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PRIVATE SECTOR BUSINESS SUMMIT

GMSA pushes for actions to stimulate manufacturing and services sectors

The Private Sector Commission (PSC), with support from the GMSA and other Council Members, pulled off a successful Business Summit over the period 11-12, October 2017. Convened under the theme “Challenges and Opportunities for Business Growth and Expansion” the Summit attracted participation from both Government and the Opposition with President David Granger giving the Feature Address at the Opening.

Over the two days, there were several Panel Discussions on topical issues affecting the business environment and where there was participation from Government,

Opposition, Private Sector and Civil Society.

The expected outcome of the Summit was the preparation of an Action Plan through which stakeholders would agree on steps to be taken to improve the business climate in Guyana over the short to medium term.

GMSA President Mr. Shyam Nokta and former GMSA President Mr. Neil Chand gave presentations during the 1st Session on the manufacturing and services sectors and forestry and wood processing sectors respectively while on Day 2, GMSA Vice President Mr. Ramsay Ali gave opening remarks.

Manufacturing and Services Sectors

Mr. Nokta delivered a presentation that focused on issues relating to Guyana’s economic development – the business environment, tax issues and various cross-cutting issues. He informed that as a first step, one needs to reflect on what type of economy one wants to see by 2025 and to create the journey towards achieving this.  Historically, there has been high dependence on the traditional sectors – rice, sugar, bauxite, gold, etc. There is a need for non-traditional sectors – diversification and economic sustainability.  While oil and gas can support the social infrastructure, there is need to review opportunities for value adding in the various sectors – there is significant potential in this regard.

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Manufacturing contributes 6 – 8% of the GDP. To increase manufacturing, there is need for retooling and the provision of clean, renewable, reliable and cheap electricity.  Manufacturers have remained resilient despite these challenges.  There is an urgent need to update the national energy strategy and if this can be accomplished by 2025, manufacturing will grow significantly and the private sector will be able to capitalize on the potential that oil and gas will bring with regard to the need for goods and services within the industry’s value chain.  As an example of what is possible, the emergence of the local entity Plympton Farms five years ago that exports 100% of its product (hot peppers), is the largest producer of this commodity within the Caribbean. The business focuses on cultivation of peppers, in addition to processing, to ensure that there is a continuous supply.  The business is also 100% HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) compliant.

Mr. Nokta informed that the global demand for food security presents enormous opportunities for Guyana to increase agricultural production and value adding. The thrust towards a green economy also provides substantial opportunities for the future and forest governance needs to be enhanced to facilitate the receipt of funding through carbon credits.  With regard to Information, Communication and Technology (ICT), there is need for liberalization within the telecommunication sector.  There is need for a clear strategy to stimulate and incentivize the private sector and a need for collaboration among stakeholders.  With regard to a national strategic framework to operate within, in previous years there was the National Development Strategy followed by the National Competitiveness Strategy then later the Low Carbon Development Strategy.  At the present time, the Green State Development Strategy (GSDS) is being developed which demonstrates continuous commitment to sustainable development in keeping with Guyana’s obligations to the Paris Agreement.

While the various development strategies articulated for Guyana have created jobs and provided a strong foundation for the vision for 2025, cooperation and collaboration will be essential for achieving economic development. There is a need to re-energise engagement and within recent times, the GMSA and the Government have embarked on round table discussions.

On Day 2 of the Summit, GMSA Vice President Ramsay Ali provided Opening Remarks where he stated that the stakeholders present hold the nation’s future in its hands as leaders of industry, civil society, Parliamentary Opposition and decision makers in the Government.

In his delivery, Mr. Ali focused on collaborative efforts between government and private sector that have worked in the past and explored opportunities for collaboration in the future. Previous efforts included the National Competitiveness Council that was chaired by Former President Jagdeo, then former President Ramotar and that served well as a structured framework for dialogue between the private sector and government.  Many issues were deliberated and solutions found. Another collaborative effort was the recently developed forum titled “Guyana Trade and Exhibition Investment Show” aimed at matching suppliers with buyers and which is scheduled to be held in April 2018.  The upcoming agro-processing exhibition scheduled to be held at the end of October 2017, marks yet another potentially fruitful collaborative effort between the private sector and Government. Finally the recent private sector/Government effort in raising eleven 20 ft. containers of supplies for the hurricane-ravaged islands in the Caribbean was yet another example of successful partnership. With regard to future collaboration, Mr. Ali agreed that the recently-initiated round table discussion initiated by the Minister of Finance with the GMSA augurs well for the future. Forestry and Wood products were first on the agenda with agro-processing next in line to be discussed.  These efforts are all examples of where much can be achieved through constructive dialogue.

Forestry and Wood Processing

Mr. Chand pointed out that forestry is not only about logging – it encompasses an entire chain of supply. The forestry and wood sector are the only natural resources that add value to over 60% of raw resources.  It was further pointed out that Guyana is among the top 10 countries that practices Sustainable Forest Management and has a highly regulated traceability system.  However, the sector has the highest level of monetary penalties and receives the lowest level of benefits from carbon funding. Forest Concession holders have invested large sums into infrastructure in the hinterland of Guyana and this has opened up access to other land users including miners.

It was pointed out that during the period 2014 to 2017, log production decreased from 250,000 m3 to approximately 100,000 m3 while log exportation remained constant. Building material imports increased from approximately US$ 25 million in 1999 to approximately US$ 118 million in 2015.  To enhance industry collaboration and facilitation several recommendations were offered including the need to complete the review of the National Forestry Policy and Plan; revamping of efforts at marketing and promotion of forest products; capacity building and skills training; incentives and support for retooling of the sector and support for road infrastructure development and maintenance in the State Forest area.

Panel Discussions

Several GMSA Executives also participated in Panel Discussions. Mr. Clem Duncan participated on the Panel addressing Markets and Major General Ret’d Norman McLean and Ms. Jocelyn Williams were on the Panel addressing Human Capital Development.

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