French Guiana Political Reviews
As a Europe’s answer to the Wild West, this French enclave in the Amazon offers a haven for adventurous and nature lovers. At the same time, the connection with France is firmly rooted, both culturally, economically and politically.
Compared to the many French overseas territories around the world, French Guiana is in a unique position. The ministry is part of South America and is in fact the only remaining land area on the South American continent that is not an independent state. With an area of 83,864 square kilometers (16 percent of France’s total land area), location in the Amazon (94 percent tropical rainforest) and significant cultural diversity, the country is therefore a unique enclave in both the regional and European context.
Society on intravenous
As a French Ministry and an EU outpost, French Guiana receives annual grants that help maintain an artificially high standard of living for a minority of the population. The subsidies allow the coastal region, which houses 90 percent of the population, to boast an economy and infrastructure in line with many European countries. At the same time, the long-lasting flow of funds from France and the EU has for decades created a dependency relationship and helped create the sense of self-reliance and detail management from Paris that many French Guyanese experience.
One consequence of this is increasing crime and social unrest, which is also linked to widespread poverty among the majority of the population. 25 percent of the population lives below the poverty line according to the French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Analysis (INSEE), and the country has sustained high unemployment of over 20 percent, high cost of living (20 percent across France), and major social inequalities. For example, government officials and posted on temporary assignments earn more than 40 percent more than local employees with similar expertise. The poverty problem is compounded by a steadily dwindling average age (43 percent of the population is under the age of 20, according to INSEE), sustained high population growth of around 3 percent, disintegration of traditional family values (over 85 percent of children being born out of wedlock), and large uncontrolled immigration from poorer neighboring countries such as Brazil, Surinam, Guyana and Haiti.
Despite the social problems, only a minority of the population wants independence from France. This was confirmed in 2010 when a proposal for partial self-government was rejected by referendum. On the other hand, it was decided that French Guiana should change the status of “ministry” and “region” to a single administrative area (“collectivité unique”) with a unique regional parliament. This change, which will take effect in December 2015, will simplify local governance of the country, but is also expected to have an impact on the local political climate.
Fish, agriculture, wood, gold and… space travel!
Ever since the colonial era, France has sought to develop export industries in French Guiana according to Countryaah. From the 19th century sugar plantations, they gradually transitioned to wood-based products such as pulp, and modernized production of meat, rice, soy and lime. In addition to fishing and gold mining, this should provide some self-sufficiency, as well as reverse the trade deficit with France. Most of these development projects have failed, due to poorly adapted production methods, local corruption, new environmental requirements and inadequate follow-up by the authorities. In addition, since 2007 there has been a significant decline in shrimp fishing, which was previously an important export industry. As a result, French Guiana today has little local production and a growing trade deficit, which in 2013 approached 1.6 billion euros a year,
There is a growing consensus that the road to greater economic independence goes through a long-term and, to a greater extent, locally-governed policy, which not only includes financial support, but also relies on solutions tailored to the country’s special climate and social structure. The concept of sustainable development, which is especially important in a rainforest country, has been conceptualized through a number of projects: including environmental certification of timber, use of waste biomass for energy production, support for local agricultural initiatives (coffee, cocoa, palm oil), and stricter environmental requirements for gold mining. Development of the tourism industry, with ecotourism as the new attraction, is another focus area.
Another important source of income for French Guiana is aerospace. The country has since 1962 been the host country for the European space base for launching satellites. Today, aerospace-related activities account for 15 percent of gross domestic product, and the sector is growing. With the capacity to launch three different rocket types, Vega, Soyouz and Ariane 5, the Guyana Space Center is today one of the world’s most important bases for both commercial and institutional satellite launches. The funding for the operation and maintenance of the space base is shared between the French state and the European space agency ESA, where Norway also contributes.