Even as early as a few weeks ago it seemed likely that the floods which, official reports suggest, have now reached proportions of a crisis sufficiently severe as to warrant an appeal for international help, could escalate beyond the control of the country’s fragile response capabilities.
Now in its fifth year of ‘operation,’ following the passage in the National Assembly of the Food Safety Bill of 2016, not a great deal has been publicly disseminated about the work of the National Food Safety Authority (NFSA) nor has the agency benefitted from the kind of reporting that draws pointed attention to those undertakings in which it engages and the outcomes thereof.
Just a few weeks ago a farming cooperative in the Mocha/Arcadia community executed two Farmers’ Markets over a relatively short period.
In the course of the recent engagement between Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha and Canada’s High Commissioner to Guyana Mark Berman during which – as reported in this issue of the Stabroek Business – the two talked up possibilities for the strengthening of relations between the two countries, Minister Mustapha, who is the serving Chairman of the Ministerial Task Force for advancing the agriculture agenda of the region, reportedly alluded to the current focus of the Task Force on producing a document on food security highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of each member state, for submission to CARICOM Heads.
This is not the first occasion on which the Stabroek Business has made a pointed editorial comment on Guyana’s failure, up until now, to take any sort of initiative to speak of, to mark the United Nations-designated International Year of Fruits and Vegetables (IYFV).
Not many moons ago a pronouncement by a high official of government seeking to ‘sell’ Guyana’s preparedness to pay serious attention to expressions of interest by potential overseas investors would have been likely to encounter a healthy measure of skepticism.
One of our stories in this week’s edition of the Stabroek Business concerns the unfolding progress of the already considerably successful Jamaica Producers’ Group, (JPG) which, based on the contents of its performance profile, would appear to be among the ‘high fliers’ in the country’s agricultural sector and agro-processing sectors.
So far have we travelled from the condition of national euphoria that attended the May 2015 announcement by ExxonMobil that the Liza-1 oil well in the Stabroek block had yielded the first ‘world class’ oil find offshore Guyana, that last Tuesday’s revelation by the same company that it had had made the country’s nineteenth major oil find barely provoked a murmur from the country as a whole.
Not even the current COVID-19 global emergency to which there, as yet, appears to be no end in sight could distract United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres from sounding what, in diplomatic terms, was a resounding alarm in response to the just released World Meteorolo-gical Organization (WMO) State of the Global Climate Report.
An article which we propose to publish in the Stabroek Business shortly undertakes a cursory examination of the experiences of a handful of ‘new entrepreneurs’ who have sought to either pursue optional ways of earning a living given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the conventional labour market, or else, have decided to embark on new business excursions, presumably to add to their existing incomes or else, just ‘for the heck’ of undertaking a new adventure.
While this is not the first time that relatively young persons have been elected to lead the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), one senses, this time around, an infusion of collective enlightenment amongst the relatively young team that has been chosen to head the Chamber in the period ahead.
Under the previous political administration, two Ministers of Government, first, the then Finance Minister Winston Jordan and afterwards, Dominic Gaskin in his capacity as Minister of Business, made public what they said was government’s intention to usher in the full and effective implementation of the provision in the 2004 Small Business Act to allow for small businesses to access 20 per cent of state contracts in circumstances where the effective completion of those contracts lay within the scope of their competence.
If we appear persistent in our call for the government to prepare, publish, and implement a countrywide programme of activities to mark International Year of Fruits and Vegetables (IYFV), so designated by the United Nations since December last year, that is because we see possibilities not just for Guyana’s participation in a global event that can boost the morale of the large numbers of local farmers during a period of trials and frustrations, but also because we can use IYFV as an important base on which to further consolidate an agricultural sector that is of significance to building a food-secure regime both here in Guyana and in the wider Caribbean. Following the December 21, 2020, declaration by the United Nations designating 2021 International Year of Fruits and Vegetables, the Stabroek Business took a decision that it would dedicate a portion of its editorial content to stories seeking to raise awareness of fruits and vegetables and their importance both as food and as money-earners for the agriculture and agro-processing sectors.
One of the articles published in this week’s issue of the Stabroek Business addresses the efforts which we stated are being made by Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Office for Investment (GO-INVEST) Dr Peter Ramsaroop and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hugh Todd, to draw attention to the government’s efforts, through the vehicles of their respective portfolios, to create a climate more convivial to attracting foreign investment.
The bountiful spread of fruit and vegetable ‘markets’ that manifest themselves across the country including evidence of a marked increase in the number of new vendors at various vantage points across the capital and in parts of other regions, is one of the many manifestations of the aggressive pursuit of entrepreneurial options arising out of the economic squeeze created by the onset of Covid-19.
This is not the first time that the Stabroek Business has commented on official pronouncements on economic diplomacy and the particular role of the Foreign Service in pursuit of the goals of attracting external investors, creating openings for the growth of markets for goods and the marketing Guyana as a haven for external investment.
There being no clear indication up to this time as to just when there will be a measure of respite from the COVID-19 pandemic, the restraints that continue to harness the business sector grow increasingly worrisome.
It may have come as a surprise to some of the representatives of the mainstream private sector when representatives of the small business sector put in an appearance at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre on Monday to further make a case for far greater attention to be paid to their growth needs in order to better position them to, among other things, benefit from some of the promised spinoffs from the oil & gas sector and to otherwise consolidate their operations.
Sufficient time has elapsed, we believe, for the new government to provide a clear policy picture in relation to the level of support that the local small business community can anticipate from it in terms of initiatives that can help to strengthen the sector if only on account of the substantial job-creation and poverty alleviation weight that it carries.
The prospects that could accrue to the local business sector arising out of the Local Content opportunities deriving from anticipated oil and gas-related foreign investor pursuits was one of the focal points of last Thursday’s address by Dr Ashni Singh at the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce’s 131st Awards Ceremony, unsurprisingly so, since Local Content and what it could mean for the fortunes of the Guyana business community has, for the most part, been uppermost on the agenda of our Business Support Organisations (BSOs).