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.
There can be no question than that the high rate of urban unemployment and what is widely believed to be a consequential high rate in the commission of crimes, both petty and significant ones, that those institutions responsible for managing the affairs of the capital at the levels of both local and central government have a responsibility to do what lies within their authority and their resources to create meaningful and sufficient employment for residents of the capital.
The announcement last week that the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) had intercepted a boat containing cargo (foreign chicken and mosquito coils) seemingly intended for illegal placement on the local market, makes two points; first that the GRA, through its enforcement mechanisms, now appears more determined to thwart customs evasion by smugglers and to improve on the collection of such revenues as accrue to the state.
With high unemployment – particularly in the non-coastal areas of Guyana being one of the national challenges which we have been unable to sufficiently roll back, news of the planned commencement of operations of Guyana Manganese In.
Like a recurring decimal the ‘grow more food’ clarion call has, intermittently, resonated across the region as though repetition could transform the vocalizing of the wish into a self-fulfilling prophesy.
After the recent stories about the modest success that has been realized in our attempt to begin to substitute the country’s potato and onion imports with higher levels of local production we are now being told by the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (see story in this issue) that sufficient work has been done in terms of research into farming techniques and the varieties that are best suited to local conditions to give rise to the likelihood that locally cultivated carrots, as well, a few years down the road, will save us further amounts of foreign exchange.
This newspaper’s most recent updates on the provisions contained in the Small Business Act for the allocation of twenty per cent of state contracts to local small businesses provided by Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin and Chief Executive Officer of the Small Business Bureau Dr.
In the space of a week, two of the country’s more Important Business Support Organizations (BSO’s) the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) and the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) held their Annual General Meetings, the forum at which, among other things, opportunity is provided, through the presentations of the respective Presidents, to get a sense of where the business community is headed and perhaps more importantly in our circumstances to learn more from the standpoint of the respective umbrella organizations about the challenges confronting them in the course of their private sector advocacy effort.
What now appears to be an emerging trend towards a modest breakthrough for the local rice industry on the Cuban market is a sign, albeit a modest one, that some inroads are being made to attempt to compensate for what was once a considerable market in Venezuela.
This is one of those ‘seasons’ when our municipal market are at their brilliant best, bursting at the seams with fresh fruit and vegetables at prices that bring out throngs of shoppers and generate the kind of bulk buying that gives rise to long periods of food storage.
One of the salutary features of the work of JAMPRO, Jamaica’s trade and investment arm, one of whose tasks is to globally check out and report on such external market and investment opportunities as might benefit Jamaican businesses is that its work has left a discernable mark on the country’s export sector.
One of the regrettable features of the unfolding discourse on Guyana’s oil find and its implications for the country’s future has been the shift in the focus of the public discourse from the portents of becoming an ‘oil economy’ for the development of the people and the enhancement of the welfare of the people to the issue of the division of the spoils between Guyana as the owners of the resource and the entity that undertook the investment and the risk associated with confirming the presence of oil and undertaking the recovery effort.
The reported brouhaha over the alleged two-month gap in the payment of salaries to security guards providing services at state locations in Region Five would appear to point to the persistence of an entrenched practice of employer exploitation of security guards by private contractors providing service at state institutions.
It is hard to think of any national issue that has secured more traction with the populace over the past two years than the issue of the discovery of oil offshore Guyana and the processes involved in recovering and exploiting the commodity for the nation’s benefit.
The materialization of a report that allows some insights into the performance of the much vaunted Small Business Bureau in terms of its role in kick-starting a transformation in the small business sector finally allows us the opportunity to evaluate what it has accomplished so far, what some of its failings are and what sorts of adjustments/corrective measures it might take.
It is widely believed that if smoothly implemented and scrupulously monitored the actualization of the provision in the Small Business Act of 2004 for a 20% allocation of government’s “goods and services” contracts to small businesses could make a major, positive difference to the country.
The breathing space afforded City Hall in the wake of central government’s intervention to liquidate the City’s indebtedness to Cevons Waste Management and Puran Brothers and to foot the bill for services up to the end of December last year, is over.
It would be entirely fair to say that successive political administrations in Guyana have, over time, continually squandered what, unquestionably, have been glaring opportunities to take advantage of the fact that Brazil, by far this continent’s largest country with the biggest economy, shares a border with us.
During an extended discourse with the Stabroek Business on Wednesday, Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin went to some trouble to make the point that the APNU+AFC administration was particularly keen to provide a convivial environment within which to attract investor attention and (in the presence of Go-Invest Chief Executive Officer, Owen Verwey) made the point that one of his Ministry’s priorities was to properly position and equip Go-Invest to provide the various services associated with investor inquiries.
The pragmatism associated with the decision to significantly scale down the size of a sugar industry which has become a significant financial strain on the rest of the economy and on the country as a whole cannot gainsay the hardships at individual, family and community levels that will accrue from the alarming levels of job losses, some of which have already been announced.
Early in 2016, Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman raised eyebrows in the country when he declared that the amount of gold being smuggled out of Guyana amounted to around 15,000 ounces weekly.
As is one of our more important editorial roles, the Stabroek Business has continually provided a measure of exposure for emerging businesses of various types that are still to meet the stage where they can afford to adequately market their ventures.
One of the stories published in this issue of the Stabroek Business recounts the persistence in the face of considerable obstacles of a young mother and budding entrepreneur who would appear to have chosen a business path that aligns with her academic studies and her work experiences and who, in her exchange with this newspaper, served as a voice for a considerably larger number of small and medium sized manufacturers whose enterprises continue to be squeezed by constraints which, given the application of the appropriate initiatives, are eminently remediable.
Like so many other institutions and individuals in Guyana the Stabroek Business has been observing local developments at both the public and private sector levels as well as the contemplations of public commentators in the matter of what now appears to be the imminent commencement of the exploitation of oil and gas in Guyana’s territorial waters beginning in 2020.
The coincidence between what had appeared to be some distinct signs that the frosty relationship between the APNU-AFC administration and the private sector might have been moving in the direction of a gradual thaw and the recent sudden and dramatic reversal occasioned by the announcement by President David Granger that Justice James Patterson was his choice to be the next Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission is worrying in more ways than one.
The weaknesses in the local agro-processing sub-sector have, over the past year or two, secured increasing traction as a talking point at various fora.