Georgetown, Guyana – (October 11, 2017) President David Granger, today, said that the Government of Guyana is open to dialogue and working with the members of the private sector in Guyana for the growth of the country’s economy even as he noted that the administration is focused on creating a business environment, which promotes investments, innovation and is governed by the appropriate institutional framework. The President was at the time speaking at the Private Sector Commission of Guyana’s (PSC) two-day Business Summit 2017, which got underway today at the Marriott Hotel.

The Head of State, who had called for a comprehensive business conference to be convened since his assumption to office in 2015, said that his concept was to ensure that the interests of all business owners including farmers, fisher-folk, miners, loggers, traders and workers could be considered and that the event would set up the basis for consultation rather than confrontation.

He said that the private sector, as an engine of wealth creation and employment generation, can work with the Government, the labour movement and civil society to stimulate increased economic activity to ensure the ‘good life’ for all Guyanese. According to the President, the three elements of Government’s approach to this objective are investment, innovation for the diversification of the economy and reduced reliance on its primary products and the setting up of strong institutional frameworks, which ensures that every Guyanese citizen benefits from the wealth of the country.

“Private sector investment is pivotal to development. Your Government, over the past 29 months, has been working to create a more enabling environment for business development by encouraging investment and ensuring stable macroeconomic conditions. Americans, Brazilians, British, Canadians, Chinese, French, Indians, Russians, Surinamese, Turks and Trinidadians are investing heavily here. Guyanese should have no good reason for not increasing investments in their own country. Investment is the fuel of economic expansion and employment. Government has been encouraging the banking sector to expand its financial services to rural agricultural and hinterland gold-mining and other zones,” he said.

Guyana’s economy, the President reiterated, has suffered from an overreliance on primary products or raw materials, even as he pressed for innovation in the manufacturing sector. That reliance on primary production, he said, has exposed the economy to international market volatilities and vulnerabilities.

“The ‘curse’ of the six sisters, the subject of much editorialising – bauxite, gold, fisheries, rice, sugar and timber – does not arise from the character of the commodities but in the over-dependency on raw products, the lack of innovation, the absence of diversification and neglect of value-added manufacturing. These sectors have served us well but failure to innovate and diversify has made us vulnerable to exogenous shocks. A decline in the price of these commodities or a loss of market access often leads to distress and we are very familiar with the consequences of collapsing prices in these commodities,” he said.

That position was supported by Ms. Sophie MaKonnen, Representative of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in Guyana, who said that there is a need for Guyana’s economy to shift towards diversification.

“Guyana’s strong economic performance has kept it buoyant. The growth still needs to be more inclusive and broad based to repair social and economic disparities. Despite the economic growth, we must realise that the Guyanese economy is not diversified, for over 90 percent of exports earning are from primary commodities with rice and gold being the main exports. Guyana ranks 121 out of 138 countries in the 2016/2017 Global competitive report. This weakness combined with the heavy reliance on few commodities for export makes the economy very vulnerable to external shocks and to international downturns,” she said.

Ms. MaKonnen noted that while it is the Government’s responsibility to create the enabling environment for business and investments, it is also vital for the private sector to play its role in stimulating economic activity. “The private sector also has an important role in making the economy more competitive and diversified. A dynamic, innovating and exporting private sector is a major driver of economic growth. Public-private dialogues create a foundation for market friendly policies that can help economic reform and enhance market competitiveness. This summit will serve as a building block for public private dialogue. For a vibrant economy we need a vibrant private sector,” she said.

With Guyana actively pursuing a ‘green’ agenda, President Granger said that there are opportunities for members of the private sector to seize upon innovative investment opportunities, which fall in line with a ‘green’ state policy that emphasises the preservation of Guyana’s rich biodiversity, the protection of the environment, the provision of eco-tourism and eco-educational services and the promotion of renewable energy generation.

“It could open business opportunities in agriculture, banking, bio-degradable packaging, construction, distribution services, ecotourism, ‘green’ transportation, information communications technology, energy-saving equipment and energy generation from sustainable sources, infrastructure, manufacturing and recycling,” he said.

But even as investments and innovation are important, President Granger said that Government is working to modernise and transform the absurdly anachronistic adherence to the colonial ‘three-county’ system, which still pervades the public administration system. It is for this reason, President Granger said, that ‘capital towns’ were created in Mabaruma, Lethem, Bartica, with Mahdia soon to be named a town. Every Region in the country will have at least one economic centre aimed at creating real frontiers of economic development.

“The Ministry of Communities is encouraging the hosting of Regional Agricultural and Commercial Expositions (RACE). The Ministries of Agriculture and Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs have intensified their focus on the ‘food economy’ of the hundreds of villages in the hinterland and coastland, whose farms feed the nation. The economic revitalisation of our villages could reduce poverty and unemployment. The Ministry of Public Infrastructure and the GDF Engineer Corps are developing plans to improve bridges and highways to the hinterland and the Ministry of Legal Affairs has introduced legislation aimed at strengthening the regulatory framework and curbing money-laundering and financial crimes,” he said.

Mr. Norman McLean, Former Chairman and member of the PSC, in brief remarks said that the hosting of this Summit is overdue as the last one of this nature was held in 1999. He noted that while the relationship between the Private sector and the Government has been strained for a number of years, the private sector now looks forward to forging new ground with the current administration.

“I hope that we will witness a cooperative approach to our economic issues and national issues in general, where all of us work for the good of our people and the people of this country. I hope that this can be achieved some time in the future. Let us cooperate for Guyana. The Private sector promises to work with the Government day or night. We are prepared to work with the Government,” he said.

Mr. Deodat Indar, President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), who read the remarks of Chairman of the PSC, Mr. Edward Boyer, who is overseas, quoted him as saying that it is his hope too that the outcomes of the Summit can be in the best interest of not only the members of the private sector but for all Guyanese.

“I hope that we can agree on the things we have in common and to resolve or dissolve the things we do not agree on. It is without a shadow of doubt that all of us in this room and beyond desire to see Guyana succeed and we have chosen to work towards that success as we do not expect to stand on the side-lines and expect it to be done. Through this Summit we are taking the bold step to advance the economic growth of our beloved country,” he read.
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