Colonial governments asserted sovereignty and property rights gradually over the territory of Guyana, disregarding preexisting Indigenous Rights. Although a Forest Department modeled on the Indian Forest Service was established, there was no equivalent settlement process to determine the rights of forest peoples. State Forest area is declared by administrative fiat. These two elements have enabled State-endorsed forestland grabbing. Logging was scattered and selective until the early 1980s. A neoliberal economic program from the 1980s has allowed Asian companies to gain control over at least 80% of large-scale forestry concessions, equivalent to one-third of the 15.8 million hectares (Mha) of State-administered public forests. The relative success of the Asian companies can be understood in terms of available capital, willingness to invest, knowledge of markets, and willingness to corrupt. The relative failure of the preexisting Guyanese-owned businesses can be understood in terms of lack of capital, inability to save and unwillingness to invest, lack of knowledge of marketing, and lack of cooperation within the sector. Some conclusions from the Guyana story are relevant to other countries related to resource-hungry transnational enterprises.
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