Guyanese businesses were on Thursday urged to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the eighth Americas Competitiveness Forum (ACF) to be held in Trinidad in October, where innovation and competitiveness will take centre stage.
“We would like you to collaborate with us and support us,” Trinidad’s Minister of Planning and Sustainable Development Dr. Bhoendradatt Tewarie, who is also the current Chair Pro Tempore of the Inter-Americas Competi-tiveness Network, told businesspersons at the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) business luncheon at Duke Lodge. Tewarie spoke about the opportunities and benefits which the Forum would bring to the Caribbean and urged Guyanese businesses to participate. “We want this to be an opportunity for you to grow your business,” he said.
President of the GMSA Clinton Williams assured that there will be a full delegation from Guyana at the Forum, which is scheduled to take place from October 8th to October 10th in Port–of–Spain, Trinidad. The theme for the eighth ACF is ‘The Human Imagination at Work: Driving Competitiveness, Powering Innovation.’ It recognises that the genesis of competitiveness lies with fostering and exploiting the human imagination to drive competitive advantage and the human imagination therefore needs to be stimulated and nurtured in order to build competitive capacity.
The forum is the Western Hemisphere’s pre-eminent event for government and business leaders to discuss innovative methods to achieve economic competitiveness and promote innovation in the Americas.
Tewarie urged strong representation from every country in the Caribbean, since it is the first time the Forum is being held by a country of the English-speaking Caribbean. In speaking about the economic position of the region, the Trinidad minister said that countries like Guyana and Trinidad need to be more productive and attend to the question of competitiveness.
Many challenges still exist in the region, he said, identifying low levels of public and private investment in research and development and the lack of private sector involvement in innovation as being among several of them. “Most of the innovation that takes place in the Caribbean, takes place either driven by government or academic institutions disconnected from the private sector,” the minister said. “The innovations are not plentiful in the private sector,” he observed.
Tewarie said that Infor-mation Communications Technology (ICT) is important for competitiveness and the changing world requires the private sector to see things differently.
The minister also pointed out that the education base of the countries of the region is critical to competitiveness. Science and technology is linked to innovation and creativity is important, he emphasised. “At the same time that science and technology is important, creative people are vital to development. They are essential to competitiveness and prosperity. Creative people are important for their own sake…but they are also very important in science and technology,” he asserted. Creativity is also important for an entrepreneur who must see things differently and create things that were not there before, the minister said.
Another topic to be explored at the Forum is innovative financing. “The traditional banking system does not really support innovative and creative ideas in the way that we would like or even new entrepreneurial initiative” because they operate on notions that require some kind of collateral before giving the money to finance and there is need for a much more innovative approach to financing, the minister said.
Energy is another critical area that will be discussed and Tewarie said that some work has been done in this regard. “We have been exploring what might be the solution to the energy challenge in the Caribbean and we want to pursue that very seriously and we have also been exploring the possibility of what can be done in terms of trade, investment, development, collaboration and commerce involving Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Suriname and northern Brazil,” he said, while adding that they want to bring this to a head.
The Trinidad Minister said that the ACF gives a unique opportunity for the countries of the Americas to have a focused engagement on the issues pertaining to improving competitiveness, innovation, entrepreneurship and economic growth issues that are of critical importance to the economic wellbeing and sustainable development of the countries. He said that it will be a very rich experience for businesses and could help the region leap-frog into the future.
Earlier, Minister of Finance Dr. Ashni Singh also addressed the gathering and noting that energy is on the programme for the ACF, he emphasised that it is at the top of the agenda in Guyana. The minister said that electricity supplied off the national grid is more expensive than it should be and is not as reliable as it should be. “The bottom line is we have a problem with energy and we need to fix that problem,” he said.
Singh asserted that it is in the interest of all to ensure the realization of the Amaila Falls Hydro-power Project (AFHP) and similar projects to solve the energy problem. He urged the businesspersons to let their voices be heard since it affects them directly. He also spoke on the anti-money laundering legislation and urged them to not hesitate to have their voices heard. These issues go to the core of regional competitiveness too, he said.
Prime Minister Sam Hinds also spoke and said that in Guyana, the supply of electricity has been a vexing problem all along. In relation to the AFHP, he said that with the right votes in parliament, “with the right votes whenever there is an election, we might be able to achieve it.”