Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
Guyana is currently undergoing an economic revolution. The discovery of significant oil reserves off the coast of Guyana has the potential to transform the country’s economy and bring significant wealth to its citizens. However, as the country’s economy begins to take off, there is a growing concern that the Black population of Guyana is being left out of the economic opportunities being created by the oil boom.
Many of the images and media coverage of the economic revolution in Guyana show East Indian, Portuguese mixed and foreigner men signing deals and attending business consultations. Often these images reflect a sad sprinkling of African Guyanese hopefuls who are often friends of the privileged, employees of the companies involved in the deals or alleged misguided sycophants yearning for any small economic ‘crumb’ from their empowered masters. The situation only seems to be getting worse and this has led many to question why Black people seem to be underrepresented in the country’s burgeoning oil and gas industry.
Prominent Guyanese attorney, Nigel Hughes, recently published an extensive study that reflects the lack of participation of Afro-Guyanese in government projects. According to the study, very few Afro-Guyanese companies have received taxpayer funded contracts. Instead, many government contracts have been given to East Indian male-led companies. Hughes’ study highlights the need for more diversity and inclusivity in the allocation of government contracts in Guyana.
Another recent happening is that companies with very little experience or prior knowledge in the area in which they bid are winning contracts. The very obvious result is that work being done by these companies often is not of high quality. Some have reported that roads that were built by these companies owned by alleged PPP cronies begin to deteriorate after just a few months and that buildings are poorly engineered.
Another potential reason for lack of economic participation of Black people in the growing Guyanese economy is that Afro Guyanese do not have the same level of access to funding and other resources needed to start and grow their own businesses. This often makes it more difficult for them to take advantage of the economic opportunities being created by the oil boom and for which their better connected East Indian and Portuguese mixed brothers have a clear advantage.
It is quite obvious that conscious or unconscious bias and discrimination are playing a role in the underrepresentation of Black people in the country’s economy. This also manifests in Black job applicants being passed over for positions in the public service, in favor of less qualified candidates from other ethnic groups and the massive termination of contracts for Black public service employees.
Whatever the reason for the underrepresentation of Black people in Guyana’s economy, something needs to be done to ensure that all citizens have an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from the country’s economic revolution. African Guyanese must demand more funding for their businesses and must stand together to insist that bias and discrimination in the workplace and in contract awards cease immediately.
The economic revolution taking place in Guyana has the potential to bring significant benefits to the country and its citizens, but it is important to ensure that all groups have an equal opportunity to participate and benefit from the country’s newfound wealth. The very obvious underrepresentation of Black people in Guyana’s economy is a cause for alarm and steps must be taken to address the root causes of this issue and ensure that all citizens have an equal chance to succeed.