On Wednesday, minus House members of the political opposition who have opted not to attend sittings until the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) pronounces on the matter of the December 21 confidence vote, the National Assembly finally passed the long-awaited amendments to the 2003 Procurement Act that clears the way for small businesses to have access to 20% of state contracts. That, of course, is only half the job done since, as the Chief Executive Officer of the Small Business Bureau (SBB) Dr. Lowell Porter told this newspaper several weeks ago the issue of Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) and National Insurance Scheme (NIS) compliance, two critical criteria for accessing state contracts will still have to be met.
This newspaper’s own enquiries have revealed that many small businesses which, conceivably, would otherwise qualify to access the state contracts do not possess these compliances either because they have simply not ever bothered themselves to be compliant though there would be instances in which some of the small businesses are relatively new and may simply have not had reason to engage those agencies earlier.
When consideration is given to the fact that the Small Business Act in which the 20% provision is enshrined has been in force since 2004, it has to be said that it took far too long for the legislative arrangements concretised in the National Assembly on Wednesday to fructify. Arguably, had the amendments to the 2003 Procurement Act come earlier, our unemployment levels might have been considerably lower since several small businesses, including family businesses, would have had access to state contracts much earlier. It is now for the Small Business Bureau and other agencies assigned to administer the various aspects of the arrangement to move as much with due care as due haste to get the proverbial show on the road…..