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There is reason to fear that as long as Guyana continues to produce oil, and the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) regime remains in power, the regime can only become more autocratic and tyrannical. The arguments and conclusions are drawn from numerous academic sources and well-studied historical examples. But, here we will keep the points very simple.
For ease of understanding, bullet points will be used.
There is a huge body of academic studies about dictatorial regimes (DR), such as the PPP, because scholars have noted a historical correlation between international crimes such as genocide, and dictatorships. Such horrific crimes are more likely to happen under dictatorships. So, this area of study has gotten a lot of attention from some very brilliant people.
Dictatorial regimes (DR) have one main goal – to stay in power.
Dictatorial regimes (DR) – such as the PPP – use economic dynamics of the country to remain in power.
DR faces threats to their existence and power from two sources: the wealthy elites (the business class), and the poor masses (the working class).
DR faces greater existential threats from the wealthy elites because the elites are close to the centre of political power and have greater economic and political influence and resources than the poor masses.
DR can use two economic strategies: economic appeasement, or economic repression. And those are the strategies they use to hold onto power.
DR are likely to use economic appeasement to keep the wealthy elites happy and loyal. This means that wealthy elites will become more rich owing to favours – such as contracts – granted to them by the dictatorship. That appeasement strategy keeps the wealthy elites happy and quiet.
On the other hand, when it comes to the poor masses, the dictatorial regime – such as the PPP – can use either appeasement or repressive strategies to prevent revolt. The DR does not care if the poor masses are happy; the DR only wants them to be quiet and docile, and subservient.
The DR is likely to appease some of the poor masses and repress others, depending on various factors.
Economists agree that in societies such as Guyana, the DR will appease the coastal residents by giving them little handouts, and so on, in order to prevent revolt. But such little pitiful handouts will never allow them to become wealthy.
On the other hand, the DR will use repression against hinterland peoples to ensure that they suffer in a daily fight for basic tools of survival such as food. In this way, they will be so busy searching for the basic means to exist that they will have no time or energy to organise and fight the impressive DR.
And now the question of oil.
There are two sources of income available to the elites and DR: free resources such as oil and remittances; and productive economic activity such as agriculture and mining, that require labour from the poor masses.
If the poor masses realise that they are labouring every day and are not getting ahead in life, they may revolt against the DR. As such, the DR will use repression to keep them disorganised and poor, and unlikely to have the strength to revolt. Some Guyanese may say that we have seen such repression against poor people in Guyana.
The DR will only be able to repress poor people because the DR and the elites have access to free resources such as oil, and are not very dependent on productive economic activity for their wealth.
In summary, the DR stays in power by appeasing the wealthy elites to keep them happy, while using a combination of appeasement and repression against the masses to keep them quiet. The result is a widening gap between the rich and the poor.
Finally, because the DR is focused on remaining in power, and is using economic strategies to do so, the economic development of the whole country is affected. This is because the economy is not being used for genuine national development, instead it is simply a tool to keep the dictatorial regime (DR) in power.