UN Rep­re­sen­ta­tive urges pri­vate sec­tor to align in­ter­ests with de­vel­op­ment goals

Stabroek News Sunday - - REGIONAL NEWS -

While oil will gen­er­ate rev­enue and key for­eign in­vestor in­ter­est, modernised agri­cul­ture, re­spon­si­ble min­ing and qual­ity con­struc­tion for key sec­tors will be the real driv­ers of Guyana’s de­vel­op­ment, ac­cord­ing to United Na­tions Res­i­dent Co­or­di­na­tor Mikiko Tanaka, who has called on the pri­vate sec­tor to con­sider align­ing their busi­ness in­ter­ests with the Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals (SDGs).

In a speech to the Con­sul­ta­tive As­so­ci­a­tion of Guyanese In­dus­try on Novem­ber 15th, Tanaka ob­served that oil has put Guyana on the world map and the coun­try is at­tract­ing more for­eign com­pa­nies.

Oil will bring in rev­enues and at­tract for­eign in­vestors to cre­ate a few thou­sand jobs, she said, be­fore adding that “the real en­gine for Guyana’s green and hu­man de­vel­op­ment” will come from a modernised agri­cul­ture with value chains that can also sup­ply nu­tri­tious food to the peo­ple, en­vi­ron­men­tally and so­cially re­spon­si­ble min­ing, qual­ity con­struc­tion for in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment, tourism and other ser­vices.

“…So part­ner with for­eign com­pa­nies with good man­age­ment and so­cially re­spon­si­ble prac­tices to in­vest and in­no­vate for SDG aligned busi­ness,” she said, be­fore urg­ing the pri­vate sec­tor to re­ject cor­rupt prac­tices.

“Say no to cor­rup­tion - cor­rup­tion only hap­pens if there are tak­ers and givers,” Tanaka urged, while ques­tion­ing whether the pri­vate sec­tor could unite to pur­sue a prin­ci­ple-based com­pact, de­mand­ing ex­cel­lence from govern­ment and po­lit­i­cal par­ties in re­turn for ex­cel­lence in busi­ness. “If the govern­ment does not yet have poli­cies and mea­sures in place to pre­vent sex­ual ha­rass­ment and abuse, can the pri­vate sec­tor take (the) ini­tia­tive and set an ex­am­ple?” she added, while also not­ing that the lo­cal pri­vate sec­tor has some way to go to gen­er­ate enough em­ploy­ment for Guyanese youth, to build up pro­fes­sional stan­dards of work both in the qual­ity of prod­ucts and ser­vices and in work con­di­tions for the work force.

Tanaka noted that Guyana has en­vi­able nat­u­ral en­dow­ments, such as its of­fi­cial lan­guage, English, which fa­cil­i­tates ac­cess to in­ter­na­tional net­works, and its rel­a­tively small pop­u­la­tion, which may be a dis­ad­van­tage to cre­ate economies of scale, but could be an ad­van­tage in providing pub­lic ser­vices and work­force train­ing.

She also sug­gested that while the coun­try’s sig­nif­i­cant brain drain is seen as a prob­lem, it pro­vides ed­u­ca­tion and em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties that might oth­er­wise not be avail­able in-coun­try and she added that with the right con­di­tions here, more Guyanese should be in­spired to bring back their skills, re­sources and net­works. In the mean­time, she added, there are many other Guyanese and peo­ple from the Caribbean and be­yond who want work.

Les­sons

Tanaka, who was asked to pro­vide per­spec­tives of in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence in de­vel­op­ment, par­tic­u­larly about the economies of Asia in or­der to draw some les­sons for Guyana, spoke of the cases of Ja­pan, South Korea, Sin­ga­pore and Malaysia, where there were sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments in real in­come and in­come dis­tri­bu­tion.

She said while ev­ery coun­try is very dif­fer­ent in his­tor­i­cal, geo­graph­i­cal, so­cial, eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal con­di­tions and suc­cess was achieved through a com­bi­na­tion of very dif­fer­ent fac­tors, there were some com­mon threads.

Gov­er­nance that pro­vides a pre­dictable, con­sis­tent, sta­ble and safe en­vi­ron­ment for in­vest­ment, she noted, was an im­por­tant fac­tor for the economies, al­though not al­ways favourable from a so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal per­spec­tive.

She added that po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship or some form of cen­tralised govern­ment im­pe­tus played an im­por­tant role but the pri­vate sec­tor is the eco­nomic en­gine. “These coun­tries have rel­a­tively strong and ef­fi­cient pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion to im­ple­ment poli­cies, fa­cil­i­tate in­vest­ments and en­force laws across po­lit­i­cal changes. Avail­abil­ity of qual­ity in­fra­struc­ture, util­i­ties, cred­i­ble fi­nan­cial and other ser­vices also were key. There was ac­cess to a pro­duc­tive labour force in some cases that had to be trained or sup­ple­mented with mi­grant labour,” she noted.

Tanaka said state-pri­vate sec­tor co­op­er­a­tion through pub­lic in­vest­ments and in­cen­tives were in­stru­men­tal but also cre­ated con­di­tions for col­lu­sion and cor­rup­tion be­tween politi­cians and pri­vate sec­tor that have led to some high-pro­file ar­rests and con­vic­tions in Ja­pan, South Korea and Malaysia.

Tanaka also noted that ed­u­ca­tion is highly val­ued in these Asian coun­tries and the states have in­vested heav­ily in train­ing a skilled work­force from one sec­tor to an­other as eco­nomic pri­or­i­ties shifted. “State-fi­nanced teach­ing col­leges, pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties and tech­ni­cal col­leges, pro­mo­tion of pri­vate ed­u­ca­tion, sys­tem­atic train­ing from pri­vate com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing state sub­si­dies to in­ter­na­tional firms to train their lo­cal un­skilled work­ers all con­trib­uted to the de­vel­op­ment of a fit for pur­pose labour force,” she noted, while adding that that in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment as­sis­tance was used strate­gi­cally. “The teach­ing pro­fes­sion is re­spected. Com­pe­ti­tion for good ed­u­ca­tion is ex­tremely high from early ages and par­ents in­vest in sup­ple­men­tary classes for chil­dren to com­pete for the best schools. Dis­ci­pline, loy­alty and work ethics are in­stilled from early ages and con­trib­utes to a rel­a­tively or­gan­ised work­force but also cre­ates con­sumers rig­or­ously de­mand­ing qual­ity and ef­fi­ciency in pub­lic ser­vices and com­mer­cial prod­ucts,” she added.

Align­ing busi­ness with SDGs

With the 2030 Agenda for Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment adopted by the UN Gen­eral As­sem­bly in 2015, Tanaka said the world now has a com­mon de­vel­op­ment frame­work. “The 17 SDGs are am­bi­tious and ap­ply to ev­ery coun­try. Zero poverty, zero hunger, low car­bon to slow down global warm­ing, peace, jus­tice and so­cial co­he­sion, gen­der equal­ity, leave no one be­hind,” she noted, be­fore adding that in Ja­pan, South Korea, Sin­ga­pore and Malaysia there is a gov­ern­men­tal drive to im­ple­ment Agenda 2030 mo­bil­is­ing so­ci­ety and pri­vate sec­tor.

Fur­ther, she noted that a re­port is­sued in 2017 by the Busi­ness and Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Com­mis­sion, called Bet­ter Busi­ness Bet­ter World, il­lus­trates what the pri­vate sec­tor can do to con­trib­ute to SDGs and “makes the busi­ness case that in fact, align­ing busi­ness to SDGs is what would make busi­nesses com­pet­i­tive and sus­tain­able in the long run.”

As a re­sult, she chal­lenged the pri­vate sec­tor to take on “the hard chal­lenges to trans­form Guyana to achieve the SDGs,” while ex­press­ing hope for a com­mon vi­sion of Guyana with value propo­si­tions and tar­gets for the pri­vate sec­tor for 2040, 2030 and 2025.

Tanaka said Guyana has vi­sion and lead­er­ship and she noted that Pres­i­dent David Granger’s mes­sage is clear and con­sis­tent, that is, “a bet­ter life for all Guyanese through an en­vi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able, diver­si­fied and in­clu­sive econ­omy and so­ci­ety.”

She noted that the UN sys­tem has ac­com­pa­nied the elab­o­ra­tion of the Green State De­vel­op­ment Strat­egy and the many con­sul­ta­tions and that the strat­egy is soon ex­pected to go to Par­lia­ment and then to the pub­lic for dis­sem­i­na­tion.

She said, “The strat­egy is com­pre­hen­sive, aligned to the Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals and very am­bi­tious, as it should be.”

She added, “Im­ple­men­ta­tion will not be easy and re­quires com­mit­ment and dis­ci­pline, hard and sus­tained work over time from gov­ern­ments, state in­sti­tu­tions, pri­vate sec­tor, civil so­ci­ety, com­mu­ni­ties and cit­i­zens.”

In ad­di­tion to the chal­lenges for the pri­vate sec­tor, Tanaka said the pub­lic sec­tor “for sure needs to se­ri­ously shape up into a co­her­ent sys­tem of in­sti­tu­tions that en­ables and en­forces pub­lic ser­vants to serve the pub­lic pro­fes­sion­ally.”

Ac­cord­ing to Tanaka, an anal­y­sis of the UNDP’s Hu­man De­vel­op­ment In­dex found that coun­tries have be­come top per­form­ers through two broad routes: fast in­come growth or ex­cep­tional progress in health and ed­u­ca­tion. She ex­plained that forces driv­ing im­prove­ments in health and ed­u­ca­tion are dif­fer­ent from those driv­ing im­prove­ments in in­come. She added that vari­ables, such as trade, for­eign in­vest­ment and in­sti­tu­tions, tend to dif­fer­ently af­fect eco­nomic growth ver­sus hu­man de­vel­op­ment more broadly. How­ever, she said in coun­tries with strong in­sti­tu­tions, higher govern­ment spend­ing on wages, goods and ser­vices were con­ducive to faster progress. “… Where in­sti­tu­tions were weak, pub­lic cap­i­tal in­vest­ment did not trans­late into long-run progress in hu­man de­vel­op­ment,” she fur­ther noted, be­fore adding that re­duc­ing in­equal­ity can sig­nif­i­cantly im­prove hu­man de­vel­op­ment. She added that poli­cies to im­prove gen­der eq­uity also have pos­i­tive ef­fects on hu­man de­vel­op­ment.

Ter­rence Thomp­son) (Photo by

’Tis the sea­son?Cus­tomers lined up along Welling­ton Street and into North Road to take ad­van­tage of Giz­mos and Gad­get’s Black Fri­day door buster sale on Fri­day.

Mikiko Tanaka

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