PSC head calls for 'culture of manufacturing'
BY TERRENCE ESSEBOOM
October 9, 1999
THE local manufacturing sector which has battled back brilliantly from the brink of extinction can help step up national development with firm local support.
Private Sector Commission Chairman Mr George Jardim said Friday at the inaugural Guyana Manufacturing Association (GMA) Exhibition and Fair held at the Sophia Complex in Georgetown, that contrary to `doom sayers' manufacturing in Guyana will not "die...but change" through the application of information, innovation and imagination which mirror global trends.
In his key note statement, Jardim called for a "culture of manufacturing" here, recommending a transformation in thinking among government officials, businessmen, and the wider public, about manufacturing.
"We are confident of our ability to compete with the best" firms internationally, Jardim told the small gathering.
Touching on the thorny issue of national support for what he described as "world class" products made here, the businessman said the public must be "educated" to accept Guyanese goods.
President Bharrat Jagdeo, in formally opening the exhibition, said the learning sector must be "reoriented" to support such local economic initiatives.
As if to give credence to his statement, Jagdeo promised to propose a five-year duty and consumption tax holiday to all enterprises operating in the Information Technology (IT) sub-sector at tomorrow's historic business summit.
"Guyanese must give our manufacturers full support," the President said.
The contribution of manufacturing to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Guyana is still paltry when compared with the once formidable rice and sugar industries, and Jagdeo wants the sector to occupy "its rightful place" in the near future.
He explains: "The manufacturing sector, excluding rice and sugar processing, account for less than five per cent of the GDP. It contributes even less to our foreign exchange earnings. Rapid development of this country cannot take place unless this sector begins to play its rightful place in the economy by looking for and exploiting opportunities to increase its share in the GDP."
He is confident that the innovative and resourceful local business entrepreneurs can overcome obstacles in their path like their counterparts in some South American and South East Asian states.
These, he argued, made the successful leap from being agrarian to industrialised and service economies "in a relatively short time," through investor commitment, increased collaboration between government and private sector, good governance and a stable policy framework helped.
"Countries which do not become competitive will see an inundation of cheap products on their markets and a migration of their skilled labour," he said.
Jagdeo assured that the local private sector will be involved in the administration's regional and international trade negotiations.
He hinted that stronger government/private sector collaboration will be forged to help in the thrust to produce valued-added goods so that the country is no longer an exporter of mainly primary commodities.
He said projects in the pipeline, such as the road to Brazil, deep water harbour and bridging the Berbice river, will be an impetus to further economic development.
"The Government is confident that these projects when completed will help reduce shipping costs, open new markets in South America and serve to `jump start' the rapid development of the private sector," the President said.
When he spoke, GMA President, Mr Sattaur Gafoor, maintained that manufacturing entities continue to face tough times because of the global shift towards trade liberalisation spawned by globalisation.
The challenges of the local industry are further exacerbated by increased competition from foreign imports which flood the local market, a high percentage of unskilled labour force and high cost of training, Gafoor said.
He said too, that a limited market here for local products and low per capita income also make it hard for Guyanese to shop.
Guyana has a per capita income of some US$800 per year.
Gafoor said lack of proper infrastructure and social and political tensions since the December 1997 polls have also helped dissuade foreign capitalists from investing here.
He blamed their problems on the continued absence of an investment code and the gradual removal of tariff barriers which encourage overseas goods to compete with locally manufactured products.
If local manufacturing industries do not thrive, jobs will be lost and the "cycle of poverty" will continue, Gafoor warned.
Jagdeo, former President Mrs Janet Jagan and other government officials were taken on a conducted tour to view the display by the 80 exhibitors.
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