Guyana Education Sector Improvement Project
On April 28, 2017, the World Bank approved a $13.3 million credit toward the Guyana Education Sector Improvement Project. The project aims to improve various aspects of school operations at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels in Guyana.

While school enrollment is rapidly expanding at all levels, many Guyanese students still fail to meet baseline standards in math or English. In the 1970s, Guyana faced major economic decline and public schools received little funding. Many teachers left the country in order to pursue higher-paying positions, leaving schools with untrained and inexperienced teachers.

The economy began to improve in the 1980s as Guyana diversified its exports. Several education-focused aid programs began implementation. Approved by the World Bank in 1989 and completed three years later, the Primary Education Improvement Program of Guyana aimed to train more teachers and provide better physical facilities at the primary level. From 1987-1992, UNESCO sponsored the Equal Opportunity for Girls in Technical and Vocational Education, which involved the training of teachers and female students in the industrial arts at the secondary level.

These and similar programs that ran at the same time had mixed successes. Girls studying the industrial arts program scored better than their peers on standardized tests, and a significant number went on to take courses in the industrial arts at the Guyana Industrial Training center. However, despite the amount of work that has been done to sufficiently train teachers in different disciplines, the Cyril Potter College of Education, Guyana’s main teacher-training facility, simply cannot meet primary and secondary schools’ demand for teachers.

Taking this into account, the Guyana Education Sector Improvement Project will mainly work toward developing new curriculums at the primary and secondary levels and training 6,500 teachers in these curriculums. As a lack of facilities continues to pose a problem, the project will also build a new facility to house the University of Guyana’s Faculty of Health Sciences.

Tahseen Sayed, the World Bank Country Director of the Caribbean, notes that “[q]uality education is one of the strongest instruments for reducing poverty.” As Guyana’s GDP has continued to rise dramatically every year since 2005, the Guyana Education Sector Improvement project will hopefully reinforce this economic growth–and vice versa.

Caroline Meyers
Photo: Flickr

Modern media and legislation are flooded with facts about asylum seekers because of refugee crises in the Middle East. The numbers in facts about Guyana refugees, albeit minuscule compared to 24 million Syrians, represents the refugee crisis on a smaller scale.

In 1994, there were 822 asylum applicants out of the South American country of Guyana. This figure drastically dropped over the following seven years, and increased again in 2002, with 847 applications. In the next year, 2003, 729 Guyanese sought asylum to main asylum countries like Canada and France. Additionally, more than 640 of those 729 applicants sought asylum in Canada and 45 applicants sought asylum to France.

The asylum-seeking number plummeted again in 2004, with only 315 total applications. There were even fewer the next year. The total number of asylum applications to main asylum countries in 2005 was just 279.

More recent facts about Guyana refugees show a downward sloping trend. A world database reported the total number of initial and continuing asylum applications of refugees from Guyana in 2015 to be only 122. The database provided a breakdown of which countries received the applications and how many were rejected.

Guyanese asylum seekers filed 46 applications seeking refuge to the United States, 38 to France, 31 to Canada and seven to the United Kingdom. Of those 122 applications, 40 were rejected. The United State rejected five applications, France rejected 19, Canada 10 and six were rejected by the United Kingdom.

According to the Migration Information Source, there were 2.86 million South American immigrants in the United States in the year 2014. Guyana represented 273,000, or 9.6 percent of those South American immigrants. In 2013, five percent of South Americans obtained green cards as refugees or asylees.

In that same year, there were reportedly 700 outgoing refugees from Guyana. More than 180 asylum seekers’ cases were pending at the start of 2014, and 145 asylum seekers’ cases were pending at the end of the year.

In 2014, there were 94 rejections, 27 asylum seekers were recognized and 31 asylum seekers’ applications were marked as closed. In total, 153 decisions were made and during the year and 145 new asylum applications were filed. Of all decisions, 17.6 percent were determined to be recognized refugees, with less than one percent receiving complementary protection status. More than 60 percent were rejected.

Current and ongoing refugee crises in Afghanistan and Syria have flooded the news cycle with facts about asylum seekers. Although small in comparison with three million refugees coming out of Afghanistan, the facts about Guyana refugees represent the crisis on a smaller scale.

Shaun Savarese

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Guyana
One of any civilization’s most important resources is its water supply, and in Guyana, the importance of water quality is paramount. Guyana’s top exports and leading industries are agricultural, which requires a massive proportion of the country’s water withdrawals (94.4 percent in 2010). The country’s long-term average annual precipitation is 2.4 meters, and the average actual renewable water resources total around 600,000 gallons a year.

According to U.N. Water, Guyana invested around $36 million into water-related infrastructure and programs from 2003 to 2011, and more than 37 percent of that money, approximately $13 million, was put into the large water supply and sanitation systems. “In 2003, water supply and sanitation – large systems received 7.9 million constant 2010 U.S. dollars, representing the largest amount invested by the government in one water-related category over this period,” the U.N. Water Guyana country brief states.

In that seven-year span, official development assistance totaled more than $84 million, of which nearly 35 percent, or $29 million, went toward large water supply and sanitation systems. The U.N. Water report on Guyana states that water, sanitation and hygiene factors contributed to more than 300 deaths in 2004, which is nearly 3.5 percent of all deaths in the country. Since 1990, the under-five child mortality rate has dropped from a probability of 65 per 1,000 lives births to fewer than 30 per 1,000 live births in 2010. This may be due to the increased number of children with access to improved drinking water sources and sanitation facilities.

The U.N. water report also states that 94 percent of the country’s 758,000 people used an improved drinking water source in 2010, compared to 88 percent in 1994. In addition, the number of people with access to improved sanitation facilities rose 10 percentages points in those 16 years.

The report notes that little data is available on drinking water quality in Guyana. It clearly states that the country faces water-related challenges, including contamination of potable water supplies, which lead to water-borne diseases such as vector-borne lymphatic filariasis and leptospirosis. It also notes that there is a lack of highly qualified personnel within water sector institutions.

According to the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), these diseases are generally associated with standing water, mosquito-borne lymphatic filariasis and contaminated (water related) leptospirosis.

A July 2014 news release from the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) states that water quality in Guyana may soon vastly improve with The Program to Improve Water and Sanitation Infrastructure and Supply.

The IADB loaned Guyana Water Incorporated more than $16 million while the European Union invested more than $14 million, in part to educate residents on proper hygiene practices.

This program could help decrease the prevalence of leptospirosis as it is commonly correlated with coming in contact with waters contaminated by animal waste, according to the CDC.

Shaun Savarese

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Guyana has improved exponentially over the past decade as the number of people who suffer from hunger has been halved.

According to the U.N., Guyana is one of 38 countries that have met internationally established targets in the effort to eliminate hunger.

The country was recognized by the World Food Summit (WFS) for more than halving the absolute number of undernourished people between 1992 and 2012. The number reduced from more than 19 percent to just over five percent in that 20-year time span. The number lowered from 143,000 to 38,000 undernourished people.

Reflected in the WFS report are the implications of poverty, food insecurity and hunger in Guyana. Extreme poverty in Guyana has declined from 28.7 percent in 1993 to 18.6 percent in 2006. In order to reach the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals, that rate must have fallen by four percentage points by 2015.

The report raised concern not about the availability of food in the region, but rather the ability to make food widely accessible. Guyana has remote rural regions of underdeveloped communities to which it is difficult to distribute quality, nutritious meals. Raising agricultural productivity is the key in this regard because remote rural areas are largely dependent on their own crops and livestock.

Sixty percent of the country’s gross domestic product is represented by six exports: sugar, gold, bauxite, shrimp, timber and rice. Guyana was once a powerful producer of sugar, yet its production sunk to an all-time low in 2014. However, more recent crop production numbers have shown improvement.

To limit malnutrition, assuring the right food choices is important. In 2008, less than one percent of children under five suffered from extreme malnutrition. In addition, less than six percent experienced mild to moderate malnutrition.

The country’s minister of agriculture Leslie Ramsammy produced a food security report in July 2012. The report stated that an increasing population and the adverse of effects of climate change were the drivers of food insecurity. The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently established a National Disaster Risk Management (DRM) Plan for the agriculture sector.

Ramsammy noted that a high food import bill and high national debt were the two biggest threats. At that time, debt levels were at more than 45 percent of Guyanese Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The minister of agriculture concluded that Guyana must reaffirm its commitment to the science of crop management and agriculture practices.

Hunger in Guyana has improved greatly over the past 20 years. The country has resolved to work with international organizations to reach global goals to develop locally groundbreaking agriculture advancements.

Shaun Savarese

Photo: Flickr

Guyana Oil

Exxon Mobile’s recent Guyana oil discovery has given the historically poor nation reason to cheer. With oil the most important commodity in the global market, the South American country expects to make a large profit from the discovery.

Exxon Mobil found the oil on their sprawling 6.6 million acre oilfield off the coast of Stabroek, Guyana.

In the Stabroek block, the company’s Liza-1 well was drilled to more than 17,000 feet. There, the company found more than 295 feet of high-quality oil-bearing sandstone reservoirs.

The oil company is encouraged by the discovery and plans to determine the potential of the other sites.

With Liza-1 being the company’s first site of many, there is a good chance of further discoveries. Also, the findings from the well will be sent for analysis to determine its full commercial potential.

Even if no further discoveries are made, Guyana’s former Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment believes any discovery of oil will greatly boost the nation’s economy.

With Guyana having the 157th largest economy in the world, the recent discovery of the highly valued commodity promises to have transformational effects on the nation. Large revenues and foreign investments will pour into the country from its oil sales.

To ensure that the money will be used wisely, the President of Guyana, David Granger, promises to create a sovereign wealth fund from the Guyana oil revenue.

A sovereign wealth fund (SWF) is a pool of a nation’s money that is set aside for investments that will benefit the country’s economy and citizens. In this case, the revenue from Guyana oil sales will be put into a fund that will be reinvested in the country.

To assist in the creation of the SWF, Guyana is turning to their neighbor to the north, Canada. Researchers at the University of Calgary are putting together plans for the creation of the SWF.

Speaking on this, Guyana’s Minister of Governance, Raphael Trotman, said, “So later in the month of November, a team is coming from the University of Calgary with the specific responsibility of putting together the mechanism for what we refer to as the Sovereign Wealth Fund.”

The minister went on to reveal that the SWF will be split into three separate sub-funds.

One will look to secure funds the nation’s wealth for the future generations. The second will be a rainy-day fund for the nation’s budget in fiscally lean years. The third will be for developmental projects or initiatives.

Trotman expanded on this, saying, “So there are three funds that comprise the Sovereign Wealth Fund, but each has a different rate at which it is supplied and different reasons or mechanisms from which it can draw down.”

The three sub-funds ensure that the Guyana oil wealth will be used to benefit the nation as a whole. It includes investments into development and plans to save for the future.

The SWF is such a popular idea among the people that during the previous election both the current President and the opposition party had plans to create one.

Upon inauguration, President Granger promised that any funds from natural resources would benefit the people through an SWF.

He believes an SWF will make sure that “children will not have to live in poverty; that no matter what happens to the resources of the country, there will always be wealth to look after their education.”

The large oil revenues pouring into the SWF ensures that Guyana will have a strong investment in the nation and its citizens.

Andrew Wildes

Sources: Guyana Times 1, Guyana Times 2, Investopedia, Quandl
Photo: Guyanese Online

Hydropower in Guyana
Guyana is currently developing a plan to harness Amaila Falls’ potent hydropower, power that is capable of producing electricity (165MW to be exact) for the whole of Guyana, reports The Economist.

The project is set to cost around $840 million and was initially headed by Sithe Global of the global investment and advisory firm, the Blackstone Group. In addition, investments from China Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank were to take part in harnessing the country’s torrents.

However, a lack of unanimous concession by the Guyanese legislative branch has resulted in Sithe Global’s withdrawal from the project. Primary criticisms by legislators were its lack of transparency—particularly the projects expenditures and the engineering plans.

The deals brokering between the Amaila Falls Hydro Inc. and its power players remained cloak and dagger, arousing skepticism from the project’s critics.

Despite the halt in the project, it was predicted to minimally affect the ecological community. Moreover, the site of the project, located at the intersection of the Amaila and Kuribrong Rivers is 30 km from the nearest community, supposedly to avoid disturbing any local villages in the region.

With the promise of hydroelectricity in 2017, Guyana could possibly reduce its reliance on imported oil although the cost of electricity will remain expensive.

Furthermore, with a shift to hydropower, green house gas emissions (GHG) were projected to decrease by 87%.

It’s realization would have cost the federally funded Guyana Power and Light (GPL) company to pay an estimated $100 million a year to the aforementioned investment groups and companies.

Despite the country’s massive potential for hydroelectricity, the project remains at a standstill. The secrecy of the project propelled its main investors, from remaining with the project. Yet, Guyana’s President Donald Ramotar recently stated that Sithe Global is still very much interested in the project, pending Parliament’s unanimous agreement.

Regardless of legislative decision, the go-ahead for the project remains largely with Sithe Global, who possesses the license to Amaila Falls’ development.

– Miles Abadilla

Sources: Amaila Hydropower, The Economist, Fox News, Kaieteur News
Photo: Wondermodo

Poverty in Guyana remains a problem. Guyana is a small country located in Northern South America that borders Venezuela, Brazil, and Suriname. Initially a Dutch colony in the 17th century, Guyana came under British control in 1815. The British first used African slave labor to man their sugar plantations, but slavery was finally abolished in 1834. The abolition of slavery in Guyana led former slaveholders to import indentured servants from India, maintaining ethnic and socioeconomic divisions in the colony. Though Guyana achieved independence from the U.K. in 1966, the country is still experiencing the aftereffects of its colonial background.

Societal Divisions in Guyana
Today, approximately three quarters of Guyana’s population descends from slave or indentured servant populations. 43.5% of Guyana’s population is of East Indian descent, and 30.2% is of African descent. These dominant ethnic groups frequently clash, backing ethnically based political parties and voting almost entirely along ethnic lines. Roughly 43% of Guyana’s population lives below the poverty line, with indigenous people comprising the biggest fraction of those affected.

Education and Economy
Though Guyana reports a literacy rate of 91.8%, the poor quality of education and teacher training combined with its suffering infrastructure contribute to a much lower level of functional literacy for most of the population.

Guyana’s emigration rate is also one of the highest in the world, with 55% of its citizens living abroad. The country is one of the largest recipients of remittances relative to GDP out of Latin American and Caribbean countries. 80% of Guyanese citizens with tertiary degrees have left the country, depriving those living in Guyana of invaluable services, including healthcare.

The Guyanese government owned more than 80% of industries until the 1990’s, but mismanagement combined with falling commodity prices and high fuel costs caused the standard of living to fall drastically. The government has since divested itself of many industries, but problems such as deforestation, violent crime and widespread poverty continue to threaten the economy.

Poverty Statistics
Roughly two-thirds of Guyanese citizens living in poverty, or 29% of the population, can be classified as being extremely poor. Most of the poor live in rural areas and work as agricultural laborers. Though Guyana’s farmers have access to adequate land resources, their productivity is extremely low.

Guyana has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Latin America, with 280 deaths per 100,000 live births. Its infant mortality rate is the 66th highest in the world, with 34.45 deaths per 1,000 live births. These grave statistics can be attributed in part to the low density of physicians, with just .59 doctors per 1,000 people. 1.2 percent of Guyana’s population is living with HIV/AIDS, a rate higher than that of most other Latin American countries.

Solutions to Poverty in Guyana
The World Bank is currently working in Guyana to refocus public expenditures to improve the infrastructure and the quality of health, education, and water services. Advocating for the privatization of most industries, the World Bank hopes to increase opportunities for investment and conserve government resources.

The United Nations Development Programme is also working to empower vulnerable people in Guyana by improving the economic status of indigenous groups and establishing community livelihood projects that will create jobs.

Though Guyana ranks 117th out of 187 countries on the UN’s Human Development Index, continued aid and humanitarian assistance will ensure that its citizens can overcome past subjugation and establish a strong infrastructure.

– Katie Bandera

Sources: CIA, World Bank, UNDP, BBC
Photo: California Historical Society


‘Guyana Shines’ is a project spearheaded by the U.S. Ambassador to Guyana, D. Brent Hardt, with the goal of educating young people about the importance of protecting the environment and the dangers of pollution. Ambassador Hardt believes that the key to a healthy world is educating young people to have the tools for a sustainable future. Guyana Shines is supported by Youth Challenge Guyana and the Environment Ministry as well as the British and Canadian representatives to Guyana.

The project is centered around visiting school and making presentations about the dangers of pollution and the importance of cleaning up litter and waste. Last year the ambassador visited 15 schools and plans to visit at least 50 more this year. Students are given information about where to recycle and offered the incentive of trading garbage for money. This year students will also learn how to make compost heaps and become advocates for a cleaner Guyana.

To further boost excitement about ‘Guyana Shines” as well as establish broader goals of cleaning up the environment two contests have been launched. The Wildlife Drawing Contest and the Innovation and Creativity Contest: Looking for New Ways to Reduce our Ecological Footprint both aim to inspire young people to protect the environment.

Communities have also sponsored clean up days targeted at heavily polluted areas of Guyana. Ambassador Hardt says, “Our motivation and our goal in creating Guyana Shines is to encourage and mobilize citizens and communities to maintain a clean environment, address the serious littering problem, and return Guyana to its former splendor as the Garden City of the Caribbean.” As ‘Guyana Shines’ enters its second phase those goals are becoming more attainable.

– Zoë Meroney

Source: Guyana News and Information,Capitol News,Guyana Times
Photo: The U.S. Embassy