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I. Basic Features of the Sector
A. Historical Trends
B. Poverty Alleviation in the Period of Structural Adjustment
C. Recent Measurements of Poverty

II. Policies of the Sector
A. Social Safety Nets
B. Programmatic Aspects of Poverty Alleviation
C. Palliative vs. Development Oriented Policies

III. Description of the Principal Issues and Constraints Facing the Sector
A. Issues
B. Identification of Constraints
C. Origins of Constraints

IV. Sectoral Objectives

V. Alternative Policies for Achieving Stated Objectives
A. Review of "In-the-pipeline" Proposals and Strategies
B. Lessons from International Experience

VI. Policy Recommendations and Their Technical Justifications
A. General Policy Priorities
B. Sectoral Policy Priorities

VII. Recommended Legislative Changes
A. Information Management and Reporting
B. Social Safety Nets
C. Labour and Training (see Chapter 35)
D. Small Scale Agriculture
E. Vulnerable Groups
F. Microenterprises

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I. Basic Features of the Sector

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A. Historical Trends

Guyana's first extensive survey of poverty was carried out by PAHO in 1971 as part of a National Food and Nutrition Survey. The results were published in 1976 and showed that:

A decade and a half later, an approximate poverty line was drawn by Boyd in an IADB report, based on a food basket provided by a section of the trade union movement and prices prevailing at the time. This survey indicated that:

Rampraksh used as the criterion for poverty in a study for SIMAP (1991), the failure to satisfy official estimates of nutritional requirements and calculated that 86% of the population fell below the poverty line in 1989.

Later Thomas (1993) projected Boyd's poverty line to be G$138,372 per annum for household income or G$25,618 per capita in 1992. In between, various institutions were making informed guesses. For example, the World Bank reported that "official" estimates were that 67 percent of the population lived below the poverty line, with a tendency for an increase in this number because of the inflation of food prices in 1990.

The most comprehensive summary of the evidence on historical trends in poverty is found in a 1994 report of the World Bank.(1) In addition to citing the above-mentioned studies, some of the report's conclusions were:

"Though data are not available to precisely measure the increase in poverty during the 1980s, the decline in the standard of living at a minimum mirrored the decline in real per-capita consumption. From 1980 to 1989, real GDP per capita fell at an average rate of 3 percent per year.

"Available data indicate sharply declining real wages during the 1980s.(2) . . . The overall result has been a substantial increase in poverty. Those who could once afford to support their families on public service salaries became unable to afford even the minimum food basket. . . .

"The drop in living standards during the 1980s is demonstrated by partial data on health and education. During this period infant mortality rates increased sharply, as did diseases spread by vectors and those caused by environmental problems. Between 1978 and 1988, infant mortality rose by 17 percent. Reported cases of gastroenteritis nearly doubled between 1984 and 1989, typhoid fever tripled, and from 1984-1991, reported cases of malaria increased nearly twelve-fold. . . . Secondary school enrollment rates declined by almost 40 percent from 1980-1990, while the percentage of student passes in the Secondary School Entrance and CXC dropped significantly over the decade . . . .

"Assuming that the decline in per capita consumption was similar [to that of GDP] and that the distribution of welfare has remained the same, the incidence of poverty would have increased from approximately 26 percent in 1980 to an estimated 43 percent in 1990. Moreover, this increase is probably underestimated, given the fact that the fertility rate is higher for the poor and that research for other countries has shown that in the vast majority of cases economic recession was accompanied by rising inequality in the distribution of welfare. Using the same assumptions for measuring changes in poverty, if per capita GDP had increased by a plausible 2 percent per year instead of the 2.9 percent average annual decline, poverty would have been reduced from 26 percent to 14 percent during that period . . . . any strategy aimed at reducing poverty has to be firmly based within a sustainable growth oriented policy" (op. cit., pp. 1-4).

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B. Poverty Alleviation in the Period of Structural Adjustment

To arrest the economic decline, a far-reaching structural adjustment programme was initiated in mid-1988, involving a liberalisation of the exchange rate, prices and trade, along with selected privatisations of government enterprises and other measures designed to arrest the economic decline place the economy on a self-sustaining growth path. These measures began to take effect in 1989 and by late 1991 their results were evident in the form of an end to the long trend downward in the economy. In 1992 real growth was rapid and has been maintained at high levels ever since.

The salutary effects of the economic policy reforms on the poverty problem can be seen in the fact that the share of the population living below the poverty line dropped from about 75 percent in 1989 to about 43 percent in 1993. These estimates are very approximate but nonetheless are indicative of the basic trend. Furthermore, given the subsequent movements in real wages (see Chapter 35) and the continuing rapid economic growth, which undoubtedly has created new job opportunities at a faster rate than the labour force is expanding, it is very likely that the poverty ratio is lower now than it was in 1993.

Agriculture responded to the opportunities created by the new economic policies with greater alacrity than any other sector. Sugar production has doubled and rice production has tripled, as compared to their levels in 1990. While large farmers have benefitted more than small farmers, all household groups in rural areas have become better off because of greater amounts of employment and higher income levels in agriculture. Today the degree of change in the labour market can be seen by the fact that some sugar estates have recently experienced problems in finding sufficient labour turn out (Chapter 33).

Although annual surveys of household incomes are not available, the structural adjustment process probably exacerbated the poverty problem at the outset, since its reforms temporarily increased the inflation rate in a very significant way. But after an 82 percent increase in the consumer price index in 1991, the rate of price increase fell to 14 percent in 1992 and 8 percent in 1993 and has remained relatively low since then. A comparison of the monthly minimum wage and monthly food costs carried out by GAHEF (1993), covering the period January 1990, to June 1993, showed that the two measures increased by similar amounts until the first quarter of 1992, and thereafter the monthly minimum wage gained considerably on the index of food costs. This result corroborates the other evidence to the effect that poverty has lessened since it expanded to shockingly high levels in the late 1980s. These results should not lead observers to conclude that the poverty problem has been reduced to unimportance; on the contrary, poverty alleviation still is and should be a principal national priority. Nevertheless, the problem is somewhat less daunting than it was a few years ago.

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C. Recent Measurements of Poverty

More recently, estimates from three sources, based on two surveys, one rural and the other national, show that poverty is more a rural problem than an urban one, and that it is strongly associated with lack of access to basic social services. Some principal characteristics of the situation of poverty in Guyana, as of 1993:

Rural Survey:

Based on an IICA/IFAD survey of coastal rural Guyana, the results show that just more than two thirds (68.8 percent) did not obtain incomes sufficient to pay for an essential "food basket" and other essential household expenditures, and so fell below the poverty line (IICA/IFAD, 1994, p. 83).

National Survey:

Based on the "Living Standards Measurement Survey" conducted by the Bureau of Statistics and the World Bank in 1993, the results show that, from the standpoint of consumption, 43.2 percent of the population consumed basic food requirements and other essential items below that established by the poverty line. Also, this survey shows that 66 percent of households nationwide were unable to have one or more basic needs fulfilled.(3)

The above results are summarised in Tables 17-1 to 17-3 below. Of related interest, these surveys reveal that the poorest 40 percent of rural households received about 10 percent of the total rural income, while the top decile received over 55 of it (Table 17-4).

Table 17-1

Poverty: Basic Needs Fulfillment Indicators in Rural Coastal Areas, 1993

(% of total population)
Basic Needs Income below

poverty line

Income above

poverty line

Basic needs unfulfilled 51.0 18.6 69.9
Basic needs fulfilled 17.8 12.6 30.4
Total 68.8 31.2


Source: IICA/IFAD, 1994.

Table 17-2

National Household Distribution by Basic Needs and Poverty Lines, 1993
% of total population
Total Above poverty level Moderate poverty Critical poverty
Total 100 22.5 43.0 34.5
Basic needs


34.3 12.2 14.0 8.1
Basic needs


65.7 10.3 29.0 26.4

Source: UGCO 1994.

Table 17-3

Absolute Poverty by Geographic Region
Region Percent of






FGT Mean per



(in G$)

All Guyana 100.0 43.2 16.2 8.2 91,602
Urban Georgetown

Urban Other

Rural Coastal

Rural Interior





















(1) Barima-Waini

(2) Pomeroon-Supenaam

(3) Essequibo Island-W. Demerara

(4) Demerara-Mahaica

(5) Mahaica-Berbice

(6) E. Berbice-Corentyne

(7) Cuyuni-Mazaruni

(8) Potaro-Siparuni

(9) Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo

(10) Upper Demerara-Berbice



















































Definitions of concepts used:

(1) The headcount measures the proportion of the population below the poverty line.

(2) The poverty gap measures the extent to which incomes of the poor fall below the poverty line; it is the amount of money necessary to raise the incomes of all the poor up to the poverty line.

(3) The FGT measure is related to the poverty gap, but in the calculation it weights more heavily the poverty gaps of the very poor than of the mildly poor.

Source: World Bank, 1994.

Table 17-4

Distribution of Household Total Income, Rural Coastal Areas, 1993

(By deciles of per capita income)
% Distribution of

Total Household Income


Poorest 10%

Decile 2

Decile 3

Decile 4

Decile 5

Decile 6

Decile 7

Decile 8

Decile 9

Decile 10












Source: IICA/IFAD, 1994.

For analytical purposes, it would be useful to identify some of the circumstances related to this poverty. In relation to rural poverty the findings include:

1) A wide variation in household family size and types and a strong correlation between the size of the household, number of children, and poverty. This highlights the vulnerability of children, the elderly and women, particularly when the latter head households. This occurred one in every five households.

2) A breakdown of the social services delivery system in the surveyed areas. For example, over one-third of the population travelled to Georgetown for primary medical care, and about one-fifth of the school age children were not attending school.

3) A breakdown of drainage and irrigation systems. Nearly 85 percent of the drainage system in the surveyed areas was either nonexistent, not working properly, or not working at all. For the irrigation system the figure was 89 percent. When asked how they would respond to improved drainage and irrigation, nearly 80 percent of those surveyed said they would expand their cultivated areas or harvest more crops per year.

4) While there is a wide choice in the surveyed areas, apart from religious organisations, the participation in social organisations is extremely low. On average just over one-third of the households belonged to religious associations. Less than 4 percent belonged to farmers' associations, cooperative village associations, youth groups and other miscellaneous groupings. Approximately 8 percent were members of sport clubs.

In relation to national poverty:

1) Levels of education are strongly correlated with poverty.

2) About 36 percent of households received remittances from overseas, and these contributed on average, one third of the value of household expenditures. Clearly for many families these are critical contributions.

3) The marginalisation of the Amerindian population in society is reflected in a very high incidence of poverty in their group.

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II. Policies of the Sector

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A. Social Safety Nets

Thomas (1994) identified two broad classes of safety nets in Guyana. Those that are locally controlled and may or may not be locally financed, and those that are externally controlled and financed. Among the former there are three further types:

1. Line Ministries

Several limitations and weaknesses may be attributed to the line ministries. Among the more important are:

2. National Insurance Scheme (NIS)

The NIS came into existence well before the crisis of the late 1980s. In 1988 benefit levels were supplemented for those worse hit. The following are some of the more important weaknesses and limitations that can be identified in the present NIS:

3. Non-governmental Organisations

Data on NGOs in Guyana are very sparse. Depending on how they are counted, there may be over 400 NGOs. The amount of human, financial, and material resources in their control is not known. The majority are traditional service, charitable, religious, cultural, and recreational oriented NGOs. Only a few are principally engaged in development activities, although in one way or another the activities of all of them do impinge on the development process. Overall, they are involved in a wide range of poverty relief actions, from training to cash supplements, medical care, and feeding programmes.

Several international NGOs operate in Guyana, and the largest of these seems to be Food for the Poor. This NGO distributes farm and medical supplies, toys, food, clothes, furniture, text books, vehicles and building materials collected in North America. It also supports many self-help projects. Over the past decade it has provided more than US$10m worth of supplies.

The formation of SIMAP, along with other agencies like the CIDA operated Futures Fund that are project-driven, has given impetus to the development of NGOs because of the community-based orientation of their project funding.

There is no reason why the widely recognised advantages of NGOs should not be replicated in Guyana. The sector has the potential for strong "grassroots" links, flexibility, minimal bureaucratic overheads, and a highly motivated work force. A prominent NGO activist singles out the church as potentially the most effective:

"At the very first SIMAP workshop a few years ago, I remarked on the singular absence of the church in those discussions. I said then as I say now no other NGO exists that is in as close contact with the grassroots of our society, that is as familiar with the phenomenon of poverty in Guyana, as our churches. In the past, it was the church (and I use the term collectively) that identified the neediest persons in communities and came to their immediate assistance. It was the church that helped to find jobs for the unemployed, that ran programmes for women to increase their skills, that conducted community activities that kept the people together" (Lye, 1993).

Several limitations and weaknesses can be identified in the NGO sector in Guyana. The more important are highlighted below:

4. Social Impact Amelioration Programme (SIMAP)

Unlike the line ministries, SIMAP is not a specialised institution. It is a composite programme operating across large areas of poverty in Guyana. Functionally its activities may be classed as either infrastructural rehabilitation and construction or the provision of social services. Occasionally, both are combined in one location, if not in one project. The former covers a wide cross section: roads, schools, markets, health centres, sanitation, water supply, drainage and irrigation. The latter also covers a wide area: medical supplies, nutrition, food supplementation, education and training, as well as cash transfers to targeted groups such as low wage public service employees, mothers and children who visit health centres, NIS pensioners and so on.

As stated by its Executive Director, Mr. P. N. Chan (1993), since its inception in 1990 SIMAP has had two broad goals, namely damage limitation and the promotion of sustainable development for vulnerable groups and individuals. The former reflects its operation in the field of alleviating the present symptoms of poverty, while the latter refers its efforts to empower individuals, groups and communities to become self-providing.

At the time of its establishment it was intended that the agency would operate from the bottom up and be demand driven, reacting always quickly to the needs of the most vulnerable. Its focus would be on projects that would originate from local groups such as community organisations, NGOs, local governments, municipalities and regional administrations. The agency was conceived to be semi-autonomous in its operations. That is, it would operate at arms length from the government while serving as an outlet for external assistance arising from donor/government agreements from time to time. This structure, as well as the bypassing of the traditional line ministries, reflects the delicate state of donor-government relations at the time of its establishment.

The SIMAP agency was initially created as a transitional device, to accompany the structural adjustment programme. As Mr. Chan describes it:

"SIMAP is clearly recognised as being a short-term, social impact programme, the existence of which is premised upon the simultaneous implementation of a programme of structural adjustment. As a corollary, the need for a programme such as SIMAP would diminish once the adjustment is completed and economic conditions are stabilised."

As with other elements of the social safety net, certain critical limitations and weaknesses have been identified, and these are highlighted below.

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B. Programmatic Aspects of Poverty Alleviation

Several specific weaknesses in various poverty-oriented programmes also have been identified. Among these are:

1) The donor agencies' initial preferences for visible and tangible projects as a measure of progress may be responsible for the overemphasis on engineering and construction personnel in poverty programmes compared with community workers and participatory experts.

2) Donor agencies' prefer to utilise the private sector role in executing poverty programmes. Private contractors workers on projects are better paid than the local and central governments strapped with budgetary constraints, and this sometimes creates difficulties for projects run by the government.

3) Social and psychological factors have been under-emphasised, if not ignored in the various poverty programmes, resulting in "the coping strategies of the poor" being a missing dimension in devising strategies to reduce poverty. Also, the psycho-social dynamics of group-individual interaction with donors and within the community of beneficiaries were also under-emphasised.

4) The restricted access of certain communities to public advocates for their needs may have worked to their disadvantage in obtaining resources for poverty alleviation. Two examples are the Amerindian communities and the deprived urban areas.

5) Some community groups had become politicised because they interpreted this as helping their cause, even when this was not encouraged (and indeed may have been resisted) by national and local political organisations.

6) The irregularities of some NGO groups, which led to the restriction of duty and tax concessions, has hurt legitimate NGOs.

7) Poverty relief programs with a short fixed life span often created severe difficulties of adjustment for beneficiaries when they came to an end (e.g., SIMAP cash supplements).

8) Given the geography of the country and its population settlement patterns, it was to be anticipated that high overhead will be attached to poverty reduction programs.

9) Coordination among agencies has been poor, even within sectors where links should be strong.

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C. Palliative vs. Development Oriented Policies

Although there has been a widespread recognition in Guyana of the need for social safety nets, perhaps the most striking feature of poverty alleviation policies to date has been the complete lack of a policy framework oriented at incorporating the poor into the process of economic development. The need for the safety nets is very evident, in view of the seriousness of the poverty problem and the fact that there are many individuals and groups for whom the struggle to raise their standards of living will be long and arduous and perhaps even then will bear little fruit. Included in this category are the disabled, many pensioners, uneducated single mothers, Amerindian groups that live in the most remote locations, and others. Society is not fulfilling its most basic responsibilities if it cannot reach out to these persons and alleviate at least some of their distress.

Nevertheless, in the long run it is more effective for the individuals involved and less costly for the rest of society to assist as many of the poor as possible to place themselves on a path to development that they can sustain with their own efforts. As stated in Chapter 2 of this National Development Strategy, one of its principal objectives is not only to give the poor various forms of handouts, which are necessary beyond question in the present circumstance, but also to provide them with the means by which they themselves can improve their economic status over time. Only in this way can the poverty problem be truly solved.

Elements of a policy framework for this purpose are developed in sections V and VI of this chapter.

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III. Description of the Principal Issues and Constraints Facing the Sector

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A. Issues

1. A Development-oriented Poverty Alleviation Policy

As the immediately preceding discussion indicates, one of the principal issues in the area of poverty alleviation is the need to develop a comprehensive policy framework for poverty alleviation through incorporation of the poor into the process of economic development, and the nature of the policy measures that would be included in such a framework. Such a framework should embrace programmes such as the existing ones for alleviating the most pressing symptoms of poverty while at the same time setting forth policies that provide a long run cure for the underlying causes of the problem.

An effective policy framework will require clear definitions of target groups, policy measures at the sectoral and economy-wide levels, specifications of the roles of different institutions in society, and identification of the means to finance the measures.

While much of the content of a policy for poverty alleviation should be devoted to specific actions that directly assist needy groups, it is essential that the framework build on the fact that by a large margin the most effective way to reduce and eventually eliminate poverty is to promote rapid economic growth. Sustained rapid growth above expands employment opportunities substantially and raises real earnings levels. This has been demonstrated conclusively in East Asia and also in other countries such as Turkey, Cyprus, Jordan, Mauritius, Chile, Costa Rica and others. Rapid growth can be associated with reductions in both absolute and relative poverty. A 1980 study showed that after fifteen years of economic expansion at more than 9 percent per year, South Korea and Taiwan had eliminated poverty, including malnutrition, and in addition had achieved the most equal income distributions in the developing world.

These basic lessons notwithstanding, it must be recognised that there are different styles of growth, and it is important to encourage a channeling of the growth into the sectors that provide the most widespread benefits to the population, and this typically means the labour-intensive sectors, and to continue enhancing the quality of the social safety net for those who are not immediately benefitted by the development process, and for those who for structural reasons are unable to participate fully in that process (the disabled, the aged, etc.).

These topics are addressed in subsequent sections of this chapter.

2. A Redefined Role for the State

There has been a general acceptance of the fact that the effective pursuit of social reform and poverty alleviation is bound up with the question of the appropriate role of the State in the interest of making the poverty alleviation programmes as effective as possible. The main objectives of a redefined role for the State in this area would be:

a) Government leadership in promoting policies conducive to economic growth;

b) a leadership role by the Government in developing a national consensus on poverty alleviation policies;

c) a more effective and efficient delivery of social services by the Government;

d) a larger participatory role for civil society and a more articulated working relationship between the State and the various components of civil society for the implementation of major programmes;

e) the empowerment of civil society by transferring some of the State's responsibilities to it when it is appropriate, and

f) devotion by the State of appropriate levels of resources to social reform and poverty alleviation.

3. Targeting Poverty Alleviation Efforts

Given that resources available for any kind of programme always are limited by budgetary realities, the ability to truly assist the poor depends in large measure on effectively targeting the measures for poverty alleviation, on the groups that are the most needy. There are two dimensions to this question: more precise selection of the families and individuals that should receive designated social benefits, and changing generalised subsidies into targeted subsidies.

In the first case, improvements are required in the implementation of eligibility criteria for SIMAP projects, food assistance and other forms of public assistance. This prescription applies to communities as much as individuals; SIMAP projects should be located where they are most needed, not where they are easiest to implement.

In the second case, policy making and implementation should be informed by an appreciation of the fact that many interventions constitute generalised subsidies, conveying benefits to upper income strata as well as lower. In keeping with priorities for public expenditures, the cost savings realised by eliminating generalised subsidies can be applied to subsidies that are targeted on the groups requiring support. The generalised subsidies often are implicit but are pervasive, reaching to include a component of transport tariffs, hospital charges, educational fees (or lack thereof), water charges, and other fees for public services. For administrative reasons, it is not possible to convert all of these implicit subsidies into outlays or savings that apply only to the lower income groups, but some progress in this direction can be made once an awareness of the issue and its pervasiveness has developed.

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B. Identification of Constraints

1. Low Levels of Participation

For a series of historical reasons and circumstances, as well as the nature and characteristics of the socio-political process, until relatively recently Guyana has been characterised by a high degree of marginalisation of specific and large sectors of the population, and a resultant low level of civil society participation in the development process. While recent years have witnessed a gradual and significant growth in NGO and community participation in the socio-economic process, there is need for an intensification and deepening of this process, particularly in the area of poverty alleviation. Coherent measures would need to be taken to encourage and support the growth and development of local communities an the NGO sector through strategies of empowerment to ensure that they are direct and effective participants in the overall development process and, more particularly, in the area of poverty eradication.

The continued marginalisation of some key sectors of the population --women, the elderly, the hinterland communities, youths-- is manifested in certain aspects of their life circumstances that are serious constraints to their ability to emerge out of poverty. These include: (i) shortage of skills and resources; (ii) inadequate social investment funds, and (iii) the geographical and cultural distance of the hinterland communities.

2. The Issue of Gender Equality and Equity

Females represent more than 50 percent of the population, but from the available evidence, poverty appears to be a pervasive condition of this social group and, particularly, the large group of female-headed households. A set of socio-cultural and economic disabilities, plus inadequacies in the legal framework governing their insertion and participation in society, has thus exacerbated the historical marginalisation of women.

The economic crisis and the subsequent adjustment process sharpened the unequal and inequitable standing of the female section of the population. The persistence of this situation represents a severe constraint to economic and socio-political evolution as it means that the creative energies and contributions of a large popular sector are restricted. Additionally, frequently the disadvantages and worsening poverty that women face have generational consequences by way of the perpetuation of the poverty situation of their offspring.

3. The Special Situation of the Indigenous People

The indigenous people represent a significant ethnic group in Guyanese society, yet they are the group characterised by the highest incidence of pervasive poverty. Their situation derives from a historical pattern of exclusion, marginalisation and geographical isolation. Despite official, legal, and other institutional forms of redress in the modern period, their condition has remained generally unchanged. The depth of poverty and marginalisation of the indigenous people requires special policies, programmes and efforts to confront their worsening dilemma. Specific, targeted actions in land allocation, health care, education, drainage and irrigation, and general infrastructural development will need to be undertaken.

4. Funding for Poverty Alleviation

A constraint facing poverty alleviation efforts is the limitations on the availability of funding that could be devoted to this area. While increasing amounts of resources and state expenditure have been provided for the social sector in recent years, poverty alleviation will require still greater efforts in the future.

5. Limited Capacity of the Government

Another important constraint is the limited capacity of the Government to design and implement programmes in all fields. This constraint arises out of the low salary levels that inhibit hiring and retaining the most capable individuals, institutional weaknesses in the administrative area, and insufficient funding for both capital and current account expenditures.

6. Database and Poverty Measurement Methodologies

These areas have been substantial constraints to the elaboration of poverty eradication strategies. The statistical base for socio-economic performance is exceedingly limited and rudimentary, severely constraining an understanding of the phenomenon of poverty, the proper identification of target populations for the programmes, and the search for better ways to alleviate poverty. The proliferation of poverty measurement methodologies and the preference of particular institutions, both domestic and international, for a particular methodology, have merely served to confuse national capabilities to deal with poverty effectively.

At the same time, the recent internationally funded programmes to build up coherent databases for the social sector represent a good starting point in this regard. Greater efforts and resources will need to be devoted to these areas as an integral part of the overall poverty alleviation strategy. Moreover, the proposed UNDP-funded Sustainable Human Development Project will serve as a key initiative to deal with this constraint. This project will produce, among other outputs, a Human Development Report for Guyana. This document will present a snapshot of the social sectors in the country and the basic indicators of the poverty situation.

7. Attitudes Conditioned by Past Policies

Another constraint that affects the Government's ability to implement a comprehensive and fully targeted programme of poverty relief is the fact that the public has become conditioned to receiving various generalised subsidies, mainly in the form of rates for public services that are below the cost of providing those services (piped water, electricity, ferry services, health care, education, airport facilities, roads and bridges, sea defence, etc.). This perceived necessity constitutes a drain on the fiscal budget, thereby reducing the availability of government funds for the poor, and it leads to subsidies for the middle and upper income strata as well as the lower ones. As a general rule, expenditures for poverty alleviation are more effective if they take the form of direct income supplements (payment for work, food assistance, etc.) rather than reductions across the board in the tariffs for public services. Evidently, campaigns are needed to educate both the general public and decision makers on the importance of this issue.

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C. Origins of Constraints

The historical pattern of development/underdevelopment, the economic structures and organisation created and concretised in this context, and the historical-juridical regime of property rights, are major inherited reasons for these constraints. The inability of various governments in the modern period to break out of the process of severe and narrow economic specialisation, leaving the country's economy wholly undiversified and incapable of responding to the periodic crises that developed from primary commodity instability has also worked to constrain, substantially, both the development and the poverty alleviation processes.

The protracted and deep economic crisis that erupted in the late 1970s and that lasted throughout the 1980s, with severe and extensive negative consequences at the socio-economic level, intensified the historical pattern of low participation and exclusion of popular groups. The nature of the adjustment process introduced in the late 1980s and that, in the initial phase, created its own group of structurally poor, further worsening the constraining factors to the alleviation of poverty. Fortunately, this aspect of the problem has improved somewhat in recent years, but the historical legacy of poverty still is pronounced.

The persistent and inappropriate gender socialisation, as well as the inappropriate socialisation of youths in the society, has acted as a brake on the development process. In the case of the indigenous Amerindian people, to some extent they have been dispossessed and their right to occupy the forests and to utilise productively and safely the rivers has been subordinated to the national goal of economic growth by means of the exploitation of natural resources.

Also important in understanding poverty in Guyana is the unequal pattern of land ownership and distribution, and limited availability of credit for small farmers and producers generally. Both patterns were historically determined and have persisted into the modern period.

The collapse of the country's physical infrastructure, which seriously affected productive activities, and the substantial social sector decline that together resulted from was another unfortunate heritage of the protracted economic crisis.

The centralised pattern of governance, which limited the involvement of large sectors of the population in the policy and implementation processes, has meant that a large majority of the Guyanese people have not participated in the design of economic strategy nor are their interests at the top of the agenda of action. This National Development Strategy and its manner of development marks a historical reversal of that tendency.

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IV. Sectoral Objectives

The broad objectives of the National Development Strategy with respect to the sustainable reduction and alleviation of poverty are:

More specific supporting objectives are the following:

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V. Alternative Policies for Achieving Stated Objectives

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A. Review of "In-the-pipeline" Proposals and Strategies

This section directs attention to proposals already in the pipeline that will affect significantly future programmes for poverty alleviation. They are presented under three general headings: Government, donor agencies, and SIMAP.

1. Government

In 1995, $500 million was allocated, as a start to the targeted $1.2 billion that should be spent on "direct poverty alleviation programmes" over the next three years. These resources are to be utilised in the following ways:

- given to the local communities to improve living conditions;

- applied to a review of the role of public agencies like SIMAP and Basic Needs Trust Funds, to ensure a more efficient use of the limited resources available and to make them more responsive to the needs of people.

In this context the specific objectives of the Government strategy have been defined as:

- promoting the development of the latent skills and resources existing in the target areas;

- improving access to credit, production, management, and marketing methods and information;

- providing tools and materials to community-based groups in depressed areas;

- strengthening and expanding the social safety net for the very poor, who are unable or less able to benefit over the short term from our economic policies and reforms;

- target poor single parent families with children, the elderly, Amerindians in rural areas, agricultural and urban labourers, and pensioners.

The projects for 1995 included:

  1. Vocational training to improve the skills and productivity of the poor in Buxton, Den Amstel, Linden, Anna Regina, and Rosignol (particularly youths, single women and the unemployed and underemployed in areas including carpentry, mechanics, and electricians).
  2. Provision of tools, materials, and other support to community-based self-help projects in depressed areas.
  3. The provision of school uniforms and textbooks to needy children at the nursery and primary school levels.
  4. A national screening programme for first time entrants to schools for early detection of disabilities.
  5. The provision of medical examinations and attention, hospitalisation and spectacles to needy students.
  6. The provision of an education grant for needy students in community high and secondary schools.

g. An extension of the school feeding programme and construction of storage and other facilities to support this programme.

h. The provision of dietary supplements, i.e., vitamins, to school children in the nursery and early primary grades.

i. The provision of legal aid and transportation for disabled children and the aged.

j. A programme to address issues related to women, especially the provision of skills training to female headed households.

k. A programme to provide food supplements and medicines for babies, pregnant and lactating mothers.

This programme is expected to last over a three-year period, after which time a review will be undertaken to determine further Government action of this nature.

2. Donor Agencies

The proposals of the donor agencies place emphasis on health and education. The strategies of the key agencies in these two areas are summarised below:

  1. Health

The donor community is the major financing entity of planned health care investments, as well as supporter of health interventions for poverty alleviation programmes. The IADB Socioeconomic Mission Report (1994) identifies five priority areas of intervention.

In the view of the IADB, health promotion should be based on six articulated strategies, namely: promotion of health policy, reorienting health services, empowering communities to achieve well-being, creating supportive environments, developing personal health skills in the population and building up alliances for health among key stakeholders.

The BAMAKO Initiative is based on the partnership of the health centres and the communities that they serve. The community creates and controls its own revolving fund to secure inputs for the health centres and plays an influential role in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of community health programmes.

The World Bank accepts the Government's commitment to strengthen the health delivery system and its broad objectives in health. It stresses, however, that certain key measures must be put in place to achieve these results. There is, first, a need to clarify the role of the public sector in health and to find out what essential services the Government should reasonably aspire to provide. In this regard, it recommends a minimal package that incudes: vectors borne disease control, illnesses of young children and mothers, family planning and sexually transmitted diseases. The package is shown below in Table 17-5.

Second, it advocates that health care spending needs to be made far more efficient and equitable. In particular, the present regressivity in health care expenditure must be addressed, and cost-effective measures should be applied to public expenditure. A properly designed and administered system of user charges is also proposed. It advises too that the Government should start providing for a greater role for domestic resources in the financing of a health infrastructure over the medium to the long term.

Third, it recommends that the administrative system in the MOH and the regions should be speedily overhauled to strengthen their institutional capacities. This would require greater emphasis on training and more competitive wages and salary levels, along with improving conditions of service. Only in this way does it believe that the quality of health care could be substantially improved. Additionally, the supply and delivery of pharmaceuticals ought to be made more efficient.

Fourth, better health promotion is recognised as a clear necessity.

Fifth, associated improvements in nutrition programmes and other basic services like housing, water and sanitation have also been advanced.

Finally, several World Bank consultants have conducted studies of the primary health care project. One of these has made institutional recommendations for the MOH related to its organisation at the central and regional levels, its function within a framework of national planning, decentralisation using a systemic approach. It also presents the detailed operation of its main units such as its secretariat at the Ministry, chief functionaries, Regional Health Officers, and various directors of health programmes, standards and technical services, resources, and planning (Table 17-5).

Intergovernmental agencies such as WHO/PAHO, UNICEF and UNDP have been involved in the formulation of the health plan, nutrition programmes, and the plan of action for children. Their positions have been captured in the various documents already referred to, and so do not require separate presentation. However, technical inputs from staff and consultants within these agencies have been significant.

Some of these emphases also characterise the health policy guidelines laid out in this National Development Strategy; see Chapter 19.

Table 17-5

A Minimum National Essential Health Package
Cluster of Interventions Main disease conditions addressed
Public Health:

Expanded programme on immunisations

School health programme

AIDS prevention programme

Breast feeding and nutrition education

Vector-borne disease control

Measles, rubella, poliomyelitis, diphtheria, tetanus, whopping cough

Intestinal worms

Sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS

Malnutrition and infectious diseases, cardiovascular disease

Malaria, filaria


Management of the sick child

Prenatal and delivery care

Family planning

Treatment of sexually transmitted diseases

Diarrhoeal diseases, pneumonia and other respiratory infections, measles, and malnutrition

Perinatal mortality and morbidity, complications of pregnancy and delivery, low birth weight, unwanted pregnancies, and congenital syphilis and gonorrhea

Perinatal and infant mortality and maternal mortality and morbidity

AIDS, syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and other sexually transmitted diseases

Pain control, infection and minor trauma treatment, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory infections, sexually transmitted diseases, malaria,

Source: World Bank, 1994.

  1. Education

The key donors are also the principal financing entities of educational reform; their recommendations clearly form an important cluster of strategic interventions. Those for two key donor agencies are summarised below.

The IADB stresses the need to:

The World Bank Report (1994) argues that the focus of reform should be on improved access and quality of primary and secondary education. This will automatically increase literacy and numeracy all around, as well as improve the circumstances of the poor. It states that reform will take some time and suggests that the initial focus should be on improvements in five areas:

  1. Financial. This requires increased budgetary allocations from the government; more cost effective use of public resources in education; the introduction of cost recovery methods, and better coordination of donor support.
  2. Institutional. This requires the speedy finalisation of the Plan; an improvement in administration and management at the central level through paying better attention to training, pay and conditions of service; and better coordination in the delivery of educational services among the centre and the regions.
  3. Teacher quality. Improved pay and conditions of service are considered as essential if better qualified persons are to be attracted into teaching. However, this needs to be combined with training, especially the more effective use of in-service training.
  4. Textbooks and resource materials. These are required particularly for the poor so that better procurement and distribution of school supplies are essential. This is also identified as an attractive area for donor funding.
  5. The curriculum reform. The World Bank report also recognizes the widely felt need for curriculum reform considering the rapid changes globally, and the changing patterns of labour demand that have already emerged in Guyana's economic recovery.

Some of these orientations, and others as well, are found in the educational policies set out in Chapter 20 of this Strategy.


SIMAP's performance has recently been critiqued a lot. Among the more important of these documents are the World Bank "Strategies for Reducing Poverty," IDB's "Building Consensus for Economic and Social Reconstruction," studies by IDS and other experts and/or consultants and publications by the Agency itself. The studies attempt to examine the strength and weaknesses of the Agency and make recommendations for a more suitable designed and organised Agency to address the pressing problems of poverty alleviation and poverty reduction.

The initial weaknesses or shortcomings of the Agency could be accounted for by the difficulties and delays that the Agency encountered while getting itself established. SIMAP began with a US$2 million grant as a budgetary supplement, under SIMAP's name, to the Ministries of Health and Labour, for mothers and children, government pensioners, dependants of pensioners, and social assistance recipients. The SIMAP unit came in at the end of the duration of this grant to finalise the programme.

SIMAP has also received funding from several donors, including the EEC, Canada Fund, Futures Fund, South Korea, Germany, Australia, Italy, France, World Food Programme, and the United Nations Development Fund. Under the above funding a number of infrastructure, nutrition and training programmes were executed. These also helped to institutionally strengthen the Agency. (Several local banks and businesses also cooperate with and assist SIMAP.)

The SIMAP/IDB Technical Cooperation Grant is now completed. This was to a value of US$2.8 million for institutional strengthening and subprojects (US$1.9 million).

The SIMAP/WFP programme commenced in 1993. This programme is costed at US$5.2 million and should go over four years. Below are listed the activities that have been going on in this programme and some projections.

a. Multipurpose Agricultural and Community Development Programme

The Project is divided into three major sections: agricultural production, community development, and social support. The long term objectives are to develop agriculture and improve living conditions of the population through the rehabilitation of existing infrastructure, the expansion of employment and self-employment opportunities, and supplementary feeding.

The immediate objectives are:

Sub-project 1: Agricultural Production Support Beneficiaries 10,000

(a) to increase agricultural production through improved drainage, a stable irrigation water supply, and improved seeds; and

(b) to protect farmland and productive infrastructure from sea water intrusion, through the adequate maintenance and rehabilitation of sea wall defences and drainage/irrigation systems.

Sub-project 2: Community Development Beneficiaries 120,000

(a) to rehabilitate/upgrade community infrastructure facilities through self-help activities;

(b) to expand income-generating opportunities for community self-help groups, artisans and small-scale investors, NGOs, voluntary groups, with emphasis on women and young people; and

(c) to train unskilled workers, unemployed, school-leavers, and redundant workers in employment-generating activities.

Sub-project 3: Social Support Beneficiaries 10,800

(a) to increase coverage of on-site feeding schemes by NGOs;

(b) to enable hospitals and other social institutions to provide a better quality of service through provision of an adequate diet.

In the SIMAP/WFP Programme food aid is envisaged as:

- an income transfer to low paid Government workers;

- an incentive for undertaking self-help and community activities;

- dietary support to selected vulnerable groups;

- budgetary support for hospitals.

4. Second Phase SIMAP/IDB Programme

The Second Phase SIMAP/IDB Programme was signed in April 1994, and approval for disbursement was given in August of that year. Over 80 percent of the funds have been committed (US$13.5 million and US$1.5 million government counterpart funds).

It also has a technical vocational component and the following outputs are expected from this programme.

  1. Training 2,000 unemployed youths to a semi-skilled level in skills that are vital to the development of the country.
  2. To provide youths with skills with which they can gain employment or be admitted to further training.
  3. To provide a personnel pool from which the industries could fill their vacancies.
  4. To upgrade the technical vocational institutions so that they could provide more relevant courses in keeping with the demands of the industry.

After the first year the project will provide funding for 1,000 youths to acquire skills to make them employable. Five hundred of them would be outputs of the in-plant training process executed by the Board of Industrial Training. It is expected that 50 percent of that number would receive ready employment from their training, while about 30 percent would find employment elsewhere, including self-employment or admission for further training. On the average, the successful trainees should be able to receive an income of about $8,000 per month. While in training, each trainee would receive a stipend (travelling allowance) of $2,000 per month. This situation would repeat itself in the second year thereby producing a total of at least 1,600 semi-skilled persons who can gain employment.

The execution of the training project would pave the way for an additional 1,000 trainees annually, over the next ten years, who will be trained by the same methods once the programmes and equipment are sustained and maintained by the sponsors.

The institutions involved in the project are: BIT, GTI, GITC, NATI, CSHE, CPDD, GNS-S, GNS-O, and ARMS. These institutions would all be receiving equipment to improve their administrative departments and thus would be able to provide a better quality service to students.

Under the IDA/World Bank and the IDB programme, the Agency has been or was involved in the following works:

- construction of nursery schools;

- rehabilitation of: nursery, primary, and secondary schools; drainage and irrigation; roads; multipurpose halls, bridges, water supply, sanitation, health centres, day-care centres, and residential drainage.

These works last for an average of six months and the contractors are normally selected from the area. As a result, the work force is being chosen from the local area, creating jobs and increasing the income during the construction. With the completion of the rehabilitation, the beneficiaries are afforded improved education and health facilities, better drainage and irrigation for farming, improved residential drainage, pure water supply, and nutrition and medicine supplements. The rehabilitation of the residential drainage has reduced the health hazards in the environment.

5. Nutrition Programmes

Health centres:

Provision of 2 kg milk and 2 kg rice for:

- pregnant mothers

- lactating mothers

- children between 6 months and 23 months (milk only)

- malnourished children (6 months to 2 years)

Equipping the centres with both medical and non-medical supplies and provision of drugs and medicines.

Health education:

These projects are attracting beneficiaries back to the health centres. With the increase in attendance at the various clinic sessions, the beneficiaries are being taught healthy habits. Health checks are being done and immunisations are being carried out. Community participation is welcome.

6. Day care

The day care centres are being equipped. They target the pre-nursery school age group and provide daily nutritious meals. All beneficiaries must be registered at a health centre, and regular health checks are being done (Caribbean growth charts are being used). In this way children who need special attention are being screened. The hot meals supplied are based on menus provided by GAHEF to improve the nutritional status of the children.

Projects under SIMAP, excluding those from SIMAP/WFP which are either completed, in execution, or about to be executed are listed in Table 17-6.

Table 17-6

SIMAP Projects
Project Number Cost
Nursery schools
Primary schools
Secondary schools 15 340M
Roads 30 342M
Markets 6 40M
Drainage and irrigation 27 230M
Water and sanitation 25 250M
Basic sanitation 22 31M
Residential drainage 19 165M
Multi-purpose halls 10 100M
Shelters 9 71M
Health centres 67 900M
Day care centres 13 71M
Amerindian pilot projects 20 30M
Quick response projects 175 35M

Note: SIMAP/WFP projects are not included.

Targeting of SIMAP activities is in an improved state, so the Agency envisages that over the next two to three years its multi-faceted approach would be far more effective.

The Agency, while taking advantage of the SIMAP/WFP programme to strengthen community involvement and so sustainable development and environmental protection, still hopes for continuing to strengthen the community participation under future programmes. Both the IDA/ World Bank and the IDB have indicated willingness to consider new programmes that are more community oriented.

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B. Lessons from International Experience

The accumulated international experience with poverty reduction programmes has been synthesised recently by the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.(4) Some of the more pertinent of those lessons can be usefully summarised as follows:

To lower levels of poverty dramatically within a generation, it is essential to adopt policies that:

i) foster rapid growth and enduring growth without bias against the ample availability of unskilled labour as a factor production (a path of "poverty-efficient growth")

ii) improve basic health and nutrition; and

iii) provide effective basic education for the children of the poor.

These policies are attractive to countries in the Latin American and Caribbean region because:

i) they are largely affordable in terms of government budgets;

ii) each is effective against a broad spectrum of causes of poverty;

iii) they are mutually reinforcing;

iv) they do not necessarily entail a significant redistribution of either assets or income away from major economic groups.

For poverty reduction strategies to be effective and sustainable, they must reflect a systematic understanding of the perceptions of the poor. A useful tool for developing such an understanding is the participatory poverty assessment (PPA), which bridges the gap between policy makers and the poor and also assists programme beneficiaries to accumulate and assess information about themselves and their milieu that is central to their own development planning.

In designing and evaluating projects for poverty alleviation, the World Bank cautions, "Although there are many complementarities between economic efficiency and poverty reduction, tradeoffs inevitably arise in choosing among alternative activities, particularly in the short run . . . . the Bank generally recommends selection of the activity with the highest economic return. Departures from this rule should be transparently justified in terms of (a) reducing poverty, providing a safety net, or meeting another social goal, such as women in development, and (b) accomplishing these goals at least cost . . . . greater operational attention should be paid to identifying projects and project designs that both benefit the poor and have high returns."

The World Bank further recommends that:

"In evaluating the impact of policies, programs and projects on poverty, it is essential to build into the analysis behavioral models of poor men and women and those who interact with them - such as their better-off neighbors, potential employers, providers of credit, landowners, and government officials - to ensure that the projected outcomes are realistic.

In conclusion, the World Bank recommends that policies for poverty alleviation focus on two areas:

i) Policies affecting economic growth and the demand for labour. These combine trade policies, regulatory and pricing policies and financial policies aimed at promoting internal and external balances.

ii) Policies affecting the accumulation and sustainability of assets. These combine policies in four key areas: human resources, access to credit, access to land, and the environment.

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VI. Policy Recommendations and Their Technical Justifications

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A. General Policy Priorities

Lessons from experience in Guyana and elsewhere show that there is a high degree of consensus about the general priorities in policies for poverty alleviation. Such priorities flow logically from the origins and state of poverty in Guyana and the constraints that have been identified. These general priorities can be classed into four broad areas:

i) Measures to promote rapid and sustainable growth in as labour-intensive a fashion as possible.

ii) Measures to increase the productivity of the poor.

iii) Reform of the institutional structure and operating procedures of social safety nets, to better target them and to make them more efficient.

iv) Policy reforms to replace generalised subsidies with ones that are targeted on the poor.

Increasing the productivity of the poor in turn has four further priorities:

i) Expanding opportunities of employment and self-employment

ii) Improvements in small-scale farming

iii) Promotion of micro-enterprise development

iv) Educational reform (non-formal, informal and TVET)

1. Poverty Reduction through Economic Growth

The importance of sustained rapid growth for poverty alleviation has been pointed out in earlier sections of this document. Above all, this requires appropriate macroeconomic policies, including fiscal balance (to promote the stability which in turn will promote investment) and favourable exchange rate policies (to promote exports and import substituting industries).

Additionally, it is important that the growth be as labour-intensive as possible, so that maximal employment gains are registered and the benefits of growth are spread as widely as possible through the population. Attaining this kind of growth requires avoidance of regulations that unduly increase the cost of labour, such as extensive holiday provisions and expensive severance pay requirements. Although such measures would seem to benefit labour in the short run, they discourage new hiring, thus discriminating against the unemployed, who generally figure among the very poor, and they reduce the flexibility required of the labour force in a rapidly growing economy. Growth itself will lead to substantial increases in real wage benefits, in line with productivity increases, and will diminish the pool of the unemployed.

Attaining labour-intensive growth also means avoidance of excessive concessions to capital. Clearly, capital investment is urgently needed, but to complement Guyana's labour resources, not to substitute for them. Hence it is important to adopt standard international fiscal treatments of capital investments, and not go to the point where capital implicitly is receiving substantial subsidies through foregone fiscal revenues.

Another priority of this Strategy that will help reduce poverty in an important way is the proposed export processing zone, which will be very important in creating new employment. This is a special case for fiscal concessions which has many precedents internationally.

Above all, it is essential to not allow the exchange rate to creep into an overvalued state, for that would greatly hinder the expansion of exports of all types, including rice to non-quota markets, non-traditional agricultural exports, wood products, fisheries products, and the light manufactures that would be produced in an export-processing zone, among other products. Exports are generally the most labour-intensive products in a developing country, and in Guyana's case they should become increasingly labour-intensive in the future.

2. Increasing the productivity of the poor

Creation of more jobs, including self-employment opportunities, is probably the most effective way of reducing poverty. As employment increases, real wage rates also will rise. For this to occur in an adequate scale, appropriate macroeconomic and sectoral policies are needed. Labour requires better education and training to increase its productivity from the supply side, the labour market requires improvement, and policies are required to increase the other assets of the poor, including land and access to working capital. Sectoral policies are required that promote these and related developments.

(a) The labour market.

Policies and actions is this area, including better training services and improved labour market information, are set out in Chapter 35.

(b) Small scale agriculture.

The IICA/IFAD survey cited earlier in this chapter has found that the majority of farmers in Guyana have less than 10 acres of land, and that the average farm size for that group is 2 acres. With few exceptions, this amount of land is insufficient to permit the farm family to rise above the poverty level. Therefore it is urgent to focus land policy on improving these families' access to land. Accelerating the freehold titling process for small farms, and making leases freely transferable (as enunciated in Chapter 29) will give small farmers collateral that can be used to improve their access to credit. New lands made available through land development projects should be largely allocated to poor rural families in plots of 10 acres. In addition, state lands currently held in leases in excess of 30 acres should, upon expiration of the lease, be subdivided into farm of ten acres and freehold title provided to poor families at below-market prices for the land. These measures will help provide low-income households with the means to improve their lot in life through their own efforts.

Complementary measures that are required include improvement of water management systems and assisting farmers to form private cooperatives for the purpose of jointly obtaining agricultural inputs and jointly marketing their products. These steps will help reduce the great economic distance between the small farmer, on the one hand, and input and output markets, on the other, thereby better integrating him or her into the development process.

(c) Microenterprises.

The micro and small enterprises are one of the best sources of employment in any economy. A closer look to this sector reveals that:

Following from the above, three major policy initiatives are incorporated in this Strategy. One is undertaking and/or updating surveys from which policy makers and activists in this sector would establish:

Secondly, there is need to cater for the provision of "extension services" to this sector, as well as the systematic involvement of development NGOs in its functioning, since the very informal, under-institutionalised and highly variable character of microenterprises seem to make them particularly well suited for involvement with the bottom-up organising principles of NGOs.

Thirdly, the commendable initiatives of IPED and Scotia Bank in lending to microenterprises should be reviewed with an eye to identifying ways in which those initiatives can be expanded. Also, demonstrations of the modes of lending to informal mutual credit associations are needed, following upon the example of the Peoples Benefit Schemes instituted by the First National Bank in South Africa (see Chapter 22).

(d) Education: non-formal, informal, and TVET

The crucial role which education and human resource development generally can play in an attack on poverty has been widely acknowledged. The specific aspect which is treated here is the role of non-formal and informal institutions in this process. This has been somewhat overlooked, but these institutions have a strong complementary role to play, along with the formal structures, in any sustainable effort to decrease poverty. Non-formal education in Guyana is a vital link between human resource development and socio-economic reform, because it provides:

Informal training covers "on-the-job" training and training in indigenous skills and handicrafts, among other things.

There are at least seventeen major categories of institutions which provide technical and vocational education and training (TVET) in one form or another in Guyana. While several of these are in the non-formal sector, TVET can be found in all the main sectors and at all levels of education after the primary level. Despite this large number, the system exhibits many imitations and weaknesses. It is complex, if not complicated, overlapping and uncoordinated. There is no standardisation of certification, course content, entry requirements, trainers qualification, or even length of training. Furthermore, it is still perceived as low status education offered to those not bright enough to follow the mainstream academic programmes of the formal system. This is frequently combined with a strong gender bias against women pursuing certain "male" areas of technical skills.

A closer assessment, however, shows that institutions providing these types of education have many unrecognised advantages:

Based on the diagnosis given above, this Strategy calls for the establishment of regional and national facilities to support all forms of TVET, both industrial and in-plant. This recommendation has been made before, but not enough has been done. These facilities should not be overly bureaucratic but should bring together the major stakeholders: government, business, NGOs, labour, farmers, and regional and international bodies. Its objectives should be to secure:

(e) Improving the social safety nets

Based on the survey of the current social situation already presented, and recognising that resources are not available for addressing all the problems of all the groups immediately, the priorities for the social safety nets are identified as:

A number of urgent improvements to the operations of the social safety nets have already been made but there still is a need:

This Strategy calls for the formation of a special commission, attached to the Office of the President and composed of members of the public sector, the business community, and the NGO community, with the mandate to review all components of the social safety nets (including the NIS), and formulate specific recommendations for their improvement.

For the NIS the basic recommendations are:

Equally important, the time has arrived to begin the introduction of a system of private pension plans, following their demonstrated success throughout the region. Countries as distant as Latvia have adopted them. They provide better economic security for pensioners and have very salutary effects on national savings rates. It is suggested that such plans be introduced gradually, on a sector-by-sector basis, so that the approach can be monitored and refined on the basis of experience. It is important in the initial stages to allow workers to have flexibility on a year-to-year basis in the amounts of their salaries contributed to the pension schemes, mandating only the minimums (say 5 percent) and the maximums (say 15 percent). The recent success of the Guyanese economy in reviving growth and reducing inflation rates provides the essential macroeconomic conditions that enable privately funded pension plans to thrive.

For the NGOs, the policies are:

For SIMAP the fundamental needs are:

- A better balance between its physical rehabilitation and construction activities and its more directly economic and social ones.

- A clearer application of an integrated approach to development, which is at the heart of its objectives.

- A considerably improved disbursement rate which is directly linked to both its operational procedures and staff availabilities.

- Closer consultations with the poor in the design of its activities.

- Better targeting of its activities on the most needed.

In conclusion, this Strategy calls for the creation of a Social Policy Unit as exists in Jamaica, or the establishment of a Social Partners Human Services Authority (SPHSA) as recommended in the IADB Report of December 1994. The initial mandate for such a unit would derive from the above-mentioned Presidential Commission on Poverty Alleviation. Over the longer term this will be an effective way to complement and further the variety of measures recommended. One distinct advantage of the latter institution is its emphasis on consensual and non-partisan operations in its design. In both cases the independent and autonomous operation of the agency is treated as a sine qua non, as does too their emphasis on beneficiary involvement and routine data gathering designed to improve targeting of poverty reduction measures.

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B. Sectoral Policy Priorities

1. Amerindian/Hinterland Issues

Guyanese Amerindians are estimated to number 48,859 persons, comprising 6.81 percent of the national population of 717,458 persons. They rank as the fourth largest ethnic group, after the East Indian (49.49 percent), African (35.63 percent) and mixed Guyanese (7.05 percent) ethnic groups.(5)

In comparison with the other ethnic groups, a larger proportion of Amerindians are classified as poor in the most recent census data available. Approximately 85 percent of the Amerindian population falls below the poverty line (Dr. C. Y. Thomas, IDB Repot, 1994). According to the 1993 House Income and Expenditure Survey, there are only 2,981 Amerindians above the age of 55 years.(6)

On the face of it, given their comparatively small number, reversing the poverty status of Amerindians would seem a manageable task. In fact, however, Amerindian/hinterland poverty is a complex mix of issues, given the dispersed settlement pattern, the difficult terrain, the high cost of administration of interior projects, the lack of human resource skills both in the Amerindian and in the wider population, the lack of an effective lobby, etc.

The other -- less easily definable -- aspect of the problem results from the markedly egalitarian ethos that defines Amerindian social organisation, which is now being transformed in a number of ways. Until very recently, most Amerindian communities were essentially lacking hierarchical distinctions. Few villagers worked outside the community and those who did generally earned modest wages in timber grants or in other manual jobs. However, beginning in the early 1980s, the expansion of the gold and diamond mining industries attracted many Amerindian males. Some who worked on their own struck gold, while others who hired out their labour on medium or large scale mining operations were able to earn considerable amounts of cash in relatively short periods. Mining fever extended beyond the mineral-rich areas to attract Amerindian males from all parts of Guyana. The scale of Amerindian involvement in mining is a contributory factor to the changing dynamics of village life where the younger people often measure status by the possession of consumer goods and there is a gradual de-emphasising of subsistence agriculture.

Concomitant with this expansion of the domestic economy into the national system have been the increasing contacts with national and international NGOs. Traditional mature male leaders of many settlements now often find themselves inadvertently sidelined as NGOs seek out working relationships with non-traditional members of "civil society" --women, the disabled, the literate younger generation. The increasing prominence given to gender and related issues tend to create new openings for the involvement of women and youths in projects, training opportunities, etc.

These processes have tended to overwhelm many communities, non-Amerindian as well as Amerindian. Traditional leaders, who often have had little formal schooling, have felt displaced by their womenfolk or by younger community members more versed in dealing with the majority society. In practice, these new tensions are often expressed in a generalised distrust of all community members who emerge as non-traditional leaders or potential project carriers. As villagers increasingly move away from traditional life style patterns, and as wage earning and post-primary education and NGO group formation move these societies beyond subsistence activities into new social formations, the stresses and strains can cause disruption within the fabric of village life. Intra-community factions have affected the viability of many communal projects and need to be factored into any poverty alleviation programme.

These and other factors are taken into account in the development of the Amerindian Policies in this National Development Strategy. From a standpoint of poverty alleviation as well as other priorities, it is urgent that those policies be implemented fully.

2. Women and Gender Issues

Poverty is a pervasive phenomenon that significantly affects women's lives even more than men's, in spite of women's generally higher achievements in school. It limits their capacity as individuals to develop psychologically, economically, socially, and politically. It also changes the degree to which women can fulfill their roles as reproducers, producers, and community participants.

a. Female household headship cuts across ethnicity, class, and geographical location. It arises from different circumstances including death of partner, migration and choice. Therefore, it is not an appropriate unitary indicator of poverty. However, when combined with other factors, female household headship does give some indication of state of poverty, making it evident that, where they are poor, female heads of households are among the poorest of the poor. According to the IICA/IFAD study (1994), the female headed families with young children, and those with other family members as well as extended families, endured the greatest degree of critical and moderate poverty in each category.

b. Poor women experience low self-esteem that restricts their capacity to move out of a state of poverty. Low self-esteem results from circumstances in which people find themselves, that can be occasioned by their family situation (including socialisation), educational status, and employment status. It is also related to the conception of poverty held by the poor.

c. Formal education has proven unattractive and inappropriate for many young people, with an increasing number of males opting out of the formal education system and/or achieving at a lower level than girls. The poor are more vulnerable in this area since they are ill-equipped to support themselves and their families. Education, life skills, and technical and vocational topics could be more appropriate for many poor individuals, independently of gender.

d. Formal employment opportunities often provide lower wages and status to women than to men, regardless of their relative qualifications. Consequently, many women turn to the informal sector for supplementing their income. Women have difficulty accessing credit to engage more efficiently in informal sector self-employment.

e. Gender relations which are based on power between women and men, more often the exercise of power over women by men, results in inequality in many respects. Because of their position, many women become victims of violence, in the workplace, in the home, and in the society at large.

f. Health risks to women and children are augmented among the poor. The high incidence of low birth weight babies, malnutrition and anaemia among pregnant women are indicators that need to be monitored.

Gender has become an indispensable word in discussions of economic development. Most major international organisations have special units devoted to women's issues. Many of these have generated studies showing that investments in women yield high returns in productivity, child health, and family welfare. Still, discussions of gender have usually been compartmentalised, with little impact on broader studies of development. "Engendering" economics - examining the role that gender plays in economic life - could lead to a better understanding of the role that social institutions play in development.

New policy directions for gender-related issues are described in Chapter 21 and their implementation needs to be monitored closely.

3. NGO Issues

a. The noted resurgence and increase in NGO activity in Guyana has occurred almost simultaneously with fundamental reforms of economic policy and the initiation of Guyana's structural adjustment programme. NGO activities cover a wide spectrum and undoubtedly target the poor for the most part. However, the impact of these activities has not been analysed, especially with respect to the question of poverty alleviation and reduction.

An appraisal of NGO strategies and interventions to date regarding alleviation and reduction of poverty is necessary in determining the future role and contribution to this sector.

b. Three of the major determinants of NGO programmes and projects have been the conditions set forth by donor agencies, the degree to which data are available on particular problems and issues, and the accessibility of target populations. The fact that there is a greater concentration of NGOs in coastal communities is partly a reflection of these factors. The presence of NGOs and their related activities have only recently become more evident in hinterland and interior locations. Despite this breakthrough, it is uncertain whether the "poorest of the poor" are the principal participants or beneficiaries.

Donor agencies and NGOs should have greater access to and contribute to the generation of data relating to the characteristics or rural and interior populations in particular, and their needs, so as better to help in determining their target groups, objectives, and plans.

Guidelines for the collection of data should be prepared to facilitate comparability of all data generated. Umbrella NGO organisations should manage data banks on projects, programmes and characteristics of target groups.

Mechanisms should be devised to enable the poor to participate in the characterisations of their situation. These could include NGO-community collaboration in the determination of needs and definition of development activities, via PPAs and other mechanisms.

c. Previous calls and attempts to form an umbrella organisation for NGOs have been unsuccessful. As NGO activities increase and the energies and resources of many communities become enmeshed in the flurry of NGO activities, the creation of a body to simplify effective coordination of NGOs becomes more urgent.

The goal of an umbrella NGO organisation, or one per area of concentration, should be pursued vigorously. Additionally, some regions could benefit from regional NGO organisations. The formation of several NGO groups in categories such as environment, youth, community groups, etc., should be viewed as a necessary step in this direction.

d. NGOs have been required to spend an inordinate amount of time in trying to register legally. As a result of the cumbersome procedure of registering under obscure categories, many NGOs are not registered. This, in turn, acts as a constraint for NGOs that want access to funds for specific types of projects.

NGO legislation should be crafted in an effort to redress this situation. This should stipulate clearly the categories and scope of NGOs and give them a firm legal basis.

e. The proliferation of international and local NGOs focusing on community development activities at times has led to implementation of several projects in a given community. The risk of non-compatibility of initiatives or the introduction of conflicts is increased, as is the risk of reduced chances of positive impact on the community.

Community/specific target groups should develop plans that would enable them to select which projects or initiatives of the NGOs would be accepted for implementation, and the NGOs should coordinate in the development and implementation.

f. Donor agencies and NGOs/community-based groups have been vigorous in collaborating on programmes and projects that focus on improving social services and basic infrastructures. In the context of poverty, this fulfills a recognizable need. However, the sustainability of projects and community participation apparently revolves around the more basic need of developing human resources.

NGO-assisted development activities should embrace the policy of human resource development as an aspect of an integrated approach to improving conditions and circumstances in impoverished communities.

NGOs should also focus on shifting ownership of the development activities from themselves to the poor.

g. The World Bank Report on Guyana, "Strategies for Reducing Poverty," highlights several relevant points in the following paragraph:

"As the poverty profile shows, policies that create opportunities for the self-employed, labourers, youths just entering labour force, and women in the home will help to reduce poverty. Programmes targeted to the poorest - the Amerindian population, subsistence farmers in rural areas, agricultural labourers, pensioners, public servants at the bottom end of the scale, and urban wage labourers in a variety of occupations - are equally critical to improving living standards in the country."

NGOs have begun to activate and mobilise communities to focus on several areas identified above and a few have also promoted advocacy on certain issues.

NGO responses should continue to be directed to fulfilling such needs as have been identified above, at the same time as they better identify the most needy target groups. Equally, greater emphasis should be placed on income generation and employment opportunities especially for youth and women. Niche markets for products should be identified and advocacy on such issues as the equality of women, disability, land tenure, and the environment, should remain integral to the policies of NGOs.

4. Decentralisation, Participation and Empowerment

The new evolving paradigm of sustainable human development has placed the core concepts of decentralisation, participation and empowerment at the centre of an inclusionary approach to the development process. A poverty alleviation strategy should be pursued on the basis of these principles of action. While each of these dynamic concepts has its own substantive meaning and content, they are inter-linked processes that seek to draw in the largest possible number of participants in sustainable human development.

The evolving consensus specifies that top-down, highly centralised approaches, and the lack of direct, active involvement of essentially marginalised groups that are invariably the majority of individual national populations, are ultimately dysfunctional to a balanced, sustainable, and equitable development. As for poverty alleviation, it calls for a strategy that requires the endorsement of the intended beneficiaries, their involvement in the elaboration, implementation, and monitoring of poverty projects. To this end, it determines an approach that stresses decentralisation, participation, and empowerment.

The policy of participatory development will be a foundation of the poverty alleviation strategy. The aim is to enlist NGOs and community-based and grassroots organisations in the effort to strengthen self-reliance at the community level.

a. Decentralisation

The necessity for decentralisation responds to the exclusionary top-down approach that characterises centralised structures and patterns of the elaboration, implementation, and monitoring of sustainable development projects and programmes. In Guyana, in spite of a regional administration system, centralised structures at both central and regional government levels are in fact the norm. Moreover, until very recently, the NGO sector was very small and community organisation limited, further constraining local community-based participation and involvement.

The policy of decentralisation thus aims to place municipal and local administrations increasingly at the centre of sustainable human development initiatives and efforts. On another level, it seeks to ensure that programme and project identification and the implementation and monitoring processes are carried out in close collaboration with the identifiable direct beneficiaries of such activities. In other words, it involves the transference of responsibility and control to local beneficiaries, empowering them in the process. It requires that this transfer of responsibility be matched by a transfer of the requisite financial resources to readily and effectively carry out such responsibilities. This policy also requires that the legal procedures and operating methods be structured in accordance with a decentralised approach and that the requisite training at local, regional, and central levels be undertaken to equip all those involved to fulfill their roles effectively.

It also signifies that the discharge of the provision of core social services, particularly in the areas of education and health, should devolve to local and community institutions.

b. Participation

The central logic of sustainable human development rests on inclusive participation as the primary means to ensure that all members of society are given access to economic opportunities, material resources, and the requisite capacities to benefit equitably from the development process. It seeks to reduce the level of exclusion of the poorest sections by working to integrate them into the productive sectors and to open access to social services and transfers.

Its fundamental argument is that the eradication of poverty entails the active and direct involvement of all sections of society and mobilisation of the full gamut of civil society interests regarding decision making, preparation of project proposals, administration and monitoring of projects, and the dissemination of information. It aims to ensure the sustainability of efforts and that advantage is taken of traditional practices and indigenous technologies, where appropriate, even as it strengthens community consciousness and cohesiveness and reinforces the inclusive approach to democratic governance.

The process of participation could be viewed at two basic levels: the intended beneficiaries and the institutional stakeholders, e.g., government and civil society, whose cooperation is also vital to the success of poverty alleviation strategies. At the first level, the active involvement of the intended beneficiaries results in giving to the poor a substantive say in the process, ensuring that their views and concerns are adequately incorporated in the poverty alleviation strategy. The sustainable human development approach starts off from the necessity for grassroots participation in programmes intended for their benefit and funded by the international development organisations.

Participation was a key principle and recurrent commitment of the World Summit for Social Development, embracing the concept as a general approach and as related to specific sectors and groups, e.g., women, indigenous people.

c. Empowerment

Empowerment is basically the flip side of the coin of participation. Participation empowers, even as empowerment reinforces participation. The empowerment of people and the creation of an enabling environment through sound government in partnership with civil society are two crucial aspects of sustainable human development.

This fundamental concern in empowerment strategies is to address those factors that constrain the capacity of people generally, but the poor specifically to pursue their aspirations, to exercise their rights and to engage in gainful productive activities. The specific means of empowerment include:

a. involvement in decision making, at both the conception and implementation stages;

b. capacity building of both individuals and organisations;

c. the provision of material resources, including financial, to communities;

d. endowing the poor with greater assets, as in land for small farmers and demarcation of lands for Amerindian communities;

e. developing mechanisms to provide the poor with greater access to credit, as discussed above, and production technologies and input and output markets. Private cooperatives have worked very well for these purposes in other countries and have been underexploited to date in Guyana.

f. provision of access for the poor to the range of social benefits.

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VII. Recommended Legislative Changes

The changes to the legislative framework recommended as result of the foregoing analysis can be divided into the following six general headings:

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A. Information Management and Reporting

This refers to the institutionalisation of LSMS surveys and annual reporting on the state of poverty in Guyana. It also serves to fulfil the country's obligations flowing from the World Summit (e.g., the 20/20 pact) and the annual reporting for the UNDP Human Development Index.

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B. Social Safety Nets

1. Legislative review of the National Insurance System, improving its actuarial basis and its administrative effectiveness, improving its performance in the health care area.

2. Creation of the legal basis for privately-funded pension plans.

3. Guaranteeing the legal status of NGOs.

4. Creation of a Social Policy Unit or Social Partners Human Service Authority.

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C. Labour and Training (see Chapter 35)

1. Reorganisation of TVET, including the establishment of a national standard classification system.

2. Implementation of ILO Conventions and Labour Code.

3. Establishment of a labour market information system.

4. Reorganisation of the public service, especially as regards its terms and conditions of employment.

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D. Small Scale Agriculture

1. A programme of wider and affordable access to land for poor rural families.

2. Legal structure for the development of more efficient land markets, covering all forms of tenure, commercial transactions, and accessing of credit. See Chapter 29.

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E. Vulnerable Groups

1. Modernisation of laws governing land and other property rights of Amerindian communities, especially with regard to the allocation of partial royalty payments to an Amerindian Development Fund (Chapter 22).

2. Removal of all legal impediments against women, particularly as it affects their employment, property rights, an exposure to abuses within the household, whether mental, physical, or financial.

3. National legislation for the disabled.

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F. Microenterprises

1. Reform the Companies Act to simplify the requirements for start-up of small businesses.

2. Expand the financial support of GNCB to small enterprises.

1. Guyana: Strategies for Reducing Poverty, Country Department III, Country Operations Division 2, Latin America and the Caribbean Region, World Bank, Washington, D. C., May 6, 1994.

2. "The minimum wage was valued at just over US$1.00 per day in 1989, compared with US$2.89 in 1980."

3. For this purpose, four kinds of basic needs were defined in the survey: housing, water supply, sanitation and waste disposal, and access to electricity.

4. See Finance and Development, December, 1994 ; the World Bank's Poverty Reduction Handbook, 1993; and Inter-American Development Bank, Development Policy, March, 1995.

5. Table 1, Region-wide distribution of population by ethnic group of head of household, in Household Income and Expenditure Survey, Statistical Bureau, 1993, p. 95.

6. Table 1.1, Estimated number of persons classified by ethnic group of head of household, age, and sex, in Household Income and Expenditure Survey, Statistical Bureau, 1993.

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