Not by accident our editorial this week addresses the subject of agro processing.
A few weeks ago the Stabroek Business reported on an announcement made by Professor Stefan Gift, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Graduate Studies and Research at the University of the West Indies, regarding what he said was the intention of the region’s foremost institution of higher education to push a Caribbean-wide entrepreneurial curriculum with a view to positioning graduates to pursue options to paid employment by establishing businesses of their own.
It would do both the health sector as a whole and the food safety authorities, specifically, a power of good, if they pay more focussed attention to the surfeit of information being disseminated globally on food safety.
The news that the construction sector remains closed – at least for the time being – to small businesses through the mechanism of the 20% ‘set aside’ provided for under the 2004 Small Business Act is, at the very least, disappointing, this newspaper’s appreciation of the importance of adherence to procedures, which is what it seems is blocking the access up until now, notwithstanding.
The Government Analyst-Food & Drugs Department’s (GAFDD) disclosure earlier this week about the quality of the safety protocols practised by eating houses in Regions Four and Six, though acutely disturbing is really not at all surprising.
In October last year the state-run Department of Public Information (DPI) announced that the Small Business Procurement Programme enshrined in the Small Business Act of 2004 and under which 20% of state contracts pertaining to jobs of up to G$30 million would have come into effect in January of this year.
There currently exists here in Guyana an uncanny and unkind coincidence between the attention that agro- processing has been attracting as an entrepreneurial option, particularly at the micro and small business level and what, up until now, has been a largely futile official battle to break open the protectionist fortresses that continue to place measly limits on access by our own agro-produce to regional markets.
However hard we contemplate the issue it is difficult to think of any single development in the post-independence history of Guyana that has impacted the national psyche in quite the manner that the May 2015 ExxonMobil oil discovery did.
It is no secret that our national safety and health record in the mining sector has been a far from exemplary one.
Invariably, when we conceptualize what one might call a ‘tourist package’ that Guyana can offer to visitors the options afforded by the beauty and adventure that can be derived from our far-flung interior locations are always ‘front and centre’ in that vision.
On the surface, at least, it is difficult to find fault with events like last Sunday’s UNCAPPED 1V at the Providence Stadium.
It has always been a policy position of the Government of Guyana that Guyanese residing in the diaspora should be encouraged to return home eventually, to resettle, to invest or both.
In the fullness of time the significance of last Monday’s meeting between President David Granger and the President of the Inter-American Development Bank, Luis Alberto Moreno, could go way beyond the time that the two spent together at State House and the relatively brief summary of the engagement released immediately thereafter.
Two days ago, at the the world’s leading Travel and Trade Show, the ITB Berlin, staving off stiff competition from a number of better-known international tourism destinations, Guyana was declared the #1 “Best of Ecotourism” destination in the world.
The near silence that has greeted the news regarding just where CARICOM’s food import bill has been headed recently is, to tell the truth not altogether surprising though, for a few very obvious reasons it is deeply disturbing.
There is a sense of contempt and callousness in the treatment customarily meted out to workers employed at the Bauxite Company of Guyana Inc.
One of the positive elements in the recently released Report on last September’s Guyana Trade and Investment Exhibition (GUYTIE) staged at the Marriott Hotel jointly by the public and private sectors with the support of Caribbean Export is that it openly concedes that, for all sorts of reasons, it felt short of what might have been expected.
Two of the stories published in this issue of the Stabroek Business are concerned with the issue of minibuses, privately owned buses, which for many years have been serving as public transport.
2018 was a year of considerable achievement for the country’s agro processing sector.
Over a period of several years urban street vending has experienced a painstaking graduation process from the status of a nuisance that simply got into the way of the various other more mundane pursuits of city life to a facet of commerce that is recognized (there are those who would say tolerated) as what one might call ‘legitimate business,’ insofar as it has not only become legitimized in more ways than one but also given the fact that it provides a living for hundreds of urban, almost certainly mostly working class families..
We have been, as far as circumstances allow, deliberately monitoring the impact of the latest bout of jousting between City Hall and its two principal garbage disposal contractors if only because, first, we are aware of the particular vulnerabilities of the municipality in the wake of the revelations of the Report of the Kennard Commission of Inquiry.
There was a hollow ring to this week’s warning from the Government Analyst Food and Drugs Department (GAFDD) regarding the circulation of yet another fake drug, apparently an imitation of Daflon, which the Department says, is used for treating patients suffering from “chronic venous insufficiency” (CVI) and other ailments.
Part of the discourse on the subject of the implications of oil and the earnings to be derived therefrom for the future shape of the Guyana economy has had to do with the impact on the long-term future of those other sectors that have kept the country going until now and whether they will retain their sustainability once the various options associated with an ‘oil economy’ kick in fully.
It is by no means accidental that the beleaguered administration of President Maduro in Venezuela has chosen this particular time frame to make menacing signals towards Guyana specifically – at least so it seems – to seek to disrupt this country’s move to finally begin to initiate its oil recovery efforts.
If only because of its enormous potential for job creation and providing small businesses with a shot in the arm and giving rise to the creation of new ones, it has to be said that it took an inordinately long time to bring the 20% allocation of some state contracts to small businesses into effect.
One of the more important disclosures to come out of the post-budget presentations in the National Assembly last week was the one made by Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin regarding what we hope is a definitive confirmation that the 20 per cent allocation of state contracts to small businesses will take effect in January 2019.
Taken at surface level Minister Keith Scott’s disclosure in his post-budget presentation in the National Assembly earlier this week regarding the creation of an “alliance” designed to help curb the incidence of workplace accidents in the various high risk sectors is an interesting one particularly since, outside of mining and the traditional areas where workplace accidents occur with some regularity, the Minister has also based on his presentation in the National Assembly embraced the oil and gas and aviation sectors, which, going forward will assume an increasing prominence in the country’s economy, as part of the alliance.
Two years ago, almost to the day, Finance Minister Winston Jordan told Guyanese in his 2017 budget presentation that it was the intention of the Government to preside over the full and effective implementation of the provision in the Small Business Act allowing for small businesses to have access to 20% of state contracts which are within their competence to execute.
The legitimacy or otherwise of the adjusted toll rates recently announced for the Berbice Bridge aside, there are, as every rational thinking person would agree, other considerations which are at least of comparable importance.
Against the backdrop of the frustrating ‘on-off’ relationship that has obtained between government and the private sector for many years, one has every right to wonder aloud as to precisely how we should interpret the recent media release from the Private Sector Commission (PSC) arising out of its meeting with President David Granger.
It seems that every time this newspaper visits the Guyana Marketing Corporation’s Guyana Shop several new brands of locally produced agro-products are on display and available for sale to the public.
A few days ago the Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC) issued a media release that made a few instructive points about aspects of the country’s agricultural sector including its potential to increase its market share for fruits and vegetables on the regional and international markets and the constraints that inhibit the realization of that objective.
It is highly unlikely that there will be anything even remotely resembling a shortage of persons and, it seems, institutions, queuing up to provide evidence in the forthcoming Commission of Inquiry into the running of the Georgetown municipal administration.
As we report in this issue of the Stabroek Business preparations for the materialization of ‘first oil’ in 2020 are witnessing the emergence of local learning institutions as partners in the process of training Guyanese to take up positions alongside their foreign counterparts in the high-skills oil recovery sector.
Any objective analysis of the performance of the Guyana Office for Investment (GO Invest) in its role as the principal facilitator for the creation of an enhanced business and investment climate for Guyana will probably conclude that it has fallen short of expectations.
The disclosure that the Government Analyst Food & Drugs Department (GAFDD) has been awarded the ISO/IEC 17025:2005 Standard is a welcome boost for what, over the years, has been one of the most neglected and maligned public sector agencies in Guyana.
During the course of that portion of his 2018 Budget presentation that had to do with the gold mining industry, Finance Minister Winston Jordan made three important points.
One of the more significant clauses in the 2004 Small Business Act has to do with the provision that it makes to provide access for small and medium-sized businesses to 20% of state contracts for the provision of goods and services.
In the Friday July 20th issue of the Stabroek Business our lead story was based primarily on a brief telephone interview with the President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) during which he told us that a July 20-21 private sector forum at the Pegasus Hotel would have been seeking to move in a positive direction as far as the growth of the businesses participating in the forum were concerned.
We are yet to know how last week’s partnership agreement signed between the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Geneva-based International Trade Centre (ITC) will affect the business community in the Caribbean and whether, specifically, there is room in the arrangement for boosting the growth of the emerging but patently needy small business sector in Guyana.
One good sign in the ongoing discourse on the commencement of oil exploitation in 2020 and the implications of the returns from it for the country’s future and direction of the economy is that it is not being allowed to entirely drown out the urging that other vital sectors not be ignored.
If the recent promotional event at the Marriott Hotel is anything to go by it appears that there is considerable enthusiasm for the September 19th – 22nd Guyana Trade and Investment Exhibition (GUYTIE) which brings together the local public and private sectors in collaboration with the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export), its mission being to launch an experimental initiative in an effort to kick-start a long overdue project aimed at providing results-oriented interaction between local export-ready entities and buyers outside of Guyana with a view to significantly expanding overseas markets for locally manufactured products.
There is probably a case for suggesting that the current (understandable) preoccupation with the imminent commencement of oil exploitation offshore Guyana and what this could mean for the future economic shape of our country could serve as a distraction from other equally important issues that have a bearing on the economy of our country and the well-being of our people.
Whilst the concept of the team is often an important tenet in the pursuit of successful leadership it is not uncommon for some leaders to succeed purely by virtue of the sheer weight of their own personalities and their own particular leadership qualities so that much of what emerges as policy within an organization may well be the result, by and large, of the thinking of one man or woman.
This newspaper’s various engagements with private sector business support organizations have afforded us a more enlightened perspective on their work and the purpose that they seek to serve.
In what would have come to many observers as something of a surprise the Ministry of Public Health, earlier this week, issued a media release seemingly pointing to a busy time ahead for the Ministry pertaining to what Minister Volda Lawrence strongly suggests has been a virus of fraud attempts to steal from the public treasury, occurring within her Ministry.
Relations between the public and private sectors in the economic sphere are generally considered – and justifiably so – to be essential to Guyana’s economic health, the reason being that while it is government that creates and provides the policy framework within which the private sector functions, it is the private sector by investing in economic initiatives that makes critical goods and services available, paying taxes and creating jobs that are, in fact, the engine of growth.
The Stabroek Business has, in recent weeks, focused a considerable amount of editorial attention on the collaborative efforts involving government, the Guyana Manufacturing & Services Association (GMSA) and the agro processing sector, through initiatives like the UncappeD events and the lobbying efforts taking place at the level of exchanges between GMSA and government officials.
Over a protracted period of time the relationship between the Government of Guyana and the private sector as represented by the major Business Support Organizations has proceeded in fits and starts and if the truth be told the failure to see eye to eye has not always been on account of differences that have had to do with business and the economy.
If the adage about one swallow not making a summer clearly applies to the recent initiatives by the Government of Guyana and the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) to attempt to breathe new life into the country’s agro-processing sector, it would be churlish not to acknowledge the recent developments in the sector and what we should be reading into it.