(First Published: December 8, 1991) President of the Berbice Chamber of Commerce and Development Association, Ramdehol Bhookmohan, says the country’s economy is in its worst state ever, inspite of the much publicised ERP programme. Bhookmohan was responding to questions during a near year end review on national and local issues.
Since 1980, he argued, there has been a huge accumulation of debt with real National Domestic Product declining by six percent per annum. As of 1988 the recorded debt amounted to $1,764m and arrears to $1,038m.
Bhookmohan disagrees that the country’s economic impasse was triggered by a global economic crisis, except for the spiralling oil prices. The loss of our export market was due to inferior quality of products, late shipment, and poor wages and salaries. “Collapsing infrastructure and lack of democracy are some of the reasons for our economic plight,” Bhookmohan said.
Another ’destroyer’ of the economy is the parallel market and the uncontrolled cambio says the Chamber President, who also contends that the introduction of the cambio, was to satisfy IMF conditions. To curtail the parallel market and restrict the flying cambio, government has to cither legalise trading or import the basic consumer items on a large scale and strive for increased production in export oriented industries. Bhookmohan has also called for a restriction on importation of goods produced locally like beverages, cigarettes and matches since this will have an adverse effect on local manufactures.
While the Chamber welcomes divestment of state entities the chamber disagrees with the method of divestment, Bhookmohan declared, noting that local entrepreneurs should be given preference in any future divestment, unlike previous deals. He says government owes this nation a divestment report as to terms and conditions of sales and the utilisation of the proceeds. The divestment of the sugar and rice industries are already showing positive signs of growth, Bhookmohan acknowledged.
The Fire Service in Berbice leaves much to be desired, the Berbice Chamber President stated. He laments the lack of proper fire fighting equipment, the shortage of staff and the poor slate of some of the hydrants. He says the fire service should look seriously at some of the derelict buildings around that are fire hazards and calls for a return of fire drills at public entities.
The Institute of Private Enterprise Development, Futures Fund and Simap came in for praise. Over, 200 small business and community projects have been established between these organisations but Bhookmohan is calling for Simap and Futures Fund to channel more of their resources through service organisations, and to lessen government involvement in their programmes.
The Chamber President cautioned the Guyana Telephone Company not to make its’ new rales applicable to Berbice until telephone services are improved.
Phones in some areas have been non-functioning for a long while and interruptions of service are appalling. He asks the company to consider installing phone booths in strategic areas and to extend phone services in unserviced areas.
On the question of Social Services in Berbice, Bhookmohan said neither the three municipalities, the District Councils nor the Regional Administration have tried sufficiently to improve social services in this country. Inadequate pure water supply, floods resulting from silted drains and canals and the frequent breakdown of the Canefield power plant are some of the poor social services Berbicians are subjected to without anyone being accountable, he declared. ‘The process of democratisalion will resolved these irritants”, Bookmohan concluded.
Better rate collection but $112M still owing
MAYOR Compton Young says the City Council has, up to the end of October, collected $62M in general and water rates and $112M is outstanding.
In his weekly report, the mayor said collection of revenue has been “much better” than last year, with all categories of property owners paying $42M in general rale and $20M in water rate.
He said at the end of October, $82M in general rale and $21M in water rate were outstanding. At the beginning of the year, $152M in general rate and $38M in water rate were owed to the Council and the $112M outstanding balance from arrears is “much less” than that at the end of 1990, he added.
Mayor Young also says continued inflow of funds and good weather has allowed the Council to proceed with the road repair programme. He said Alexander Street, Lacylown has been upgraded with stone and sealed with bitumen, James Street is being rehabilitated. Princes Street is being patched and Water Street in the Princes Street area is being cleared of coconut shells and rubbish in preparation for repair.
Young also said he is pleased with the remodelled eating houses in Stabroek market, which were previously relegated to the poorest customers. He said he was so pleased with the “new decor” that he entertained some of his staff at one of the former cookshops, which had a “satisfactory menu”.
Is the tide turning
IN a release in the IMF Survey of December 2, quoted by New Nation, the IMF says ‘‘economic activity has entered a recovery phase with the real (JDP projected to increase in j 1991 for the first time since 1987.” No sectoral breakdown is given but the Fund reportedly identified the strongest area of recovery as being the export sector and highlights increases in production in rice, bauxite, gold and sugar. It attributes this to ‘‘an improved incentive structure associated with the unification of the exchange rate and the liberalisation of prices, greater competition in the rice milling sector, and the increased availability of imported inputs.”
The release also reportedly indicated that while the rate of inflation had been higher than projected the monthly rate, from June-July, had slowed owing in part to “corrective price increases and the elimination of most subsidies.” There had also been a substantial strengthening in our international reserves.
So is the tide beginning to turn? Certainly these are positive indicators though very little, if anything, has trickled through to the man in the street, who despite wage increases in some sectors is still buffeted by the high cost of living. We agree with the basic thrust of the government’s programme. Sell off loss making and other state enterprises as soon as possible, encourage private investment, both local and foreign, concentrate on improving the infrastructure, radically reduce the previously all pervasive role of government.
We believe that some evidence is emerging that these policies are essentially correct. We further believe that any incoming government will have to accept them in outline as there Ls no obvious alternative. Nationalisation and state ownership combined with party paramountcy have been crucial elements in our collapse.
The radical reversal of those policies is bound to start showing results and real benefits for the people, as the sugar workers are already enjoying from the deregulation of that industry, are bound to follow.