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What would you do to fight narco-trafficking, crime and the proliferation of the underground economy?

- her answers to your questions

There is an old saying that the fish rots from the head.  This truism is apt here in Guyana as we examine the crime situation and as we fashion solutions to combat the escalating levels of crime in Guyana.  The absolute first step in eradicating the scourge of crime in Guyana is to have persons of personal integrity serve as the leaders of the government.  The leaders of the country simply have to lead by example.  It becomes extremely difficult if not impossible for the population to adhere to the laws of Guyana when the administration does not.  We can cite examples of official lawlessness such as the inability to account for the people’s money, the criminal wrong doing of government ministers and officials, the draconian dictates of our President, and any number of other issues that amount to official lawlessness.

However, it must be noted that crime born of desperation can only be solved by removing the desperate situation that many Guyanese find themselves in today.  Unemployment and underemployment, the proliferation of the narco-trade, the proliferation of guns in our society, and the impoverished plight of many are some examples of the elements that foster criminal activity.  My presidency will institute programmes to alleviate the social conditions that foster crime.

All criminal matters (corruption, the narco-trade, tax evasion, larceny, even the lawless behavior of drivers on the streets) will be addressed in a comprehensive fashion that provides the security that our people deserve.  We have laws on our books that deal with the crimes being committed against our people; we simply have to enforce those laws (for example, money laundering, tax evasion, and official corruption).  Criminal activity has become more sophisticated in recent times, as such; we will also have to introduce new legislation to handle matters not previously contemplated.  One cannot present the logistics of crime fighting in a press interview; however, my campaign will certainly share our intelligence and security plan in the very near future.

The underground economy has come about through two main factors:  first, is the lack of opportunity to participate in the open economy of Guyana; and second, the failure of government to institute policies to address lawlessness.  There are other elements that contribute greatly to the underground economy in Guyana but they take a backseat to the two mentioned above.

Opportunity to participate in the open economy comes about by allowing all interested parties to participate in the economic development of our country.  Government is the largest procurer of goods and services in Guyana, and when only a few selected persons (always friends of the government) are allowed to provide goods and services to the government effectively forces the population to try as best as it can to fend for itself.  The trickledown effect of this is that the private sector and ultimately the workers of Guyana are forced to engage in activities outside the realm of governmental control.

The lack of a comprehensive set of fiscal policies also allows us to have a runaway underground economy.  Seven years ago when I tried to get information on a fiscal policy from leading officials in the Ministry of Finance, there was no such thing. The situation remains the same as the current government of Guyana still has no fiscal policy to manage or control the country’s balance of trade.  The effect of this is that we have become a debtor nation – a condition which fosters the proliferation of an underground economy because there is no monetary control, the value of Guyanese goods are underpriced, and individuals in Guyana are forced to operate outside the regiment of the main economy.

The policies of the current government as it relates to crime (particularly white collar crime) help to promote the underground economy in Guyana.  Can you imagine that a government can send an emissary to a foreign country to negotiate the reopening of an illegal border crossing as this government did when Suriname closed an illegal crossing with their border?  Only small operators are prosecuted for tax evasion (and with hardly any convictions).

One may also want to consider whether this government has become dependent on the spoils that come from the narco trade.  This idea comes to mind when we see our government turning down offers to assist in reforming the security sector in Guyana under a silly pretext of sovereignty.  We can also look at the fact that not a single drug trafficker - other than a few mules who are caught at the airport with minuscule amounts of drugs - has ever been caught much less prosecuted.  All the proceeds of the drug trade have to make its way into the mainstream through the underground economy, and we are all acutely aware that there are tremendous sums on money being laundered in Guyana.

Other elements that contribute to the underground economy include the lack of access to institutional finance for most of the population, the lack of access to bank products, the fact that our borders are porous thereby allowing unregulated trade with other nations, the domination of unregulated foreigners in our gold and mineral industries, and a host of other ills.

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