‒ Tobacco Bill puffs doom for lo­cal pri­vate sec­tor ‒ Broad­cast Bill Con­tents are dic­ta­to­rial

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In­vest­ment

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.

Oner­ous

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

for decades.

The for­mer US Mil­i­tary Of­fi­cer notes that these shenani­gans ob­tain in coun­tries where democ­racy is non-ex­is­tent.

Imag­ine

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.”

Dutch Disease

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?”

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