Georgetown, Guyana – (August 20, 2016) The need for economic diversification, promotion of entrepreneurship, more focus on technical education, greater security, dealing with the high rate of migration, transitioning to a green economy and changing the status quo of the way business is done were some of the key points raised, last evening, as President David Granger joined members of the private sector and the Central Corentyne Chamber of Commerce (CCCC) at the opening of the 12th Berbice Expo and Trade Fair.

The Expo is being held under the theme, “Promoting Entrepreneurship for a Diversified Economy” at the Albion Sports Ground, East Berbice-Corentyne.

President Granger said that while the Corentyne is rich in resources, farmers and business owners cannot continue to ply their respective trades in the same way they have been for the 20-30 years, as more innovative approaches must be taken. He spoke of the need for a comprehensive action plan that will translate the region’s latent economic potential into economic prosperity.

According to the President, this action plan must have as its key component, information that is necessary for entrepreneurs such as investment trends and opportunities, markets, technological and scientific developments and new business horizons. The plan must also address the issue of innovation which will enable local entrepreneurs to better compete in the global marketplace. Additionally, the plan must take into account, the issue of investment, which is essential for the creation of small and medium-scale enterprises and which will in turn lead to job creation and a vibrant entrepreneurial culture.

“East Berbice-Corentyne needs to start planning if it is to translate the economic potential of this great region into economic prosperity, you need a Corentyne action plan and the stakeholders must work together to produce that plan to transform this region, a resource-rich region, which paradoxically is a production-poor region. Corentyne you can enjoy sustained growth and you can give your people a good life if you are prepared to examine your tremendous potential and put your resources to work for you,” the Head of State said.

Turning his attention to the issue of security, the President said that many of the problems that residents experience at the social, community and household levels are not insurmountable. He said that communities cannot see progress if they continue face problems such as unemployment, piracy, banditry, interpersonal violence and suicide.
“Corentyne faces a challenge and that challenge is of change and the leaders of this great region from the RDCs, the various NDCs, NGOs, Chambers of Commerce, the Rotary, and the Lions Clubs have to knock their heads together if they are to put Corentyne’s tremendous resources to work and make this entire region, a prosperous and productive one. Corentyne has to choose and this is the time for that choice,” President Granger said.

He also informed that the Government will be augmenting the current strength of the police force in the region and will be deploying mounted police to effectively patrol the back dam and savannah.

The President also spoke of the importance of the adoption of a green agenda, which will not neglect the traditional agricultural sector. He pointed out that a green agenda will generate jobs, stimulate new industries, boost development and promote efficient and renewable sources of energy

Meanwhile, Minister of Business and Tourism, Mr. Dominic Gaskin said that people from all over Guyana attend Berbice Expo either to exhibit their products or just to enjoy the atmosphere and this is a form of domestic tourism that his Ministry would like to see encouraged.

“It is important that in each region, we have activities that can attract persons from other regions to come and experience the peculiarities that give that region its unique identity. Of course when people come to your region, they come with money and they spend it in your region and contribute your local economy and that is what domestic tourism is all about,” the Minister said.

Minister Gaskin used the opportunity to respond to recent articles regarding the state of the manufacturing sector in Guyana and said that the Government does not discriminate against foreign companies or products. He, however, reminded Guyanese that the nation will not be able to realise the level of economic development it needs, if they allow their consumption to be dominated by foreign products and work to export local products to other countries to compete.

The Minister also responded to criticisms by Opposition Leader, Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo about the current Government’s efforts at economic diversification.

“Our Government will formulate and implement policies to reduce Guyana’s dependence on primary commodities and we will upgrade and introduce legislation to make our economy and by extension our producers, more competitive… The country was in a crisis and the people acted by choosing a Government that is committed to the principles of good governance, fairness and a good life for the Guyanese people. This is what we promised and this is what we are working tirelessly to achieve,” he said.

This year, Guyana’s economy is projected to grow by four percent. This economic outlook is extremely positive considering that many neighbouring countries such as Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, Suriname and Brazil are not projected to achieve any grown this year.

Regional Chairman, Mr. David Armogan in his remarks said that this year’s expo is being held at a time when Region Six is experiencing an economic slow-down since its two main pillars; rice and sugar, have been on the decline both in production and price.

The Chairman explained that for decades, rice and sugar have carried the Region’s economy and has been the hub on which most other businesses rotate. He noted that while diversification and entrepreneurship are an absolute must for Berbice, the contribution of rice and sugar to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), foreign exchange and employment, must not be overlooked.

“We have to explore new ways of keeping these two industries alive and today I want to make a special appeal to the President to see whatever help he can continue to give these two industries to keep them going until our economy has alternative ways of dealing with employment and other contributions that these two sectors make to the Berbice economy and the national economy,” Mr. Armogan said.

Chief Executive Officer of Caribbean Containers Incorporated, Ms. Patricia Bacchus as guest speaker of the event, made a detailed presentation on the importance of a diversified economy and the need to promote and support entrepreneurship, while President of the CCCC, Mr. Mohammed Raffik called for a bi-partisan approach to address the problems facing the sugar industry.

The first Berbice Expo and Trade Fair was held in 2005 by the CCCC as an event that gives local businesses and entrepreneurs a platform to showcase their products.

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