The Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) hosted its 25th awards ceremony and dinner at the Pegasus International Hotel on Friday, December 8th, 2017 and which was attended by over 200 business leaders and executives.
The event was addressed by President of the GMSA, Mr. Shyam Nokta, while the keynote address was delivered by British High Commissioner, Mr. Greg Quinn.
In addressing the attendees, the GMSA President, Shyam Nokta, spoke of the 2018 National Budgeted measures. He said the GMSA is pleased that some measures that were advocated for during the Ministerial Roundtable with Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan, has been included in Budget 2018. Among those measures is in the forestry and wood processing sector, which included the exemption of VAT on logs and rough lumber as well as the budgetary allocation of 120 million dollars to commence a national forest inventory. In addition, recognition was given to the budgetary allocation of 50 million dollars to partner with private sector to establish a consolidated and dimensioned stockyard while the measures regarding imported pine were also welcome.
However, he noted that much more still needs to be done for the forestry sector to recover from its current decline and this requires a holistic approach. With regard to the wider manufacturing and services sector, Mr. Nokta pointed out that other important measures the association advocated for in areas critical to manufacturing and overall private sector growth have not been considered for 2018, especially regarding taxation, incentives and energy.
Turning his attention to the economy, Mr. Nokta alluded to the economy’s performance where actual GDP growth for 2017 was 2.9% compared with the 3.8% projected at the beginning of 2017. The overall growth rate projected in the manufacturing for 2018 is 2.4 percent, even as the sector experienced a marginal growth rate of 1.3% from a projected 1.9 for 2017 and according to Mr. Nokta, this is a bit ambitious, but nevertheless, he believes that the manufacturing sector will continue to hold its own and to show the resilience the sector is known for while at the same time recognizing that it should instead be able to catalyze a far greater contribution to the economy if critical issues area addressed.
The GMSA’s major highlights for 2017 include, the Ministerial Roundtable Discussions, which will continue in 2018 and Uncapped – its signature Agro-processors expo held in October and which saw over 60 exhibitors from across Guyana, showcasing their products over a period of 3 days. In making reference to Uncapped, Mr. Nokta said, “The event certainly demonstrated that the GMSA can take on an activity of such scale and magnitude and the over 4000 visitors who attended can attest to being awed by the range of products being produced locally and which many persons were unaware of. Awareness raising and networking were the principal objectives of the event and we believe this was achieved to a large extent.”
Mention was also made of the GMSAbusiness luncheons and discussions fora which allowed members and representatives of the private sector to listen to and interact with keynote speakers from important institutions (the GRA, GOINVEST, and the Food and Drug Department among others.
Organizationally, he noted that, efforts have also redoubled to involve and engage its membership through the improved functioning of key sector subcommittees, its monthly newsletters, and an improved and user friendly website. According to Mr. Nokta “no doubt, these have helped to raise the profile of the GMSA, to spark renewed interest among existing members, and to encourage new members. I am pleased to say that in 2017 we have welcomes 5 close to 10 new members. After not having an Executive Director for many years, we are currently in the process of recruiting one and this will make a big difference in strengthening the Secretariat and our ability to do more.”
In 2018, according to Mr. Nokta, the GMSA will up its focus on the Oil and Gas industry, while noting that a strong Local Content Framework is critical to ensuring that local businesses can be provided with the opportunity to participate in and benefit from this sector. However, he cautioned that Guyana needs to adopt a systematic approach and not be too prescriptive too early. He commended the work of the Centre for Business Development and DAI for the work they are doing while encouraging more GMSA members to take advantage of the orientation and training opportunities from the Centre.
Meanwhile, British High Commissioner, Greg Quinn, in his feature address, warned that while Guyana pursues oil and gas, it should not lose focus of other sectors that contribute to the economy.
Mr. Quinn also noted that the UK Government has been working with local agencies to provide the information needed for Guyana to apply for marine stewardship council certification. He said, “That certification will allow Guyanese fishermen and seafood processing companies easier access to global markets and alongside such certification is to ensure proper food safety legislation in place thereby protecting the health of consumers.”
Speaking on the need to tackle corruption in all its forms, Mr. Quinn said, both the Government and the private sector must play its part. “The Government in cooperation with the Private sector has to do something to address this issue especially before oil revenue comes on stream. There are too many instances worldwide where oil revenues have not been spent in the way they should have been instead they have been diverted into pet projects and into people’s pockets. Guyana must avoid that.”
Speaking specifically on business development, Mr. Quinn said innovation must be encouraged for the country to continue to experience sustainable growth.
“One way of doing that is to make setting up of the operation of a business easier. The ease of doing business index suggest that there is still so much to be done on this. The Minister of Business is doing what he can to change but it calls for a collective effort, which includes the private sector, since they are the drivers of economic growth.”
Mr. Quinn explained that the public sector indeed has a role to play, but ultimately, the success of an economy isvery muchdependent on how well the private sector performs. He added that,“The Government cannot solve all the problems or make the private sector flourish, neither can the private sector do all of this by itself instead this needs to be a partnership between both sides for the benefit of all.”
Additionally, speaking on the alleged ban of Greenheart into the UK, he clarified that there is no such ban. He related that, “Instead, there is a process in place to ensure that whatever is imported is of an appropriate standard and from sustainable resources. I say there is no ban because Guyanese greenheart is already being exported to the UK, most notably from Iwokrama, under their forestry Standards Council Certification. That is the key point certification.”
He further encouraged continued and strengthened trade between the UK and Guyana and also took the opportunity to emphasis the UK Government’s support to democracy in Guyana.
The high point of the evening was the Presentation of Awards which was given to over 18 recipients, including members as well as non-members who would have made a significant contribution in 2017 to the manufacturing and services sectors.