September eyed for public/private sector forum on national economic direction

– diaspora to play key role, McLean says

Consistent with the pronouncements made by the new political administration regarding a role for overseas-based Guyanese in the building of the country’s economy, Stabroek Business has been informed that an imminent public/private sector economic forum is likely to see participation from Guyanese in the a diaspora.

Newly elected Chairman of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) Major General (rtd) Norman McLean disclosed during an interview with this newspaper last week that the PSC had begun to work towards the planning and execution of the forum, an undertaking that it had embraced during a recent meeting that had included President David Granger.

While McLean said he was not in a position to provide full details of the planned forum at this time, he said that it was likely that the event could take place in September. The retired Guyana Defence Force Chief of Staff told this newspaper that at the recent meeting with government officials the PSC had been mandated to plan the forum. He said that among the outcomes towards which the forum was working was the creation of “a viable economic plan for Guyana that would see growth in industry, commerce, manufacturing and tourism and the chartering of a course for future economic growth for the country.” He added that going forward the PSC was also aiming to embrace small businesses and to work to secure technology to enhance the acceleration of the country’s manufacturing sector.

Chairman of the Private Sector Commission Major General (rtd) Norman McLean
Chairman of the Private Sector Commission Major General (rtd) Norman McLean

Against the backdrop of these overall objectives McLean said, the PSC was concerned with the practical ventilation of issues that include local and expatriate investment in the economy as well as government’s support in the execution of critical infrastructural projects.

Mc Lean told Stabroek Business that the PSC was seeking to identify suitably qualified Guyanese to help plan and execute the forum. He named Guyanese academic and university professor Nigel Harris and local businessman Stanley Ming as being among the persons whom the private sector was likely to approach to contribute to the forum.

The planned September forum is likely to be the first high-level public/private sector collaborative initiative since the new administration was elected to office in May this year. During his interview with this newspaper, McLean disclosed that high on the list of the private sector’s current preoccupations was the need to

provide impetus to the country’s power sector. Accordingly, this newspaper understands that the issue of the Amaila Falls hydroelectric project is high on the list of concerns of the private sector. The PSC has formally communicated to government its concern over the desirability of placing the country’s energy requirements high on the list of the public/private sector agenda, he said.

Stabroek Business understands that the new PSC Chairman has already communicated with government on the issue of developing hydropower capacity, urging the administration to give consideration to how other hydropower projects funded by the World Bank in Africa had affected countries like Tanzania, Burundi and Uganda.

Meanwhile, McLean said that the other high priority areas on the public/private sector agenda include the issue of embracing legislative and electoral reform in order to build transparency and respect for the country’s electoral system, pursuing airport expansion, building the Linden to Lethem road, bridging the Corentyne river, security reform and reviewing the country’s taxation policy.

The PSC has already disclosed that another of its high priority concerns is the long overdue development of the Georgetown Port including the deepening of the harbour from what it says is its present “silted state” of 4.2 metres to at least 6.9 metres. In this regard, the idea of a joint public/private sector partnership similar to the arrangement in place at the Ogle International Airport between the Government of Guyana and the local Aircraft Owners Association is being mooted.

And in a private sector briefing document seen by this newspaper, the PSC has declared that the country’s economic potential centres around a number of key economic initiatives including the construction and development of the gold mining investments being undertaken by Guyana Goldfields, Troy Resources and ETK Sandsprings; the development of the hydroelectric potential at Turtuba and Kumerau Falls; consideration of other initiatives aimed at reducing electricity costs in the interim; continued exploitation of bauxite; attracting increased investments in value-added production; improving the performance of the sugar industry to at least 300,000 tonnes per annum and the development of a successful plan for the country’s offshore oil resources.

The PSC Chairman says, meanwhile, that the private sector must articulate strong support for the country’s territorial integrity as part of its advocacy of the aggressive exploration of oil and other resources located within the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone. (EEZ).

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