The roles of the Guyana Office for Investment (Go-Invest) and the Small Business Bureau (SBB), two state agencies that have previously come under critical performance-related scrutiny have been highlighted in Finance Minister Winston Jordan’s 2018 budget presentation for their respective roles in investment facilitation and enabling the growth of small and micro enterprises.
In his marathon budget speech on Monday, Jordan said that the Bureau had directly supported more than 1100 budding entrepreneurs for this year, so far, whilst more than 168 young persons had benefitted from business grants as part of the Youth Biz 592 project as well as a pilot in-school entrepreneurship project. Then turning to Go-Invest the Finance Minister said that the state-run investment promotion agency had facilitated “almost $23 billion in investments” which he said will “create over 970 jobs across various sectors, including services, agriculture and energy,” though he declined to provide a time-frame for the creation of the projected jobs.
And according to Jordan the investment promotion agency anticipates $154 billion in investments in 2018 that will create around 5,725 jobs. At the same time he announced that next year, Go-Invest will be hosting the first ever Guyana Trade and Investment Exposition “aimed at promoting collaboration between private sector actors towards knowledge-sharing and creating business partnerships.”
The pointed plaudits afforded both the SBB and Go-Invest in the Finance Minister’s budget presentation would appear to suggest that official perceptions of the performance of the two state entities has shifted since the administration took office in May 2015. The plaudits afforded the Small Business Bureau by the Finance Minister came following its own admission that more than four years since its launch in October 2013 in support of the then political administration’s poverty alleviation pursuits, it is yet to achieve its promised goal of creating 2000-odd jobs. The organization’s key weaknesses are widely believed to include its limited capacity to properly monitor the scores of projects across the country that have benefited from its grants and loans, a weakness which Bureau insiders concede inhibit its ability to accurately determine, in every instance, whether many of the funded undertaking are meeting expectations.
In the instance of Go-Invest, a forensic audit report based on a review of its operations released in September last year asserted that “after over twenty years of operations Go-Invest has failed to fulfil its mandate and the organization is plagued with poor governance, mismanagement, no strategic plan, an absence of Standard Operating Procedures for the different departments of Go-Invest and no policy for the (crafting) of Investment Agree-ments, which is compounded by an appalling filing system for investor documents.” The report had also said that Go-Invest operated without a documented Governance structure which allowed for “ad-hoc decision – making resulting in serious deficiencies in how the agency was managed at both the Board of Directors and Executive level.”
Government, meanwhile, according to the Finance Minister, is moving to alleviate what he described as the “prohibitive constraints” that inhibit the growth of micro and small businesses, “especially those owned by vulnerable groups to add to work which he said had already been done in facilitating the creation of an enabling environment in which such businesses can be nurtured. Beyond what he said had already been accomplished, Jordan said that a further 160 micro and small businesses had “directly benefitted from improved access to finance through the disbursement of business grants and loans by the Micro and Small Enterprise Development Project, whilst “a total of 392 jobs were created and 831 persons from the hinterland and coastland received training in areas related to business development.. Simultaneously, Jordan announc-ed that government is to launch a new
initiative next year through the establishment of a $100 million revolving fund “to finance businesses whose goods and services are sustainable and environmentally friendly.”
In his fourth budget presentation since the APNU+AFC administration took office in May 2015 Jordan announced further measures designed to support the growth of micro and small businesses through a $36 million investment in “the creation of business incubators and accelerators in Regions 5 and 9. These institutions, he said, are intended to support the provision of a range of business support services including business registration, documentation and capacity building. A further four other business registration hubs are to be established in regions one, five, six and ten next year.
And in order to help small businesses to more adequately utilize the range of tax concessions available under the various tax acts, the Small Business Act and those available through Investment Development Agreements (IDA’s), the Ministry of Business, through Go-Invest, and the Ministry of Finance, through the Guyana Revenue Authority will be embarking on an intensive education programme aimed at sensitizing small businesses to the availability and accessing of these concessions.