With Guyana to soon tap large revenues from the oil and gas sector, both government and the private sector have to move swiftly to forge alliances and not look to external forces, Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) Commissioner-General Godfrey Statia said yesterday.
“The vast majority of constraints to growth identified by the private sector are directly linked to government decisions and action. Though the subject of prolonged discussion, private sector involvement in the delivery of public services is not a new concept,” Statia told attendees at the Annual General Meeting of the Private Sector Commission yesterday at the Marriott Hotel.
“Government must provide an enabling environment that encourages the private sector to invest, and to flourish thereby allowing for increased prosperity and improved living standards… the rationale for PPPs (for Public-Private Partnerships) is that they provide a mechanism for governments with limited public revenues to procure and implement public infrastructure including services, using the resources and expertise of the private sector.… PPP’s allow for faster implementation,” he added.
As yesterday’s keynote speaker, the Commissioner-General said that collaborative ventures with the private sector could extend services into poorer communities, boost investment in low-cost housing and provide assistance to the poorest families through the provision of micro-finance even as it fosters Local Economic Development (LED) strategies, which combine local skills, resources and ideas that will stimulate our economy.
“LED strategies help to develop and maintain infrastructure and services; promote and expand existing businesses; address inefficiencies in the local economy; promote human capital development; encourage community development by promoting community business and co-operatives; promote small, micro and medium enterprises (SMME) through supply-side and demand-side measures such as procurement policies to ensure access for SMMEs to contracts.
“Our country’s economy and finance has gained considerable trust among international financial institutions and international partners. Achieving national development calls for bolder action from diverse actors across our society, whose collective efforts far outweigh what they could deliver individually, and the private sector is the first amongst these actors”, he added, as he listed a number of measures that can be taken to achieve the proposed outcomes.
But Statia was quick to point out that for PPPs to happen, the nation’s policymakers must continue to engage with the private sector and adopt a proactive approach to the business and development dialogue. The private sector, he said, needs “a seat at the development table” to highlight the benefits it can bring while at the same time better understanding the needs of its clients.
It is to this end that he lauded a proposal by Minister of Finance Winston Jordan for there to be quarterly meetings and also heaped praise on the PSC for their acceptance.
This move, he believes, is a step in the right direction for the holistic growth of the country.
He used the occasion to remind businessmen that they are expected to pay their fair share of revenue and while being in partnership with government affords them certain concessions and other benefits, evasion of taxes will not be one of them.
Instead of seeking ways of robbing the state of needed revenue and to mitigate risks and realize the benefits of private sector action there should be informed dialogue between policymakers and businesses.
“Candid exchange of knowledge and best practices on doing business can benefit both public and private sectors and can better define their contributions to mutual interests. I therefore encourage the players of the private sector to leverage on the imminent opportunities and mitigate the challenges of the impending rapid growth, development and expansion that our country is about to experience through the oil and gas sector. Neither the private nor public sector nor any government can ignore the roles that each have to play in utilizing this resource for national development. Instead of battles being fought in the press, it must be realized that the private and public sectors are in a marriage which if divorced or separated will have dire consequences for themselves and the nation,” he said.
Statia assured that with significant revenues coming from the oil and gas sector, which have already seen local businesses benefiting in the provision of goods and services to one company, ExxonMobil, the PSC must equip itself to better serve the imminent developments.
Chairman of the PSC, Edward Boyer spoke before Statia and pointed out in his address that the private sector body has been preparing and is working towards even more investment opportunities in what would be this country’s largest income earner.
Boyer said that much of the focus this year was on preparation for the mammoth opportunities open to Guyanese businesses as the country heralds the oil and gas sector.
He said that the PSC as a group, worked diligently to ensure that its members were aware of these opportunities. “We encouraged the development of the entrepreneurial skills that need to be addressed. We emphasized the importance of the local content policy, as we need to make as much use of this as possible. Having said this, I feel that the local content policy must be examined carefully,” Boyer said in his last address as Chairman.
He said that he hoped that all levels of Government would become friendlier to business, as it is that body which is a major factor in the creation of a great percentage of the employment needs of the country.
Yesterday’s meeting also saw a change in the leadership of the PSC with businessman Desmond Sears being elected as Chairman.