The World Bank’s efforts in Guyana have been paramount in helping to achieve growth and positive effects in the country. In the last few decades, the World Bank has made progress in enhancing natural disaster resilience, improving the quality of education and skills, generating private-sector development initiatives and supporting human development.
The Co-Operative Republic of Guyana is a small and sparsely populated South American country. It has an abundance of natural resources, fertile lands and valuable mineral resources such as bauxite and gold, along with tropical forests which cover 80% of the country. With a population of approximately 780,000 people, Guyanese society is ethnically diverse, including Indo-Guyanese, Afro-Guyanese, Mixed-Guyanese and many more groups. About 90% of this population lives in the country’s coastal area, despite this region only representing 10% of the total land.
Others have historically perceived Guyana’s GDP as the lowest in the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC). However, monumental growth (between 20%-40%) has raised the GDP from $6,600 in 2019 to $9,300 in 2021. The country’s heavy dependency on natural resources, especially oil production is a core reason for this growth. Nevertheless, this reliance on these resources means that Guyana is vulnerable to commodity price fluctuations and economic conditions.
An updated measure from the World Bank in 2022 found that Guyana’s national poverty headcount is among the highest in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) at around 48%. Rates of poverty are the highest in the interior of the country, where communities have limited access to economic opportunities, health care and public services. The country also experiences high emigration and brain drain, with 39% of citizens living abroad.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the population of Guyana. Although 63% of the adult population had received at least one dose of the vaccine by September 2022, it had been confirmed that there had been 71,351 COVID-19 cases and 1,281 deaths in October 2022. Guyana is a small country with a poor healthcare system consisting of a lack of insufficient resources and equipment, something which may reflect these COVID-19 case numbers. The World Bank’s efforts in Guyana have been ongoing since 2016, focusing on three areas:
Strengthening Resilience and Creating Disaster Risk Management Capacities
The Flood Risk Management Project works to reduce flood risks in low-lying areas of the country. The primary focus of this project is to strengthen the institutions that are necessary to reduce flood risks and support flood modeling. In 2020, further funding received approval for the project with the aim to improve Guyana’s climate resilience and reduce the impact of economic disasters. The results of this project should enable more than 90,000 people to benefit from flood risks and 47,600 water users will receive new and improved irrigation and drainage facilities.
Setting Up High-quality Education
The World Bank currently has four ongoing projects aimed at building Guyana’s workforce:
- The Education Sector Improvement Project: The Education Sector Improvement Project has been working at improving teaching practices and student achievement in math.
- Secondary Education Improvement Project: The Secondary Education Improvement Project supports secondary school math teachers, secondary school enrollment and school building.
- Guyana Sector Programme Project: The Guyana Sector Programme Project supports nursery schools and increasing technology use in primary schools.
- Guyana Strengthening Human Capital Through Education Project: The Guyana Strengthening Human Capital Through Education Project received approval in June 2022. It aims to focus on expanding access to secondary-level quality education, while also supporting vocational training.
The results of these projects have been far-reaching. For instance, the capacity of 600 math teachers worldwide has improved through training and expert feedback. Secondary school facilities grew by expanding the number of additional student spaces. Perhaps the most important result is the development of a new curriculum framework, something which has revised the subjects that the core teaching plans teach.
Laying the Foundation of Private Sector Development
The Guyana Petroleum Resources Governance and Management Project works to develop better legal and institutional frameworks. It will also raise the capacity of key institutions to manage the oil and gas sector so that there are more economic and social benefits for the country. The project will also strengthen the laws and regulations related to health, safety and environmental protection. The outcomes of this project have been positive in improving technical, advisory and capacity measures, along with transparency and governance within the oil and gas sector.
Overall, the World Bank’s efforts in Guyana have been far-reaching, supporting the creation of many sustainable and long-term changes in the country. The three areas of focus are monumental areas to champion for the country to increase its economic, social and environmental capital, all of which these projects have successfully addressed.
– Harkiran Bharij
Photo: Wikimedia Commons