Guyana's strongest regional ties were to the other former
British colonies in the Caribbean, rather than to Spanish- or
Portuguese-speaking South America. In the hope of becoming the food
source and manufacturer for the Caribbean nations, in 1965 Guyana
joined Antigua and Barbados in forming the Caribbean Free Trade
Association, known as Carifta
(see Appendix C).
Carifta was expanded to thirteen countries in 1968, and in 1973
Carifta was renamed the Caribbean Community and Common Market, or
(Caricom). Caricom appeared to have great potential in the 1970s.
The Caricom members, along with Canada, Britain, Mexico, Colombia,
and Venezuela, created the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) as a
regional lending body. Another such institution was the Caribbean
Caricom's attempts at regional integration have been fraught
with economic and political problems. Guyana became the largest
debtor to the CDB and hindered the organization's efforts elsewhere
in the region when the country had difficulty servicing its debt.
When the IMF stopped providing new loans to Guyana in 1983, the CDB
did the same, and Guyana was abruptly cut off from major regional
assistance. Friction also developed between Guyana and Trinidad and
Tobago when Guyana fell behind on its oil payments. In addition,
Caricom members were politically divided over the United States
invasion of Grenada in 1983.
In the early 1990s, Caricom members were seeking to
reinvigorate the organization by creating a customs union. By
putting in place a common external tariff, members would take the
first step toward removing trade barriers amongst themselves. The
proposed tariff structure was to place low rates of duty (as little
as 5 percent) on imports that did not compete with goods produced
within Caricom, but high rates of duty on so-called competing goods
(up to 45 percent). The idea was to protect industries within
Caricom countries, which had a combined population of 5.5 million
people. In 1991 several members were hesitant about the proposal
because it would force Caricom consumers to choose between higher
priced imports (since tariffs would be added on to the final price)
or a smaller selection of locally produced products. With or
without the common tariff, Guyana was far from becoming a major
regional supplier of manufactured goods in the early 1990s.
Regional integration was less important than the prospect of
renewed economic progress at home.
* * *
The best sources of up-to-date information on Guyana's small
economy are British publications: the Financial Times,
South, the Economist, and surveys by the Economist
Intelligence Unit. The United States Embassy in Georgetown provides
annual summaries of economic activity in the Foreign Economic
Trends Report and the Investment Climate Statement.
Useful, but, difficult to obtain in the United States are
newspapers and periodicals published in Guyana the Guyana
Chronicle, Guyana Business, and the Stabroek
News. Two excellent background readings on Guyana's economy are
DeLisle Worrell's "The Impoverishment of Guyana," and Clive Y.
Thomas's "Foreign Currency Black Markets: Lessons from Guyana." A
historical perspective on labor issues is provided in William L.
Cumiford's "Guyana," part of an excellent book on labor in Latin
America. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography).
Data as of January 1992