The experience of countries around the world shows that closing the gender gap and reducing inequality are associated with better social and economic outcomes and promotes widespread prosperity. Unfortunately, in Guyana, there is a reversal of progress made in these policy priorities, according to according to recently released data by the World Bank. This is likely a contributing factor to the country’s current social and economic problems.
Guyana received average to low ratings for 2016 on the Country Policy and Institutional Assessment (CPIA) conducted by the World Bank. The country’s rating on gender equality and policies for social cohesion and equity declined by more than 14 percent and 3 percent over the previous year, respectively. Moreover, there was no improvement in its ratings on economic management, structural policies and public sector management and institutions.
Regarding gender equality, Guyana’s rating declined for the first time in seven years to 3.0 out of 6 (6 being the highest rating). Likewise, its rating on policies for social cohesion and equity declined for the second consecutive time in six years reaching 3.1 out of 6.0. Social cohesion refers to the willingness of members of society to work together for the prosperity of all. The drop in these ratings is striking considering that in 2015 the Government established a separate entity – the Ministry of Social Cohesion – tasks with advancing social inclusion and cooperation among its arguably politically and racially divided population of fewer than 750,000 people. More importantly, this raises questions about the effectiveness of the policies and programs of the Ministry of Social Cohesion.
Guyana received its lowest rating on the quality of public administration and policies for environmental sustainability of 2.5 out of 6.0 each. To put this into perspective, Haiti received the same rating for the quality of public administrations and policies for environmental sustainability. Even more concerning is in the areas of macroeconomic management and trade, Guyana is rated below Haiti.
The country’s highest ratings remain in the areas of building human resources and debt policies of 4.0 out of 6.0 each; ratings that are constant since 2009 and 2006, respectively. Looking ahead, however, debt rating over the coming years is unlikely to sustain or improve. This is because of the exponential increases in the use of public debt to finance government spending over the last two years. In 2017, the share of government expenditure funded by public debt increased to 22 percent from 17 percent in 2016. In 2015 this percentage was just 1 percent. Unless the expenditures funded with debt monies returned a high and sustained economic growth, the accumulated debt is likely to have a chilling effect on the economy for both the short term and long term.
Together these ratings highlight the need for meaningful reform of the country’s antiquated social and economic policies. The combination of outdated and poor policies undermines the country’s ability to achieve and sustain higher growth, closing the gender gap, reducing inequality, better social and economic outcomes, and promoting widespread prosperity among all Guyanese. Accordingly, State lawmakers should work on a bipartisan and inclusive evaluation of current policies to determine whether they are serving a social good. Policies that are not serving a public good, outdated, ineffective, and undermining growth should be reformed or repealed.