The GMSA must engage government on manufacturing sector’s headaches

As part of its 50th anniversary celebrations the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) published a relatively brief but insightful assessment of the condition of the manufacturing sector which dealt in large measure with some of the critical impediments to its growth; also included were the GMSA’s views on how the challenges facing the sector can be addressed.

Cheaper energy is evidently the key issue and here, the GMSA has – like the various other business support organizations – gone in the direction of bemoaning the Amaila Falls impasse while essaying some suggestions about incentives for entities that pursue options in alternative energy.

The presentation lists about a dozen initiatives which it believes – given more reliable and cheaper energy – can help transform the manufacturing sector. Indeed, GMSA President Clinton Williams, in a brief telephone conversation with this newspaper earlier this week, said that while the sector’s energy problems could hardly be overstated it was important that the travails of the Guyana Power and Light Company and the political brouhaha over the Amaila Falls not be regarded as the sole impediment to the fortunes of the manufacturing sector.

The GMSA, in its assessment of the state of the manufacturing sector, makes clear its position that there are instances – several of them, actually – in which the sloth, bureaucracy and in some instances the inefficiencies of the government may also be seriously hampering the development of the manufacturing sector. It lists, for example, the never-ending frustration associated with the sloth of the customs clearance system even as the government takes its own time to implement what is intended to be the Single Window Automated Processing System (SWAPS); the failure of government over decades to seek to take advantage of bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, some of which might better position the manufacturing sector to take advantage of overseas markets and the failure of the authorities to create and effectively implement quality standards for imported goods, which has seen some locally made products enduring competition from what, in some cases, turns out to be cheaper but inferior goods. These, mind you, are only three of the instances in which the GMSA appears to cite some official shortcoming as being responsible for the underdevelopment of the manufacturing sector.

One of the more interesting recommendations made by the GMSA has to do with the ‘revamping’ of Go-Invest. This is not the first occasion on which the private sector has openly pointed fingers at Go-Invest. It has been, at various times, dismissed as ineffective, irrelevant and as a disincentive to investors. Persons who have dealt with the agency have seriously questioned its label as a ‘one-stop agency,’ pointing out that, at best, the agency often does no more than provide introductions to those entities that are responsible for the various substantive procedures.

Interestingly, the GMSA does not say exactly what it has in mind as far as revamping Go-Invest is concerned. On the whole it must channel a more thorough assessment of its views on the problems of Go-Invest and the weaknesses of the manufacturing sector at the government, through whichever is the relevant agency. There are no points to be earned here for simply making a clutch of potentially usefully observations and simply have them disappear in a mist of the next day’s issue.

Our view on the recent GMSA presentation is that its observations are well-worth pursuing with government though we hasten to add that unless engagement that targets positive outcomes becomes the next step, the pronouncements become little more than hot air.

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