World Bank says electoral impasse threatens Guyana’s oil-funded development

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The electoral impasse was flagged in the World Bank’s recently completed semi-annual report where it assessed the global economy in the time of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The report, in its country brief for Guyana, found that the country’s economy expanded by 4.7 per cent in 2019, with anticipated oil revenues spurring an expansion in nontraded sectors.

According to the World Bank Report, “Oil production is projected to boost GDP growth to unprecedented levels in 2020.”

It noted, however, that while “this could transform Guyana, there are risks, as illustrated by a still incomplete election outcome, and compounded by falling oil prices and the COVID-19 epidemic.

Guyana’s Finance Ministry has prepared Petroleum Production and Revenues – January 2020, which documented production at about 57,000 barrels per day.

The country has since, subsequently, sold its first entitlement of one million barrels, earning just about US$55 million.

Royalties on shipments since production began in December last are due to be paid at the end of this month.

Additionally, the World Bank in its report noted that “weak public service delivery and monitoring systems constrain the development of policies to reduce poverty and protect the vulnerable.”

The World Bank analysis published this month comes on the heels of an announcement by caretaker President, David Granger that his Administration would be embarking on unprecedented spending in order to confront the COVID-19 pandemic.

It has already been over a month of controversies and a credible winner for the 2020 General and Regional Elections is yet to be declared. GECOM and the Chairperson came in for much criticism for allowing Region Four’s (Demerara-Mahaica) Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo, to make two declarations which lacked transparency.

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo and caretaker President David Granger had decided and agreed to have the Caribbean Community (Caricom) oversee the recount, in a deal brokered by Caricom Chairperson Mia Mottley.

That agreement was derailed when A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) candidate, Ulita Moore, moved to the courts and secured an injunction against the exercise.

That injunction has since been discharged by the Full Court and preparations were moving ahead for the recount.

More controversy erupted last week when a draft work plan for the national recount was presented by Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield, which proposed a staggering 156 days to recount the ballots.

Lowenfield has since returned to the drawing board to revise his plan. However, Guyana’s credibility on the international and regional stage has taken a beating, with regional and world leaders having to urge Guyana to conduct its elections in a transparent and credible manner.

When it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, it has been over two weeks since Guyana requested help, in the form of funds, from the World Bank. That help has so far not been forthcoming, with caretaker Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo saying recently that the World Bank was still “processing” the request.

Meanwhile, Guyana’s coronavirus cases continue to rise. As of Monday, Guyana has 47 cases and six deaths.