President David Granger: Members of the executive directorate of the Brass, Aluminium and Cast Iron Foundry; members of the BACIF team, ladies and gentlemen:
I am happy to be here today, the second month of the new year in order to see for myself – as you know the old Guyanese proverb, “If me nah bin come, me nah bin know” – so coming here and seeing for myself the work which you’ve been doing has given me a lot of encouragement and a lot of hope.
You know we started a programme in our schools to support what we call S.T.E.M: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and this is one of the foremost engineering corporations in Guyana and I was happy to learn that BACIF encourages young people, young employees, to join and they become better informed, more educated, better trained as the years go by, to produce a higher quality of work. Few people in Guyana could be unaware of the quality of BACIF’s work over the past four or five decades.
Particularly in the form of monuments but apart from the monuments, apart from the ornamental products which have come out of here in Ruimveldt; you have some products which are far more functional in the sense that the major industries, particularly sugar and bauxite, were heavily dependent on components coming out of BACIF over the years, but as I told the managers a few minutes ago, in the distant prehistory of this globe, mother earth we used to have dinosaurs. Dinosaurs were the largest creatures, the strongest creatures on earth but where are they now? All gone.
So it is not a matter of strength, it is not a matter of size; it’s a matter of ability of the industry to adapt to change. That is what counts, not strength and size. It is adaptability and if you can’t change, if you can’t adapt, you’ll end up like the dinosaurs and that is the situation we face in Guyana because for the last hundred years or more, those of you who like me … a hundred years ago I can tell you, we were depending on the same commodities, sugar, rice, bauxite, gold, diamonds and timber, but bauxite is no longer as profitable as it used to be during the war. In fact, the Americans actually built a base camp to protect bauxite because the bauxite was used to build the airplanes.
Last year I went up to Linden and opened an arch celebrating the hundredth anniversary of bauxite but bauxite is no longer a big employer and is no longer as profitable as it used to be; similarly manganese. Sugar is experiencing severe difficulties.
Every year the government has been bailing out the sugar industry by millions, billions of dollars and although we are doing everything possible to save the sugar industry many sweeteners are being replaced. Every now and then you see in the newspapers people are advocating the use of less sugar in soft drinks. So people are actually cutting down their use of sugar and the demand for sugar is declining. Even if people still like sugar, Guyana is still a very high priced sugar producer and there are other producers around the world, China, India, Brazil which are producing sugar much more cheaply. Already in the Caribbean only about two or three countries continue to produce sugar. Many of them over the last 20 or 30 years have been getting out of sugar.
So that is what is happening to the Guyanese economy. The Guyanese economy is not standing still, it is changing all the time and once the change continues companies like BACIF have to learn to adapt to change. I’m not saying that the ground is going to move from under your feet, but 30 years ago, 40 years ago BACIF could depend on the sugar and bauxite industries to take off its products; but what I am trying to say is that those industries are no longer producing at the same rate that it use to produce and BACIF therefore has to make a change.
So I left with the managing team: four pillars, I would say, of change and you are workers who belong to this company and you should understand it’s not just for managers but you have to understand because your jobs depend on what I am going to say. The first thing is that there needs to be continuous investment and people will not invest in BACIF unless BACIF is producing useful products and once those companies, once those countries, once the government see BACIF producing useful products they will say, hey, I don’t have to import this item from Russia or China or America or Britain; I can make it here and they will be more willing to invest because it will be cheaper. The delivery times are shorter, the distances are shorter, but BACIF has to continue to produce high quality goods if it is to attract investment.
If it doesn’t attract investment it will become a graveyard; it will become a rust belt. People would say, oh yeah, we used to do that in the 1970s or we use to do that in the 1960s, we used to do that in the 1980s – it will just become an industrial graveyard. So you need new investments in order to produce new products and that investment is going to keep the company alive, but the company cannot thrive and survive unless you continue to produce products of high quality and I am very happy with the products you produce but you all have to sell those products very effectively and more efficiently to the wider community.
The second thing is you have to innovate, like the dinosaurs; you have to get new products. Innovation is necessary in every field. If you look at motorcars, there was a time when people used to buy Vauxhall, Ford Cortina, but you can’t sell those products now. People want to see new models. Similarly, there has to be innovation continuously because BACIF is not on an island, BACIF is in competition. You’re competing with Chinese goods, you’re competing with American goods, you’re competing with British goods and if you’re competing you have to be ahead of the game. You have to innovate and give people not only what they need now, but what you would like them to get in the future and that is why I was proud to see some of the products which will help to beautify Georgetown. Equally, Guyana is going into new fields and the most important new field is going to be petroleum.
Petroleum is not about profits. I lived in a country which used to be one of the biggest petroleum producers in the world and I’ve never seen traffic jams like that. I’ve never seen such long lines like that at any gas station than in that country. I won’t call the name of that country, I’m a Head of State now and I may just get a telegram or some email. [Laughter.]
So you need to be able to ensure that you stay ahead of the game and ensure that you remain competitive otherwise you stagnate and more efficient producers will take your place; so each worker, each manager has a role to play in that regard.
Third – I’d like to mention perhaps what should be the most important, and that’s information technology. Any of you don’t have a cell phone? Those of you who don’t have a cell phone put your hand up. You know sometimes I say, ‘when I was born nobody knew what a floppy disk was and when I die nobody will know what a floppy disk is’. A whole generation has passed.
People can’t even remember compact disks. What’s a compact disk? Reel to reel, you know, cassette; some people don’t know what a cassette is, you know. The point I’m trying to make is that we now live in an age of information technology. Information could be transmitted at the speed of light. I am sure by the time I leave here somebody’s going to call me from [overseas] and say, I see you on Facebook. So information is transmitted at the speed of light so you have to be continuously engaged with information technology to stay ahead of the market. You can’t simply products oh, because we did it this way in 1976 or 1986 or 1996 or 2006. You have to continuously keep abreast. What do people want? You might discover people in Bartica want a certain type of wrought iron welding, people in Lethem want something; people in East Berbice-Corentyne, as I told the manager just now, last year alone, we created three new towns: Mabaruma is now a town with its own Mayor; Lethem is now a town with its own Mayor; Bartica is a town with its own Mayor. More towns will be created in the years to come.
I hope that one of these days these towns are like Georgetown with gardens and parks, beautiful streets, bridges, playgrounds. All of these new facilities will require objects of beauty and BACIF has taken the lead by producing beautiful objects and I urge you to continue, but you must use that information technology to make sure that the most attractive, the most innovate objects are created so BACIF can’t stand still. BACIF has to embrace information technology- the designs.
I belong to a church named Christ Church and one of the things I admired most about Christ Church apart for the fact that in those days you used to get six cents when you sing in the choir – when you’re ten years old you get six cents in 1956;it was a lot of money – but they had the most beautiful communion rail made of brass but as soon as you blinked; the next thing you knew was that the communion rail was made of wood because somebody gone with it; I don’t know where it’s gone.
The point I’m making is that was a thing of beauty and despite my age, I have a clear picture of that object of beauty. As Shakespeare said, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever” and I would like to ask BACIF to consider to continue beautifying this country with those things of beauty; crucifixes, religious objects, municipal decorations, monuments – these are important areas and all of you workers must be concerned; this is not just a work it belongs to you.
Generation after generation in this community would know about BACIF and the last word I would like to mention. Always be care careful when a politician says “last word”. [Laughter.]
That is, we know the situation here is a little cramped and I have agreed to discuss with your management looking at the possibility of enlargement. I’m not making any promise, but I just want you to know the Government of Guyana is committed to supporting business and this is one business that is eminently supportable. This business helps to provide employment and we want to see more of our young people being employed, particularly in the field of engineering, science and technology. We want to see most of our young people getting involved in business as entrepreneurs. For a little part of my life, in an earlier incarnation, I was a businessman myself; you might not know that. But in my little enterprise, I one day sat down and said, the work that I was doing helped to bring employment to about 36 people; not only people who were directly employed in my little enterprise, but people who depended on handling the product which I made and distributing it and selling it.
So the work you are doing here is not just for you to put some money in your pocket at month end but it also would affect other people. So it is not just a matter of employment for you, but it is a matter of spreading the message of entrepreneurship so that young people don’t feel they have to look to government for some job in the police force or the defence force – they could become businessmen and help to supply services and goods to an organisation like Brass, Aluminium and Cast Iron Foundry.
This is one of our finest businesses in Guyana; it is an indigenous business. I would like to congratulate BACIF on the work that it has been doing. I would like to encourage workers and management to continue to produce products of a high quality and I would like to commit the Government of Guyana to helping BACIF to continue to demonstrate the enterprise, the enthusiasm and of course the capability of Guyanese young people.
Thank you very much for the work you have been doing and God bless you BACIF.
Thank you.

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