It is, truth be told, a considerable pity that relations between Guyana and Suriname at the government-to- government level have not, for the most part, matched cross-border people-to-people relations.
The tremendous creativity, energy and willpower that have been invested in the creation of micro and small businesses in various sectors by many ordinary Guyanese determined not just to fight their way out of poverty, but also to make a mark as worthwhile businessmen and women, have not, over the years benefitted from a level of support from either government or the lending sector – or the private sector as a whole – that can be considered commensurate with either their effort or with their potential to enhance the viability of the country’s economy. It is true that there are some micro and small businesses that have grown, impressively in some instances.
Arguably, some of the very best years – the growth years – for agro-processing in Guyana were the five or so years prior to the onset of COVID-19.
In more ways than one the international community has been ‘caught out’ by the advent of the coronavirus.
The news earlier this week that a Brazilian miner was fined $12 million for allegedly committing several environmental transgressions in pursuit of his mining activities, including destroying a section of the Cuyuni River bank, would by now have gotten left behind amidst the various other issues that compete for public attention at this time.
According to a media release issued by the Ministry of Human Services & Social Security on Friday last, the Government of Guyana has set a timeline for the establishment of “several micro enterprise driven projects at the grassroots level… to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of diplomatic ties between Guyana and the People’s Republic of China in 2022,” from which it is hoped that “tangible results” will accrue.
Perhaps surprisingly, the UN Secretary General’s Policy Brief titled “Education During COVID-19 and Beyond” released at the beginning of August and which examines the challenge of restoring education systems, globally, and even seeking to render education delivery more robust, more efficient, in the post COVID-19 era, has not benefitted from a great deal of traction in the media here.
It is not too early, we believe, for the Stabroek Business to restate its position that there is everything to be gained from removing the Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC) from within the ambit of the Ministry of Agriculture and allowing it to function as a semi-autonomous state entity under a management structure that is far more suitable to enhancing its role as an agency responsible for providing critical services to the private sector.
We continue to derive a great deal of satisfaction from our ongoing coverage of various small businesses in both the coastal and hinterland regions of Guyana that have been significantly affected by the onset of COVID-19 and some of which are even hesitant to come to concrete conclusions at this stage about the likelihood of their survival.
The fact that last week’s first meeting between Presidents Ali and Santokhi has come this early in both their tenures is the best possible beginning for bilateral relations between Guyana and Suriname under two new political administrations.
Our ongoing editorial focus on small businesses in agriculture, agro processing and on hinterland business ventures (gold being the notable exception here) is that we believe that setting aside its other pursuits the media have a responsibility to stand behind these enterprises at a time when the repercussions of COVID-19 threaten their survival and by extension, the welfare of the owners and their dependents.
Our decision to lend an even higher level of editorial attention than we customarily do to micro and small businesses in the agriculture and agro-processing sectors has to do with the predicament that many businesses of these types find themselves in on account of the strictures that have arisen out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of the more challenging assignments that will face the country once we begin in earnest to assess and seek to limit the extent of the damage that the coronavirus has inflicted on the business sector will have to do with creating some sort of blueprint for putting those various micro- and small businesses that have folded or faltered badly under the weight of the pandemic, back together again.
It is altogether unnecessary for us to allow much more time to elapse before beginning to look ‘down the road’ in the direction of the likely post-COVID-19 state of the small and micro business sector in the Guyana economy.
The probe that the Stabroek Business has been conducting these past several weeks in order to determine how small and micro-businesses have been faring in the restrictive environment of COVID-19 has been, in more ways than one, revealing.
We are entering the second full weekend since a significant resumption of trading in the city following the advent of the COVID-19-driven virtually complete shutdown of business in the capital.
These past few weeks the Stabroek Business has been engaging small business owners in order to determine the extent of the impact that COVID-19 has had on their enterprises.
A recent assessment by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the global food security situation – some aspects of which are reported in this issue of the Stabroek Business – strongly suggests that at least up until now and in the wake of the advent of COVID-19, global supplies are holding their own even though, worryingly, longer-term availability threats still revolve around high prices as well as challenges associated with getting supplies to those regions where life-threatening shortages exist.
There can be no mistaking the reality that the Trump administration in the United States is ‘going for the jugular’ against the administration of President Nicholas Maduro in Venezuela.
On May 19 last, the Ministry of Agriculture, through its Rural Affairs Secretariat, announced its COVID-19 Kitchen Garden Initiative.