to demands often made for resources to be directed for specific security infrastructure projects, driven by an understandable obsession to combat "international terrorism" and with perspectives and agendas in conflict with regional realities.

Perhaps a special meeting of CARICOM representatives and officials of the World Bank and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime should be organised to discuss the way forward in meaningful cooperation in facing up to the problems identified in the report, once it has been given serious consideration.

Crime and security will be discussed at the forthcoming Washington Conference on the Caribbean slated for the final week in June.