Finance Minister Winston Jordan says that the loss of a US$5m investment to Trinidad because the prospective Guyanese investor was given a runaround here must not be allowed to happen again.
He was referring to the case of St Lucia-based businessman Ronald Ramjattan who was reported in the last Sunday Stabroek as saying that he opted to make his investment in the Twin-Island Republic as the previous PPP/C government had not given him a favourable response.
Speaking at the launching of the Burger King franchise yesterday at the corner of Camp and Regent streets yesterday, Jordan said “We note, with disbelief and distress, the loss of a US$5 million investment to Trinidad and Tobago, by a world-renowned Guyanese businessman, whose only crime appeared to have been being the cousin of now Hon. Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan.
“This must never be allowed to happen, again. All investors, whether foreign or local, must be treated equally and with respect. They must feel wanted, not because of their friendship with this or that Minister or other high-ranking official, but because of their worth, the risk they intend to take, and the addition to the wealth of the nation. And so, we are working overtime to remove these and other disincentives to investing in Guyana, and to make the climate more attractive, especially for local entrepreneurs and start-ups, as we go through this difficult period of transitioning our economy away from its dependence on sugar”.
He lauded the Corum Group for their investment in the franchise.
“The Corum Group, perhaps recognizing that Guyana is on the cusp of an exciting new phase of development, seems to have embarked on a journey that includes capitalizing on the myriad of gaps within the local food industry. It dawned upon me that it was only recently that you launched Pizza Hut; now, it is Burger King”, Jordan said, according to a copy of his remarks released by the Ministry of Finance.
He said that since May 2015, the APNU+AFC government has been reshaping the business environment to make it conducive for the private sector.
“We have banished the old disposition, where friends and relatives of the previous administration benefitted enormously from a variety of concessions, fire-sales and peppercorn values of the nation’s assets”, he stated.
He said that Budget 2018, which was passed, recently, will see any citizen who is willing to take the risk of entrepreneurship, benefit from the $100 million Revolving Fund for small businesses. Another $150 million dollars has also been set aside for the Sustainable Livelihood and Entrepre-neurial Development programme, where small business and potential small business operators can benefit from training and start-up grants.
“Your Government has also recognised that in the rejigging of the economy, established businesses would need a stimulus, too. And so, we have in the space of two and a half years, lowered corporation tax; reduced VAT to 14%; increased the income tax threshold so that citizens may have more disposable income; given wage increases of more than 57 percent; worked with various sectors, including Forestry and Mining, to directly address challenges to their competitiveness and expansion”, Jordan asserted.
He added that structural reforms have begun to agencies that are critical to the success of the business environment and the ease of doing business is now more structured.
In 2018, he stated that the tax administration arm of the GRA will be further bolstered to ensure faster turnaround times for output and a special department will be created to service the top 20 percent of businesses.
“This quantum of fiscal and developmental initiatives that we have introduced since May 2015 is unrivaled. My government has been clear on the opportunities that are available to the private sector and to citizens. We welcome investments that can be enduring and substantial and creative. Therefore, our fiscal policies will always reflect our resolve to foster private sector growth and investments through the establishment of fair and transparent competition”, the Finance Minister declared.
Against this backdrop, he said that Guyana is open for business.
“We will stand with any investor who is committed to the growth and development of this country that we all call home. We will hold the hands of any citizen who is willing to work to unlock the potential that has long been bandied about. We will partner with you to weather the challenges that may arise in the quest to make Guyana a better country”, asserted.
He congratulated the Corum Group on the opening of Guyana’s first Burger King Franchise and appealed to it to bring to the Guyana Franchise the same high standards of quality, variety and wholesomeness to which you are held in other parts of the world, especially your home base, the United States of America.