Continuity and Change in Guyanese Underdevelopment


  • Jay R. Mandle





Recently in Guyana the government took over the assets of Booker McConnell and Company, Ltd. In Guyanese history, the importance of this development can scarcely be exaggerated. For it was Bookers which owned or controlled the plantations upon which Guyana's monocultural economy rested. With Bookers nationalized, expatriate financial interests have been reduced to virtual insignificance in Guyana. Only branch banks will represent substantial foreign investment in the country, and even these have been "miniaturized." Before moving to sugar, the government of L.F.S. Burnham had already nationalized the American—and Canadian-owned bauxite interests in the country; it had taken over responsibility for imports and a section of the distributive trades; most of the vehicles of communication in the country were owned by the government. Finally, the government had declared that the country was a cooperative socialist republic in which the goal was to make "the small man a real man." But, despite all of this, the authenticity of the government's claim to radicalism stood in doubt until it addressed itself to sugar and Bookers. The factors which lie behind the importance of sugar and the dynamic which finally moved the government to take over sugar represent the focus of this article.