Jagdeo leaves ‘mixed legacy’

As Guyana prepares for forthcoming parliamentary elections, an influential think tank here says President Bharrat Jagdeo, who is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term, will be leaving a mixed legacy.

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) said despite “relatively robust growth,” Guyana has one of the lowest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita rates in the Caribbean, at only $2,629.28 in 2009.

It said political transparency is “also weak,” pointing to Transparency International’s 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index, which gives Guyana a 2.7 score out of 10, “one of the lowest ratings in the Caribbean and South America.”

In addition, COHA said Jagdeo’s incumbent People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has been accused of “turning a blind eye to corruption.”

For example, it charged that, in the multi-million dollar “Polar Beer Scam,” beer was “smuggled into the country and then passed off as soda so as to avoid higher tariffs.

“The Guyana Revenue Authority was thought to be complicit in the crime, but all 72 charges leveled against 15 of its employees were eventually dropped,” COHA said.

It said another “major problem” facing the country is that of “brain drain,” or skilled workers leaving, stating that over 70 percent of Guyanese with tertiary educations leave the country, usually heading for the United States and Britain.

“President Bharrat Jagdeo’s sound macroeconomic management and astute diplomacy are boosting Guyana’s prominence, [but the country still suffers from] structural issues ranging from wide ethnic divisions to a relatively weak constitutional framework,” COHA quoted the Latin America Monitor as saying.

“Thus, while Jagdeo has presided over various improvements, most notably economic growth, his administration has been marred by corruption and inefficiency,” it added.

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