‒ Tobacco Bill puffs doom for local private sector ‒ Broadcast Bill Contents are dictatorial
is critical to the development of any country and countries such as Guyana depend heavily on foreign direct investment.
As lead Economic Advisor to the Opposition Leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, Dr Peter Ramsaroop, has over the years been championing a number of investment initiatives that government would do well to pursue.
He has also been at the forefront of criticizing financial and economic strategic blunders by the Peoples National Congress (PNC)-led coalition government.
The latest insult and proverbial slap in the face of the private sector was the recently approved Tobacco Control Bill.
Dr Ramsaroop was quick to point out that he is in no way an advocate of smoking and in fact believe that every effort should be made to address the worldwide phenomenon, which has led to millions of deaths, but insulting and denigrating the private sector will instead cause irreparable damage.
According to Dr Ramsaroop, the caustic remarks leveled against local investors during the presentation of that Bill by none other than the current and former Ministers of Health in the coalition government, speaks volumes as to the attitude of the administration when it comes to dealing with businesses in Guyana.
In fact, Dr Ramsaroop observes that not only did the administration refuse to consult with the principal investor since the legislative impact will be crippling, but the Minister has already signaled the possibility of new taxes.
But in a Guyana context, the Bill of itself creates additional undue hardships. President David Granger has been at the forefront of calling for the revival of micro businesses of late - the finances are not available to those interested, but nonetheless in one breath he calls for the proliferation of small businesses, and with a stroke of the pen destroys the very small businesses.
The onerous clauses in the legislation will not only severely impact the tobacco companies operating in Guyana since it will no doubt begin to erratically erode profits, but the small man at the corner shop will also be affected.
The legislation effectively prohibits this practice. The legislation also effectively limits type of imports and some would even argue infringes on constitutional and other rights.
But what is the intention of the Granger Government?
Over the past few years, several decisions have been taken in a sovereign country that appear to be done at the behest of bilateral partners, whether these are countries or donor bodies, it is up to Granger to tell the truth.
What is very clear is that puffs on the recently tabled Tobacco Control Bill have a whiff of a silent partner’s hand.
Dr Ramsaroop, in this week’s analysis of the administration’s targeted attack on the private sector and with a special focus on those businesses and entrepreneurs that are perceived sympathetic to the administration, also pointed to the Broadcast Bill.
For years, while in opposition, the key players on this proposed Bill have railed against the issuance of radio and TV licences.
At least one newspaper owner complained bitterly, leading protests in the street. This very media house owner has also remained sympathetic to those in government who had promised to revoke the licences of existing operators.
The sinister plot was revealed this past week when the Prime Minister finally presented a Bill to the House to do precisely that.
Dr Ramsaroop asks - why else would the administration ask an operator with hundreds of millions in investments to reapply for a licence? A licence it would have been operating under
Dr Ramsaroop speaking at the recent PPP rally at Leonora
The former US Military Officer notes that these shenanigans obtain in countries where democracy is non-existent.
He said an even more frightening development is the fact that the Government will now be forcing privately owned TV and Radio Stations to air government propaganda on a daily basis or risk losing their licences.
David Granger is either losing it or is being poorly advised because none of the two legislative measures his government brought to the House this past week can in any way send positive signals to the investor community.
Only recently, the administration boasted over an overhaul at the Guyana Office for Investment and a consolidation of services spread across different government agencies in order to make the investment process easier.
Dr Ramsaroop posits, however, that with the signals being sent to private investors locally and overseas, none will come for the taking.
He suggests that with the ever increasing lists of taxes, promises of new taxes - as is the case targeting tobacco - it goes without saying as to why the Granger government has not been able to attract no new investments.
“Imagine they are hold- ing diaspora conferences in Guyana and in various ABC countries, no one is coming…they have held investment conferences, no takers, they have held engineering conferences, and still no one is coming.”
According to Dr Ramsaroop, “it literally baffles my mind that the President and his cohorts are unable to see what Ray Charles can see as clear as day…there is no vision and the Finance Minister is clearly out of his depth.”
Dr Ramsaroop in taking a swipe at the Minister of Finance concludes that simply learning to add a few numbers well and being able to call a few figures is not what is required of the country’s chief policy maker when it comes to finances and financial policy.
“Jordan is clearly a sailor unable to captain the ship at the Ministry of Finance…. even he recently had to admit that again this year the government is woefully behind on its spending for the year… imagine more than half of the year gone and the budget pass since last year and they can’t even spend half of the money as yet.”
Dr Ramsaroop reminded that in the two years remaining, policies such as the ones embellished in the Tobacco Control Bill and the Broadcast Bill will only run investors out of this country…“as I predict will be the case for Demtocco…” but with elections on the horizon, Granger is banking on oil money.
“He is living in a dream world because by the time oil money comes to this country, he and Jordan would have already closed down every viable business in this country, discouraged every credible investor, scared off any interested ones and the inherent effect I fear is that Guyana will in fact experience the Dutch disease if the administration continues along this path.”
Dr Ramsaroop told this publication….“as a Guyanese, I do not want to see this happen to my country, but if we are to look at the signs what else do you think will happen when this government collapses every other industry and everyone is then left to eat from the oil pie… Imagine for a second what will become of our beloved country if Granger and Jordan are allowed to preside over the financial affairs of this country post-2020?”