The Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) has been reaching out to several countries in an effort to attract investors and capital, its President, Clinton Williams, says and he also pointed to a range of problems hampering businesses.
With the manufacturing sector showing flat growth for the first half of the year while the services sector recorded growth of 2.7% for the same period, Williams said that the GMSA’s short to medium term objective is to substantially increase the sectors’ contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Giving the President’s Report at the GMSA’s 15th Annual Presentation Awards Dinner at the Princess Hotel on Thursday night, Williams said that the Association has been engaged in a wide range of activities in order to encourage growth and during the past year, some successes were recorded.
But, he noted, there remains “pertinent issues” affecting development and growth of the Manufacturing and Services Sector. This includes the relatively high costs and frequent unavailability of electricity; inadequate access and high costs both for investment funding and trade financing; sufficiency and quality of Technical and Managerial Skills; and legal requirements for the establishment of a new business.
Additionally, Williams pointed to the “inefficiency and significant costs associated with the delivery of vital services by the Revenue Authority and other Regulatory Agencies” as well as what he described as the inadequate incentives for manufacturers investing in new/more efficient technology and the (in)effective enforcement of existing copyright, anti-smuggling and tax evasion laws.
He outlined possible strategies to resolve some of the issues, recommending the “earliest implementation of the Single Window Automated Processing System (SWAPS) currently being pursued by the NCSU and Private Sector”. This would allow for quicker trade transactions not only locally but across borders. Williams also recommended a “value chain” approach to product development as well as the creation and/or empowerment of para-statal agencies, such as Go-Invest, to act as a one-stop-shop/clearing house for services needed to establish new businesses.
Further, Williams recommended investing in remote-sensing technology to improve the monitoring of national borders and smuggling routes “to reduce the hemorrhaging of profit by local manufacturers caused by unfair competition”. Increased employment could be seen as a more long term strategy as such persons would have to be trained and then deployed, he said.
He also advocated the establishment of inward and outward Investment/Export Promotion Missions as mechanisms for securing joint venture partners and; expansion of trade and the expansion of the concept of ‘Call Centres’ Trade in Services Program-mers to the establishment of Export Promotion Zones (EPZ) as a catalyst to the acceleration of export of products whether via Semi Knock Down (SKD) or Complete Knock Down (CKD) basis.
Earlier, reporting on the activities of the Association towards the realization of its goals, Williams said that with regards to institutional strengthening and promoting opportunities for access to offshore funding, attracting investors and investment capital especially within the context of the current international financial crisis, the GMSA has initiated contact with a number of countries through their commercial and economic affairs representatives. The countries include Brazil, India, China, Mexico, Canada and the United Kingdom.
In Brazil, Sebrae -a Private Sector representative organization was engaged and the two associations are formulating a special Market Intelligence and Trade Facilitation project to create business opportunities be-tween Guyanese and Brazilian Companies, Williams said. More recently, he said, GMSA has been preparing local entrepreneurs to initiate contacts with potential Chinese investors in order to facilitate face-to-face engagements at the upcoming 3rd China/Caribbean Business Forum scheduled for Trinidad and Tobago early next year.
With regards to building infrastructure and developing proficiency in Information, Communication and Telecommunication (ICT) strategies, the GMSA head said that they have embarked on a project with PROINVEST (EU) to modernize the management of their data base which would offer several benefits.
Meantime, seven companies involved in a CIDA-funded artisan project, have been identified to participate in a major Trade Show in Canada in January, with the aim of accessing markets and possible joint venture partnership. Experts from the Canadian Executive Services Organization have also been working with the GMSA in trade and investment opportunities. Williams said that the GMSA continues to work closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Advisory Commit-tee on External Negotiations (NACEN), and he reported that after lobbying, an additional 60 tariff lines were recently approved under the Brazil/Guyana Partial Scope Agreement inclusive of Rum, Flour, Cement, and Pharmaceuti-cals. With regard to the current Caricom/ Canada Trade Negotiations, he said that his Association continues to advocate that a new Trade and Development Assistance Package be included in the final package in addition to the Trade Liberalization Agreements.
Williams also pointed out that the GMSA is in the process of commissioning several surveys to determine the skills needs of the newer businesses in the services subsector such as ICT services, Call Centres, Maritime and Health and Wellness Services. Several external agencies are being engaged, including SENAI through Sebrae and the Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI) in Jamaica, to facilitate the implementation of specialized Skill Development Programmes for business enhancement activities planned for these sectors, he said.
The GMSA head further pointed out that the Association continues to intensify current efforts and initiatives to resuscitate, and if necessary to re-establish the Guyana Coalition of Services Providers, and to expand the work from research (in response to negotiations for partnership and other agreements) to advocacy via incentives and other trade facilitation activities. He thanked President Bharrat Jagdeo and the government for “creating that enabling environment that is so necessary for the Manufacturing Sector and by extension the Private Sector generally to strive towards the realization of the desired objective as the true engine of growth for the Guyanese economy”.
Several persons and companies were awarded including immediate past president of the GMSA and current President of the Private Sector Commission, Ramesh Dookhoo, who received a lifetime achievement award for his services.
Banks DIH won the President’s Award for export achievement and several other companies such as Namilco and GT&T were awarded for their contribution to the marketing and services sector.