Minister Rohee opens CRNM training workshop

by Michelle Elphage
Guyana Chronicle
September 3, 1999

FOREIGN Minister, Mr Clement Rohee yesterday charged a joint Caribbean and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) workshop to come up with useful outcomes for the Region's strategy concerning government procurement in international trade negotiations.

Declaring open the first technical training workshop by the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM) and the IDB at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel, Rohee said the aim is to provide member states with the requisite expertise for effective participating in international trade negotiations.

"Government's procurement of goods and services represents a significant part of a country's gross national product. Such processes are estimated to reach as much as 15 per cent. In terms of international trade, the volume or value of these purchases is steadily increasing," Minister Rohee stated.

"The implications therefore of improving transparency in government procurement practices are huge for both the government and non-governmental sectors," the Foreign Minister told delegates drawn from several states in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

"The application of sound policies and practices characterised by equitable, fair and open procedures is indispensable, not only for creating dependable and stable markets but also to safeguard the principle of accountability and the cost effective use of public funds."

Rohee said it is often argued that one of the most obvious benefits of transparency in public procurement is that government gets the best value for money, thus saving taxpayers and freeing up resources needed to address pressing economic and social goals.

He added that it is therefore essential that the government ensure it gets what it pays for.

Rohee noted that in 1996, the Guyana Government with the assistance of the United Nations (UN) established a Central Tender Board Secretariat and in order to bring the system in line with global trends, is taking steps to update and modernise the relevant legislation and regulations.

He also mentioned the programme budgeting system introduced into the public service by the Government in 1997, with a view to modernising and facilitating better control and management over the country's system of revenue and public expenditure.

But, the Foreign Minister said, bearing in mind the existing structures and policies in the member states of CARICOM, any agreement on government procurement in the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO), must take into consideration the need for transitional periods for sensitive sectors and asymmetric treatment for smaller economies.

He said additionally, adequate safeguards must be introduced so that micro enterprises and small businesses are not excluded from participating in a "significant" way in government procurement.

The Guyanese Foreign Minister said liberalisation of the procurement policies throughout the Region could be detrimental to smaller economies, and as such, a Caribbean strategy towards government procurement negotiations in the FTAA and the WTO should be informed by the following principles:

* an agreement covering transparency and access to informations on government procurement procedures;

* asymmetric treatment of small economies and recognition of sensitive sectors, products and services that significantly benefit from government purchases designed to foster industrial and social policies;

* special treatment should be provided for well-defined sectors, products and services for a specified period in consideration of sensitive issues in each country;

* developing small, medium and micro-enterprises, mechanisms capable of ensuring participation by such companies in government must be defined; and

* the requirement of due qualification and training of governmental procurement experts who are (to be) employed in this sector.

Rohee noted too, that transparency helps to build public and business confidence in the overall effectiveness of public sector economic management.

He quoted President Bharrat Jagdeo, who said in a recent address to the nation: "There is need for more rationale and efficient collection of revenue and the use of Government funds...Red tape and administrative slothfulness must be removed. Inter-action between the Government and population must be business-like, friendly and caring. Taxpayers must be treated with respect. We must remember that we are here to serve them."

Rohee added that in this connection, the old adage of ensuring that governments get `value for money' is critical.

The opening ceremony was chaired by lead Advisor of the CRNM and training coordinator of the CRNM/IDB project, Mr Arnold McIntyre.

Deputy Secretary General of CARICOM, Dr Carla Barnett also made brief remarks.

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