The appearance in today’s issue of the Stabroek Business of an article written by Mr Louis Holder, a local business owner, reflecting on what he perceives to be some of the impediments to the growth of the country’s manufacturing sector, seeks to break new ground in the relationship between this newspaper and the business sector.
The state of the country’s economy and exactly where it has been heading over the past year or so is one of the current talking points among Guyanese.
There is absolutely no way that the authorities could have continued to countenance the relentless pillaging of the installations of the utility companies by thieves targeting metal infrastructure for vandalizing in order to make a living out of selling the metal.
The recent announcement that Guyana will be hosting a high-profile coconut industry forum in October this year will probably not attract much sustained interest beyond the direct stakeholders in the industry though in his briefing on the forum and the industry as a whole provided to this newspaper, Mr Raymond Trotz, Chairman of the National Stakeholders Forum for Coconut Development hoped otherwise.
The evidence that all is far from well in terms of the relationship between the government and the private sector can no longer be ignored.
The burden of our responsibility as the Stabroek News’ weekly Business Supplement is to publish stories and points of view on issues pertaining to the growth, development, challenges, limitations, successes and failures of the local business community.
It is a comforting thing that sections of the citizenry have opted to hold City Hall to account in the parking meter brouhaha, if only to make the point that its behaviour in the matter of the rolling out of the project runs counter to the very commitment that it made to democratic conduct when it took office to replace a predecessor administration that had itself been accused of, not infrequently, acting as a law onto itself.
While the Stabroek Business has been unable to secure a reliable estimate of the extent of the increase in urban trading over the past five years we have noticed the pronounced upsurge in small business investments in sectors such as grooming and beauty treatment (barbering, hairdressing, cosmetology), fashion, food vending and IT goods and services.
The very last thing that City Hall needs now that it is probably better-positioned than it was a few months ago to put behind it a past strewn with accusations of fraud, mismanagement and corruption is more of the same, though it seems on the basis of the available evidence that it may not be particularly mindful of the consequences of passing the same way twice.
Several months after we raised the issue of the seemingly long-postponed public/private sector ‘summit’ there has been no definitive word from either side as to whether or when the two will meet though the former chairman of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) Major General (ret’d) Norman McLean did say in a letter to this newspaper that the meeting will take place.
This year, small business representatives at the Jubilee GuyExpo event had much to say about how it impacted on customer patronage when compared with their customary day-to-day trading in arcades, on pavements, in malls and the like.
Once the programme of official events for the Jubilee Independence celebrations is over one expects that there will be some movement on the commencement of discussions between the government and the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) on wages and salaries and related issues.
Understandably, we have no clear idea of the numbers that will arrive here over the next week to be part of the country’s 50th Independence Anniversary celebrations, though from all that we have been hearing Guyanese from the diaspora, some of whom may well not have set foot on their native soil in decades, will be ‘touching down’ here to participate in the historic celebrations.
A fair number of people – including some employees of the company with whom this newspaper spoke – have commented favourably on the grit and determination with which the Guyana Fire Service battled Monday’s conflagration at the Gafoors Houston Complex.
It is the easiest thing in the world to take sides in the prevailing brouhaha between the Georgetown City Council and the vendors who ply their trade in the area of the Stabroek Market following what turned out to be the forcible removal of the vendors from areas where – in some cases – they had been trading for several years.
A vigorous and increasingly acrimonious exchange is ensuing in business and political circles in Jamaica over just what sort of reaction the country should provide to what it says is the ill-treatment of Jamaicans travelling to its sister Caricom country by the immigration authorities in Trinidad and Tobago.
The announcement earlier this week that 13 dredges and a dragger had been caught mining illegally in the area of the protected Kaieteur National Park area underscores the challenges that the authorities in Guyana will continue to face in circumstances where the mining of gold continues to coexist with imperatives that have to do with our obligation to the environment.
One of the points made to us by the new President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) Mr Vishnu Doerga during an interview published in the Stabroek Business last week, had to do with the focus which, going forward, the Chamber will be placing on reaching out to sister Chambers across the country in an effort to support them in their quest to infuse a higher level of organizational and administrative acumen into the agendas of the business communities in the various regions of the country.
This newspaper’s interview earlier this week with the newly appointed Chief Executive Officer of GO-Invest Mr Owen Verwey, provided some important and long-overdue insights into the likely future of the agency charged not only with promoting Guyana at home and abroad as a worthwhile investment destination but also with helping to open up new external markets in which Guyana can pay a trading interest, apart, of course, from shoring up the traditional ones.
President David Granger’s perspective on the implications of a stronger local democratic framework for the advancement of Guyana’s economic fortunes and for the welfare of the people of Guyana was set out in an absorbing even if somewhat unconventional presentation to the Annual General Meeting of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI).
For all the official discourse and the various initiatives undertaken to talk up the value-added potential of Guyana’s agricultural sector there is no question that the country continues to be way below its potential in this regard.
Finance Minister Winston Jordan would—much more than the average citizen—be au fait with the condition of the national economy (or what is usually referred to as the numbers) in the context of whether or not it is in a position to afford public servants a salary increase and just how much the economy might be able to afford at this time.
When the Stabroek Business learnt that an organization called the General Contractors Association of Guyana (GCAG) had been created we agreed to meet with members and – arising out of that meeting – to bring the existence of this organization to the attention of the public.
Wednesday’s release from the Guyana Revenue Authority’s (GRA) Law Enforcement and Investigation Division (LEID) that it had seized uncustomed goods valued at $20 million in the month of January would probably hardly have attracted a great deal of public attention beyond the actual newspaper headline.
The closest that this newspaper was able to come to getting anyone in authority to talk about some of the likely features of the APNU-AFC coalition’s first full annual budget came during an extended interview with Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin on Wednesday.
Anything remotely resembling accurate monitoring and measurement of growth in Guyana’s small business sector has not been possible over the years since no reliable mechanism exists for so doing.
There was something more than a trifle curious about last week’s announcement that City Hall had called a halt to construction work on the 81-82 Camp and Robb streets construction site after it had been determined that the developer had apparently gone ahead with the exercise without receiving the requisite permission from the City Engineer’s Department.
There were things about the seasonal commercial activity that were different this year.
Several months ago this newspaper was briefed by Chairman of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) Norman McLean about the planned staging of a public/private business/economic forum which, as we understood it, was intended to chart a course for a longer-term relationship between the business sector and the new political administration.
There was an encouraging sense of entrepreneurship amongst many of the vendors who placed their goods on display at last month’s first ever Small Business Exposition.
One assumes that (sooner rather than later) there will be some sort of official assessment of last weekend’s Business Exposition, the event being the first of its kind and the organisers, presumably, wanting to determine whether the event might have been sufficiently successful to warrant its annualisation.
There would not have been a Small Business Exposition but for the fact—at least so we are told—that as far as the annual GuyExpo is concerned we are saving our effort for the 50th Anniversary of Guyana’s independence at which time we will stage what is likely to be the biggest GuyExpo ever.
It has been a memorable week for the local aviation sector, for the wrong reasons.
News that Guyana has invited the Director of the Hospitality Institute of Barbados to give support to the creation of a similar facility here in Guyana is welcome, even if it leaves us none the wiser as to a time frame for the creation of our own local centre of excellence as far as raising the bar in the hospitality sector is concerned.
It is entirely fair to give City Hall a gentle pat on the back for what we expect is an ongoing effort to change the appearance of the city – and its own image in the process – even as it appears to enjoy a relationship with the present administration than it apparently did with the previous one.
At a time when governments in developed countries are embracing legislative measures to protect their populations against food-borne diseases associated with lax importation policies that pay less than careful attention to food imports, it behooves governments in poor countries, which, on account of their already profligate and often less than carefully overseen import policies, to follow suit by adhering to their own already existing laws and regulations and where necessary to have those tightened.
The announcement by the Government Analyst Food & Drugs Department earlier this week about a particular brand of milk that the information on the label does not accurately communicate to the consumer the contents of the product and some possible health issues may well have passed unnoticed amongst a sizeable section of the consuming public.
There has been some evidence, recently, of a deliberate attempt on the part of government to accord tourism a higher national profile.
During the course of a conversation with a group of agro processors last week, Stabroek Business learnt that across the country several hundred would-be entrepreneurs continue to be constrained in their ambitions on account of their inability to take their pursuits to the next level, that is to say beyond the stage of producing a few bottles of pepper sauce or ground seasoning in their kitchens and selling these to family and friends and at small stalls in the municipal markets.
There have always been complaints about underhand goings-on in the world of car dealerships.
A week ago the Head of Trans Guyana Airways Mr Michael Correia introduced a Rayethon Beechcraft 1900D aircraft into the country’s aviation sector.
Even as the government contemplates its next moves to shore up a mining sector reeling under pressure from continually falling gold prices, a succession of mining accidents some of which have resulted in multiple deaths and what, at this stage, is just the beginning of potentially scandalous allegations of large scale smuggling of gold out of Guyana, the recently concluded four-member Commission of Inquiry into “mine accident deaths by pit collapse” has launched a scathing attack on the sector’s key regulatory agency, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) charging, among other things, that the agency lacks “the focus, capacity and/or strategy to ensure that (gold mining) operations are meeting their legal responsibilities under accepted health and safety laws and guidelines and the requirements of the Mining Act.” In a report that refuses to spare the feelings of the GGMC and its senior functionaries the Commissioners state that while the GGMC “should always aggressively prohibit any operator from running an unsafe operation until corrective measures….are implemented and passed”, the GGMC has taken the position of “looking the other way.” Asked to provide an interpretation of this comment, a Commission official told this newspaper that it appears to suggest that the regulatory agency “is complicit in some of these safety transgressions.” The blunt revelations contained in the report present a considerable headache for government since they are serious enough to raise questions as to whether, in its present form, the GGMC is equipped to manage the gold industry.
From the various accounts that we have received regarding Junior Minister Simona Broomes’ walkabout on Regent Street on Tuesday, including the account given to us by the minister herself, the experience was both revealing and deeply disturbing.
Several weeks ago this newspaper learnt through the Chairman of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) Major General (retd) Norman McLean that arising out of a meeting which the private sector had had with representatives of the new political administration, including the President, David Granger, a private sector team would be involved in the planning of a national economic forum that would include business officials of all hues and government officials whose portfolios had to do with business, investment and the economy.
Retail trading this past week has been dominated by spending on items associated with equipping children to return to school for the first term of the new academic year.
The announcement by Finance Minister Winston Jordan in his budget presentation that government intends to activate a provision of the Small Business Act of 2004 that allows for medium and small enterprises to access up to 20 percent of government contracts will be music to the ears of those smaller goods and service providers who have been complaining for years about being locked out of access to contracts for services to the state even in circumstances where they say they are capable of providing those services.
It is probably about two weeks (or thereabouts) since Mr. Royston King, the new Town Clerk, publicly announced that he would be giving priority attention to the rehabilitation of the collapsed section of the Stabroek Market wharf – and while that exercise is going on – the relocation of at least some of the vendors who are now displaced.
Minister of Health Dr George Norton has formally disclosed that the government has halted what was clearly an attempt a few weeks ago to ‘walk’ a $572 million payment to the New Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation (New GPC) through the system.
It is evidently not by accident that in one of his relatively early public presentations substantively connected to the country’s economy President David Granger has signalled his concern for the challenges confronting the rice industry and his government’s interest in supporting the sector in its anticipated response to the problem.
Since the disclosure in the Friday July 10 issue of this newspaper to the effect that there will be no GuyExpo this year, we have spoken with quite a few vendors who customarily offer items of food, clothing, ornaments and costume jewellery for sale at the event.