Land­mark busi­ness sum­mit opens Pres­i­dent says gov’t ac­tively courting in­vest­ment, stresses in­no­va­tion

-pri­vate sec­tor says doesn’t want an­other talk shop

Stabroek News - - LETTERS -

With a two-day sum­mit geared to­wards achiev­ing clear ben­e­fits to busi­nesses, the Pri­vate Sec­tor Com­mis­sion (PSC) yes­ter­day called on Pres­i­dent David Granger to spec­ify the mea­sures aimed at cre­at­ing in­vest­ment and op­por­tu­ni­ties while al­le­vi­at­ing poverty.

“We don’t want this sum­mit to be an­other grand talk shop,” PSC’s ex­ec­u­tive Deo­dat In­dar read from a speech pre­pared by the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s Chair­man, Ed­ward Boyer.

Boyer is cur­rently in the United States, where he is re­ceiv­ing med­i­cal treat­ment for an ill­ness but sent his re­marks and also contributed to the fo­rum, which was livestreamed on the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s Face­book page.

The Pres­i­dent de­liv­ered the Guest Speaker’s ad­dress at yes­ter­day’s opening, which saw about 50 par­tic­i­pants from the busi­ness com­mu­nity, mem­bers of the diplo­matic corps, min­is­ters of gov­ern­ment, a del­e­ga­tion from the Op­po­si­tion Peo­ple’s Pro­gres­sive Party/Civic and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the In­ter-Amer­i­can Devel­op­ment Bank.

The sum­mit, held un­der the theme `Chal­lenges and Op­portu-ni­ties for Busi­ness Growth and Ex­pan­sion’, saw pre­sen­ters from var­i­ous ministries and the op­po­si­tion but also saw min­is­ters pre­sent­ing and fa­cil­i­tat­ing dis­cus­sions in seven key ar­eas. They were en­ergy, mar­kets, hu­man cap­i­tal devel­op­ment, eco­nomic devel­op­ment and ca­pac­ity, tax­a­tion, sourc­ing cap­i­tal/cap­i­tal market devel­op­ment and gov­er­nance and le­gal ar­chi­tec­ture.

Tell us how

Us­ing the Pres­i­dent’s pres­ence as an op­por­tu­nity to get di­rect an­swers on burn­ing is­sues for the PSC, Boyer called on Granger to tell the fo­rum “how” he in­tended to re­al­ize his dream of a holis­ti­cally de­vel­oped na­tion where its cit­i­zenry pros­pered.

“To­day, the Chair­man of the PSC, calls on the Pres­i­dent to clar­ify your gov­ern­ment’s ap­proach to eco­nomic devel­op­ment, your tax­a­tion pol­icy, your in­cen­tive pro­gramme for busi­nesses. How you in­tend to strengthen our democ­racy and en­sure rule of law is main­tained, your plans to de­velop the qual­ity of life of the cit­i­zenry and also how your gov­ern­ment in­tends to work with the pri­vate sec­tor to cre­ate jobs for our young and un­der­uti­lized pop­u­la­tion,” Boyer’s state­ment read.

“In ad­di­tion, if your Ex­cel­lency can pro­vide di­rec­tion on the oil and gas sec­tor on ar­eas where we will spend rev­enues from the ex­pected wealth de­riv­ing from roy­al­ties and rents. Since gov­ern­ment is the big­gest spender, this will as­sist the pri­vate sec­tor where and when to in­vest in or­der to be an an­tic­i­pated re­cip­i­ent of gov­ern­ment con­tracts. I also would like His Ex­cel­lency to ad­dress what are the plans to ad­dress the prison sys­tem, and the wider se­cu­rity is­sues in the coun­try that caused busi­nesses to be on edge due to the level of rob­beries and other crimes ex­pe­ri­enced in the coun­try,” it added.

Three-pronged ap­proach

Granger, who sat be­side Min­is­ter of Busi­ness Do­minic Gaskin, later de­tailed sta­tis­tics of the coun­try’s eco­nomic progress over the years and re­it­er­ated his prom­ises for de­liv­er­ing a “good life” for all, even as he asked the PSC to join with him in his toil.

He told at­ten­dees that gov­ern­ment’s ap­proach to re­al­iz­ing its ob­jec­tive was three-pronged: in­vest­ment, in­no­va­tion and the in­sti­tu­tional frame­work.

“The gov­ern­ment has been work­ing to cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment which is sup­port­ive of so­cio-eco­nomic devel­op­ment that is linked to the ob­jec­tive of en­sur­ing a ‘good life’ for all. I noted that the ‘good life’ means the ab­sence of poverty… the pres­ence of equal­ity and the cre­ation of an en­light­ened cit­i­zenry through ed­u­ca­tion…ef­fec­tive stew­ard­ship of our nat­u­ral re­sources and… em­ploy­ment for our peo­ple. The at­tain­ment of the goal of a ‘good life’ re­quires the re­duc­tion of dis­par­i­ties based on ge­og­ra­phy and eth­nic­ity and the sus­tained cre­ation of wealth through eco­nomic growth and em­ploy­ment. The pri­vate sec­tor is a cre­ator of wealth and a gen­er­a­tor of em­ploy­ment. It can work with the gov­ern­ment, the labour move­ment and civil so­ci­ety to­wards at­tain­ing the ob­jec­tive of a ‘good life,” the pres­i­dent said.

In the area of in­vest­ment, Granger said that his gov­ern­ment, while seek­ing to fix the eco­nomic prob­lems which it in­her­ited, has been si­mul­ta­ne­ously and ac­tively courting in­vest­ment over­seas, as it hopes to en­cour­age the di­as­pora to in­vest here.

“The Ministries of For­eign Af­fairs and Cit­i­zen­ship have been pur­su­ing in­creased in­vest­ment and trade. Amer­i­cans, Brazil­ians, Bri­tish, Cana­di­ans, Chi­nese, French, In­di­ans, Rus­sians, Suri­namese, Turks and Trinida­di­ans are in­vest­ing heav­ily here. Guyanese should have no good rea­son for not in­creas­ing in­vest­ments in their own coun­try. In­vest­ment is the fuel of eco­nomic ex­pan­sion and em­ploy­ment. Gov­ern­ment has been en­cour­ag­ing the bank­ing sec­tor to ex­pand its fi­nan­cial ser­vices to ru­ral agri­cul­tural and hin­ter­land gold-min­ing and other zones. Guyana is lag­ging in the ra­tio of com­mer­cial banks per 100,000 per­sons but the bank­ing sys­tem can be­come a gold­mine of in­vest­ment funds. Ac­cess to af­ford­able cap­i­tal by lo­cal in­vestors will spur in­vest­ment,” he said.

Turn­ing to in­no­va­tion, Granger ex­plained that in­creased in­vest­ments alone could not yield pros­per­ity as it must be backed by in­no­va­tion to cre­ate a more com­pet­i­tive econ­omy.

“The ex­ces­sive con­cen­tra­tion on pri­mary pro­duc­tion has ex­posed the econ­omy to market volatil­i­ties and eco­nomic vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties. The ‘curse’ of the six sis­ters – baux­ite, gold, fish­eries, rice, sugar and tim­ber – does not arise from the char­ac­ter of the com­modi­ties but in the over-de­pen­dency on raw prod­ucts, the lack of in­no­va­tion, the ab­sence of di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion and ne­glect of value-added man­u­fac­tur­ing,” he said

Fur­ther, he added, “These sec­tors have served us well but fail­ure to in­no­vate and di­ver­sify has made us vul­ner­a­ble to ex­oge­nous shocks. A de­cline in the price of these com­modi­ties or a loss of market ac­cess of­ten leads to dis­tress.

Promis­ing

His views on di­ver­sity were echoed by IDB Coun­try Rep­re­sen­ta­tive So­phie Makon­nen.

She pointed out that as at last year, the coun­try’s

(Min­istry of the Pres­i­dency photo)

Part of the gath­er­ing

(Min­istry of the Pres­i­dency photo)

Pres­i­dent David Granger de­liv­er­ing his ad­dress

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