Guyana’s political impasse affecting its fight against COVID-19 – IDB

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Guyana must bring an end to the current political impasse following the March 2 General and Regional Elections in order to effectively respond to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

This is according to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) which, in its latest report, detailed the challenges being faced by Caribbean region to win the fight against the deadly pandemic.

The second special edition of the IDB Caribbean Quarterly Bulletin provides an update of economic conditions in the region. It also focuses on important evolving issues, including the potential impact of the coronavirus crisis on countries’ balance of payments, and on new data from the IDB on the real-time social effects of the crisis.

“Settling the elections is important for the government to respond to the coronavirus pandemic,” the report, which was published on July 28, noted.

According to report, due to Guyana’s Parliament being dissolved for the March 2 polls since December 2019, the government cannot pass legislation on economic policy or access oil revenues accumulating in the Natural Resource Fund (NRF).

In the first semester of 2020, the government reported receiving approximately US$95 million in oil revenues, but these funds cannot be accessed in the absence of a functioning government and Parliament.

The report detailed that after having held elections on March 2, a 33-day national recount exercise was concluded on June 7th. This paved way for the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to complete its elections report and make a declaration of results.

However, the bank noted that this process has been mired in a struggle over the GECOM elections report with questions about validity of votes. These questions, the report reminded, were practically dismissed by the CARICOM observers of the recount process, who have stated in no uncertain terms that the results of the recount must be the basis for GECOM’s final declaration.

The report noted too that the question as to the validity of votes was raised at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) which ruled in favour of using the results of the recount process, which show that the PPP/C has won the elections with in excess of 15,000 votes.

The CCJ had made it clear that questions in relation to the validity of votes can only be determined by an elections court, but this has to be done by way of an elections petition after the results are declared.

Meanwhile, the report outlined that despite uncertainties related to the coronavirus, the political impasse and the fall in oil prices earlier in the year, Guyana’s outlook remains positive due to the sheer volume of expected oil production.

It was noted that with Guyana beginning oil production in December 2019, one of the main transmission mechanisms of the global economic and health crises is through its impact on commodity prices, namely oil and gold, which are expected to be Guyana’s largest exports in 2020.

The report pointed out that plummeting oil prices have contributed to updated estimates for Guyana’s oil exports, government revenues, and GDP growth.

The IMF had revised the value of Guyana’s oil exports in 2020 from US$ 2.4 billion to US$1.3 billion, still representing Guyana’s largest productive sector.

Guyana’s GDP growth estimate was revised down from 85.6 to 52.8%, still a remarkable growth figure and the only positive one in 26 Latin American and Caribbean countries, the report added.