The Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) says it expects political parties contesting the May 11 general elections to focus less on rhetoric and invective and more on the policies and specific initiatives they intend to pursue if elected to office to advance the economic interests of the nation.
On Tuesday Stabroek Business was afforded an exclusive interview with Chamber President Lance Hinds who said that Guyana had long reached a juncture where elections campaigns ought to be dominated by manifestoes and rallies that focus on “issues that have a direct bearing on the development of our people. It is important that the political environment not become poisoned by issues of personality and race. It must be dominated by issues.”
Asked to clarify the chamber’s vision for an election campaign, Hinds said it was the wish of the GCCI that campaigning take full account of the business sector. “We in the business sector would certainly want to be treated like a constituency. That is the impression that I have drawn from our deliberations. What we need above everything else are clear and coherent pronouncements on just where they want to take the country.”
Hinds said that high on the list of issues on which the business sector will require clear articulation, ”is the issue of power. We are hoping, for example, that the discourse on power will go beyond hydropower and Amaila Falls and begin to deal with options like solar power and natural gas,” Hinds said.
And according to the GCCI President, the business sector will want to hear from the political parties seeking office whether there are concrete plans for significantly improving the skills of the work force. “By this we mean such plans as the respective political parties might have for significantly enhancing the capacity of our university and our education system as a whole, for ensuring that we can retain our skills at home and for creating a culture of research and development. We believe that the private sector can do much more if there is a nexus between its needs and the capacity of our education system to meet those needs.”
Hinds said the business community will expect political parties to set out the kind of legislative framework within which it expects the private sector to grow and function. “There are those who would argue that a large part of the reason why some of the other Caribbean economies are streets ahead of ours has to do with what one might call a more advanced legislative framework. Two areas that come immediately to mind are the superiority of the cultural and creative industries in other territories in the region and legislation that has to do with encouraging youth entrepreneurship.”
Hinds said critical insights into the concerns of the private sector can be gleaned from looking at its “Competitiveness Manifesto” which sets out what the organization sees as the “top 20 barriers to Guyana’s competitiveness” and which Hinds said political parties would do well to address. In the document the Chamber lists the improvement of the tax system, implementing comprehensive security sector reform, attracting overseas investment, strengthening foreign economic diplomacy, strengthening the local commercial court and enhancing intellectual property laws as being among the priority private sector concerns.