Coming to grips with fake consumer goods

It is no secret that Guyana continues to have to deal with the considerable health and economic risks associated with the challenge of counterfeit consumer goods’ imports and our glaringly limited capacity to address the problem.

If we are somewhat uplifted by the seeming energy and optimism of Director of the Food and Drugs Department, Mr Marlon Cole, we cannot help but match his disposition with evidence that the problem is huge and beyond him. Mr Cole, through no fault of his own, really has no clear idea as to the volume of counterfeit goods that enter Guyana. By extension, he has no idea as to the volume of the trade.

The reasons for this reposes, first, in our open borders which allow all sorts of goods to enter the country unaccounted for. The other problem, by Mr Cole’s own admission, is that capacity limitations mean that the Food and Drugs Department only gets to examine a limited quantity of the imports.

What makes the counterfeit consumer goods trade even more worrisome is the fact that apart from its exponential global growth and the health risks that it poses for Guyana, there is also the fact that it creates potentially lucrative, albeit illegal hustles, for big and small vendors. Here in Guyana there is a widespread suspicion that the marketing of counterfeit products has become an ingrained business pursuit and Mr Cole himself alluded to what he sees as a battle between importers of genuine brands and those who would undersell them by bringing in the cheaper counterfeits.

The fact is that small, under-resourced and to a large extent vulnerable as it is, the Food and Drugs Department will always struggle to rein in an industry that is huge, driven by considerable resources and susceptible to bribes and kickbacks.

Mr Cole has made two important points about his Department’s vision for going forward. The first has to do with what he said is the “total support” of the state apparatus for his department’s plans to tackle the problem. The second is the continued growth of what would appear to be an influential stakeholder consensus on the way forward.

Even that, however, is not enough. There is, for example, evident scope for re-siting and resourcing the Department, pursuits which are necessary but which, for some inexplicable reason, have long been neglected. We believe too that there is scope for much closer cooperation between Food and Drugs and Customs that would give the former much greater inspection-related access to much more of the consumer items being imported. Those are areas that perhaps can be addressed in the short to medium term.

As for our porous borders, that problem remains beyond the scope of the Food and Drugs Department and, at least in the foreseeable future, beyond the government as well. All the more reason why those systems and mechanisms that lie within our control should be developed to their optimum. The risks associated with the uninhibited movement of counterfeit goods – particularly drugs – into the country are much too great and for all the efforts of Mr Cole and his staff and the support of the government. One day our luck could run out.


The Small Business Bureau…going forward

The materialization of a report that allows some insights into the performance of the much vaunted Small Business Bureau in terms of its role in kick-starting a transformation in the small business sector finally allows us the opportunity to evaluate what it has accomplished so far, what some of its failings are and what sorts of adjustments/corrective measures it might take.

Implementing 20% of state contracts to small businesses

It is widely believed that if smoothly implemented and scrupulously monitored the actualization of the provision in the Small Business Act of 2004 for a 20% allocation of government’s “goods and services” contracts to small businesses could make a major, positive difference to the country.

City Hall’s helplessness in another potentially emerging crisis

The breathing space afforded City Hall in the wake of central government’s intervention to liquidate the City’s indebtedness to Cevons Waste Management and Puran Brothers and to foot the bill for services up to the end of December last year, is over.

Strengthening Guyana/Brazil economic relations

It would be entirely fair to say that successive political administrations in Guyana have, over time, continually squandered what, unquestionably, have been glaring opportunities to take advantage of the fact that Brazil, by far this continent’s largest country with the biggest economy, shares a border with us.

Influence peddlers ‘touting’ for would-be investors

During an extended discourse with the Stabroek Business on Wednesday, Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin went to some trouble to make the point that the APNU+AFC administration was particularly keen to provide a convivial environment within which to attract investor attention and (in the presence of Go-Invest Chief Executive Officer, Owen Verwey) made the point that one of his Ministry’s priorities was to properly position and equip Go-Invest to provide the various services associated with investor inquiries.

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