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Guyana legal profile

Proelium Law LLP

LEGAL SYSTEM overview

 Guyana has two legal traditions, British common law and the Roman-Dutch code, the latter now largely relegated to matters of land tenure. The constitution is the supreme law of the land and in 2009 Guyana adopted the Caribbean Court of Justice as its final court of appeal, replacing the Privy Council.[1]

The Government has tried to strengthen the legislation to deal with corruption and since president Granger came into office he has enacted the State Asset Recovery Act, Witness Protection Act and the Protected Disclosures Act. The State Asset Recovery Act is in accord with the United Nations Convention against Corruption and deals with the recovery of the stolen assets of the State.  The Witness Protection Act fulfils Guyana’s obligations under the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and its Protocol the UN Convention against Corruption and the Inter-American Convention against Corruption. The Protected Disclosures (Whistle-blower) Act marks another step by the Government towards full compliance with the Inter-American Convention against Corruption.

The new laws add to Guyana’s list of legislation to combat corruption, which already consists of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, Integrity Commission Act and the Access to Information Act.[2] However, the laws designed to ensure government transparency are inconsistently upheld. This is reflected in Guyana’s ranking of the Transparency international ranks where Guyana is ranked 93rd with a score of 37/100 and ranks 94th on international ranking of corruption.[3] Although these are created to combat corruption the rankings show that without proper implementation of these laws’ corruption will still be an issue.  Another problem in the judiciary is a shortage of staff and lack of resources which obstruct the judiciary’s effectiveness.[4]

BUSINESS OVERVIEW

Guyana is the 130th largest export economy in the world.[5] The top exports of Guyana are Gold ($848m), Railway Cargo containers ($239m), Rice ($232m),

Aluminium Ore ($155m) and Raw Sugar ($91.6m). The top export destinations of Guyana are Canada($500m), the United States ($324m), Trinidad and Tobago ($204m), Panama ($157m) and Belgium-Luxembourg ($127m).[6]

Its top imports are Refined Petroleum ($348m), Excavation Machinery ($91.3m), Large Construction Vehicles ($41.8m), Cars ($41m) and Packaged Medicaments ($38.4m).[7] The top import origins are the Unites States ($483m), Trinidad and Tobago ($471m), China ($174m), Suriname ($114m) and Japan ($51.4m).[8]

Business have the right to own property and maintain it and this is protected by law, but corruption and organized crime sometimes deter private-sector business activity.[9] Businesses have stated that they are affected by several factors when doing business. These include telecommunications, electricity, transportation, access to land, tax rates, tax administration, customs and trade regulations, labour regulations, labour workforce, business regulations, access to finance, cost of finance, political environment, and the informal sector.[10]

Data from several of these factors confirm the constraints businesses face in Guyana. The Global Competitiveness Report 2015-2016, identified inefficient government bureaucracy, corruption, access to finance, crime and theft, taxes, and inadequate supply of infrastructure as the most problematic factors for doing business in Guyana.[11]

The 2014 PROTEqIN survey asked the local businesses to rank various obstacles as most serious, second most serious, and third most serious constraints.

The survey shows that  businesses rank the following as the most serious obstacles to their operations: electricity (15.1 percent), corruption (12.6 percent), tax rates (11.8 percent), practices of competitors in the informal sector (8.4 percent), telecommunications (7.6 percent), access to finance (7.6 percent), access to land for expansion/relocation (6.7 percent), inadequately educated workforce (6.7 percent), crime, theft, and disorder (5.9 percent), political environment (5 percent), transportation (4.2 percent), customs and trade regulations (4.2 percent), cost of finance (2.5 percent), and macroeconomic environment (1.7 percent)[12]

Corruption was the second highest-ranked constraint identified by businesses as the most serious obstacle. A relatively small percentage of businesses surveyed indicated that they were expected to pay a bribe to obtain an, operating license (1.9 percent), electrical connection (1.7), telephone connection (1.7percent), import license (1.7 percent), water connection (0.8 percent), and construction permit (0.8 percent). Based on the survey, approximately 6.7 percent of the businesses indicated they were expected to pay a bribe to obtain the contract, while 3.3 percent of the businesses claimed they were expected to pay a bribe to tax officers.[13]

COUNTRY OVERVIEW

Guyana is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the north, by Suriname to the east, by Brazil to the south and southwest, and by Venezuela to the west. Guyana is one of the only Caribbean nations that isn’t an island.[14] English is the official language however, other indigenous languages include Creole, Hindi and Urdu.[15]

The major religions in Guyana are Christianity, Hinduism and Islam.[16] The current population of Guyana is 786,777[17] which is equivalent to 0.01% of the total world population[18] ranking Guyana as the 164th worlds populated country.

The head of the coalition party David Granger, comprised of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) and the Alliance for Change (AFC), became president after the coalition narrowly won the 2015 National Assembly elections.[19]

Guyana was colonized by the Netherlands and then became a British colony for more than 200 years before gaining independence in 1966.[20] Guyana is involved in territorial disputes with both Suriname and Venezuela. In 2007 the United Nations international tribunal settled the border dispute between Guyana and Suriname. However, Suriname still claims territory over the New River Triangle. The currently recognized border between Suriname and Guyana along the Courantyne is also in contention—Suriname claims sovereignty over the entire river and thus views its west bank as the border, while Guyana claims that the deepest channel of the river, is the boundary.[21]

The dispute between Guyana and Venezuela dates from 1895, when the British government claimed ownership of the Essequibo River basin. An 1899 settlement awarded Venezuela part of the area, but in 1962 Venezuela claimed the whole territory west of the Essequibo.[22]

Guyana ranks 51st in the World Press Freedom Index. Guyana’s constitution guarantees free speech and the right to information, although officials often use various pieces of legislation including defamation laws, which provide for fines and up to two years in jail to silence opposition journalists. Until 2001 the government controlled nearly all local news media, radio, and the single daily newspaper, the Guyana Chronicle.[23]

In July 2018 the cybercrime bill was passed into law which took into account amendments proposed by the RSF, regarding provisions that could have posed a threat to press freedom if used to penalize journalists for publishing reports deemed critical of the government or that are based on information from confidential sources. However, the bill remains imperfect as members of the media regulatory authority are appointed directly by the president. Journalists are still subjected to harassment that takes the form of prosecutions, suspensions, and intimidation.

Report Footnotes

[1] Guyana, Encyclopaedia Britannica,  https://www.britannica.com/place/Guyana/Government-and-society

[2] Ministry of Legal Affairs, https://mola.gov.gy/15-news-/565-international-anti-corruption-december-9-2018

[3] World Data, https://www.worlddata.info/corruption.php

[4] Freedom in the World Guyana, https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2018/guyana

[5] https://oec.world/en/profile/country/guy/

[6] https://oec.world/en/profile/country/guy/

[7] https://oec.world/en/profile/country/guy/

[8] https://oec.world/en/profile/country/guy/

[9] Freedom in the World Guyana, https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2018/guyana

[10] Constraints affecting Guyana;s Private Sector: Survey Results, Sukrishnalall Pasha, Elton Bollers and Mark Wenner, April 2018, file:///Users/sumitasaini/Downloads/Constraints-Affecting-Guyana-Private-Sector-Survey-Results.pdf

[11] Constraints affecting Guyana;s Private Sector: Survey Results, Sukrishnalall Pasha, Elton Bollers and Mark Wenner, April 2018, file:///Users/sumitasaini/Downloads/Constraints-Affecting-Guyana-Private-Sector-Survey-Results.pdf

[12] Constraints affecting Guyana;s Private Sector: Survey Results, Sukrishnalall Pasha, Elton Bollers and Mark Wenner, April 2018, file:///Users/sumitasaini/Downloads/Constraints-Affecting-Guyana-Private-Sector-Survey-Results.pdf

[13] Constraints affecting Guyana;s Private Sector: Survey Results, Sukrishnalall Pasha, Elton Bollers and Mark Wenner, April 2018, file:///Users/sumitasaini/Downloads/Constraints-Affecting-Guyana-Private-Sector-Survey-Results.pdf

 

[14] World population review, http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/guyana-population/

[15] Guyana Country profile, BBC, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-19546909

[16] Guyana Country profile, BBC, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-19546909

[17] Worldometers, https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/guyana-population/

[18] Worldometers, https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/guyana-population/

[19] Freedom in the World Guyana, https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2018/guyana

[20] World population review, http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/guyana-population/

[21] Guyana, Encyclopaedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/place/Guyana

[22] Guyana, Encyclopaedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/place/Guyana

[23]Guyana, Encyclopaedia Britannica,  https://www.britannica.com/place/Guyana/The-arts#ref285441

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