Guyana celebrates 46 years of Independence

Guyana celebrates 46 years of independence this year (2012). Having survived 46 years, what has Guyana to say of itself? What are the challenges met? How have they been overcome? What are the stories of success and triumph? What are the hopes for the future?

Guyana officially the Co-operative Republic of Guyana was previously the colony of British Guiana. It is a sovereign state on the northern coast of South America that is culturally part of the Anglophone Caribbean. Guyana was a former colony of the Dutch and (for over 200 years) the British. It is the only state of the Commonwealth of Nations on mainland South America, and the only one on that continent where English is an official language. It is also a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which has its secretariat headquarters in Guyana's capital, Georgetown. .Achieving its independence from the United Kingdom on 26 May 1966, Guyana also took the next step and became a republic on 23 February 1970. In 2008 they joined the Union of South American Nations as a founding member.

Historically, the region known as "Guiana" or "Guyana" comprised the large shield landmass north of the Amazon River and east of the Orinoco River known as the "Land of many waters". Historical Guyana is made up of three Dutch colonies: Essequibo, Demerara, and Berbice. Modern Guyana is bordered to the east by Suriname, with Brazil to the south and southwest, Venezula to the west, and on the north by the Atlantic Ocean.

Guyana with a population of approximately 761,000 (2010 estimate) is the third-smallest independent state on the mainland of South America after Uruguay and Suriname. The population origins are broken down as follows: East Indian 43.5%, black (African) 30.2%, mixed 16.7%, Amerindian 9.1%, other 0.5% (2002 census)

The Economy

Guyana’s economy is relatively one of the most robust within the region. Still, there is much that needs improvement as far as the economic affairs of the country are concerned.

In terms of economic development, Guyana’s 46 years of independence has been a period in which countries like Malaysia, Singapore and the Maldives – which had once lagged far behind Guyana have surpassed it.

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Tourism, for example is poorly managed in Guyana. Tourist facilities are generally not developed, except for a few hotels in the capital city of Georgetown and a limited number of eco-resorts. The vast majority of Guyanese nationals live along the coast, leaving the interior largely unpopulated and undeveloped. Travel in the interior of Guyana can be difficult; many interior regions can only be reached by plane or boat, and the limited roads are often impassable in the rainy seasons.

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Guyana gained independence from Britain on May 26, 1966. Like Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana also established itself as an autonomous nation, a republic by its own right. Since then, the country has had a number of ups and downs. Regardless, Guyana is one of the foremost countries in the West Indies (South America) in terms of economic growth and political stability. Furthermore, the country has produced some of the West Indies cricket greats such as Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan.

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Social and Economic Overview

Crime

Indeed, crime and violence seems to be the perennial, problem that has plagued Caribbean nations like a lingering disease. Guyana has not been spared the wrath of homicides, gang violence, domestic disputes and an entire onslaught of rampant crime. Serious crime, including murder and armed robbery, continues to be a major problem. The murder rate in Guyana is three times higher than the murder rate in the United States. Armed robberies continue to occur intermittently, especially in major business and shopping districts.  Pick pocketing, purse snatching, assault, and robbery can occur in all areas of Georgetown. Petty crimes also occur in the general area of Stabroek Market.

Guyana and Caricom

The fact that the headquarters of Caricom are located in Guyana in some ways demonstrates the symbolic union between Guyana and Caricom. Regardless, Guyana shares the same problems with Caricom as do her counterparts.

Politics and Bi-Lateral Relations

Largely due to a relatively stable political climate, Guyana enjoys good bilateral relations with a number of countries. This has effectively enabled the country to enter profitable partnerships and foster the growth of foreign direct investment.

The Allure of New Riches

Despite the financial woes, Guyana’s economy is one of the strongest in the Caribbean. Between 2006 and 2011, the country enjoyed average economic growth of 4 percent. Recent foreign investment in Guyana’s oil, gas and large-scale gold mining industries are heralding a new era for a country that was once considered among the poorest in the region.

If Guyana can remain politically stable, the IMF’s recent prediction that the country “Should sustain growth levels above the long-run trend of 3 percent, to around 5 percent over the medium term” could come true. Guyana has done well to bolster their economy to enviable achieve­ments among the member countries of the Caribbean Community, the majority of whose economies have contracted.

Education in Guyana

Like Trinidad and Tobago, education is compulsory for children between the ages of five and sixteen. To meet the requirements for compulsory education, students generally attend public schools, but there are a few private schools which offer education at one or all stages of learning.

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Guyana has a high level of reading literacy with a rate of 92% of the population over age 15. Despite this, significant portions of the Guyanese population have functional literacy difficulties resulting in a lack of employability and other socio-economic disadvantages. As such, the government and charitable agencies are pushing education as a tool for poverty reduction, much like what is being done in Jamaica.

As part of a continuous effort to tackle inequalities and inefficiencies in the system, the parliament of Guyana has been debating and redrafting the 2007 Education bill.

The 46th Anniversary of Guyana’s independence provides an opportunity to recognize the significance of their contributions to the quality of life in the Caribbean. Through the events and activities, it is hoped that all people will gain a greater appreciation of Guyanese history, traditions, and of the role Guyanese have played, and will continue to play in our region.   Navito. (TCC)

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