Lack of investment can further marginalise Caribbean economies
-manufacturers warned at awards dinner

By Desiree Jodah
Stabroek News
May 30, 1999

The rules for participating in the global market in the twenty-first century have changed and there is a different set as underdeveloped countries prepare for the challenge of the global market.

This is according to guest speaker at the Guyana Manufacturers' Association (GMA) annual awards dinner, Dr Bhoendradatt Tewari, executive director, Institute of Business, University of the West Indies.

Dr Tewari stressed the need for education. According to him, a country without education, a vision for education and a driving power behind education has no power. Training people to manage systems that are part of the global economy is vital. "If you don't have managers to manage the things that have to connect with global systems you have no capacity either to receive or deliver," he declared at the dinner at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel on Friday.

The guest speaker said he believes business is going to drive the future. According to him, countries did not compete, but companies did. "When enough companies in a country compete and compete well that country becomes competitive. The standard of living rises and opportunities accrue as entrepreneurs intervene."

Technology is becoming increasingly significant, especially information technology, Dr Tewari said. He noted the merger of mega corporations, trade liberalisation, the free financial flow across the electronic wires, large regional trading blocs, globalisation and the constant and fast-paced change in terms of conditions under which all of these take place and are managed.

According to him, there is no doubt the Caribbean has been adjusting as a region as has individual countries in CARICOM through bilateral discussion and negotiation. However, regional and hemispheric integration are no longer the issues, but whether to push for closer economic ties amongst Caribbean countries or with Latin America and North America; and what form economic integration will take and how quickly the terms and conditions of integration will be settled.

"Today CARICOM talks about [the] Single Market and Economy, but practices it more in the breach. Meanwhile, the Free Trade Area of the Americas looms on the horizon in a context in which every country is looking at trade and investment as the primary means of accelerating the pace of development," Dr Tewari said.

He said there would be no place in the world of tomorrow for countries with nothing to trade, nothing to buy, and with no investments.

Dr Tewari said not all Caribbean countries are prepared for integration.

"They are not prepared for it in the hemisphere nor in the global market place. Small countries and countries with limited resources are finding that the challenge of global competitiveness is an extremely difficult and complicated one. No country can afford not to find its place in the global system. Each has to find a place and secure it. This must be done on its own unique strength and attributes," contended Dr Tewari.

Stressing the need for investment, he said that investment capital is of particular significance to all Caribbean states. He noted that the lack of investment could further marginalise the Caribbean in an increasingly globalising economy. According to Dr Tewari, investments from external sources are by no means a panacea, but can be a stimuli for trade, employment and economic expansion. He declared that no country could move forward and improve the standard of living of its people without a clear, unequivocal emphasis on trade investment and development. He said that any country which is serious about its future must take the time to pull together the required resources, and put in place the necessary foundation to achieve success in these three inter-related areas.

For underdeveloped countries to compete in the global market, new requirements of free trade must be met. Dr Tewari said that for the Caribbean region, the most secure trade instrument and best guarantee for continued market access and investment lay in free trade and the decided movement away from preferential trading agreements which often breed inefficiency and violate the spirit of the current World Trade Organisation (WTO) requirements which have now set the stage for future competition.

He said that even if the Caribbean wanted to go back it was not possible.

"The wheels of the WTO are turning and will arrive at the appropriate date and everyone will have to conform. However, what must be ensured in the negotiation of reciprocal free trade agreements on an individual country and regional basis is that the interests of the Caribbean countries are not sacrificed in favour of bigger and stronger players. This should not make us reluctant to engage in hemispheric free trade, but more determined to ensure our participation is meaningful and our engagements yield, as we represent our interests aggressively, the maximum benefits to our local entrepreneurs and citizens generally and contribute to continued growth and development," said Dr Tewari.

He advised that against the background of the drop in commodity prices, there was a need to consider making inroads in areas other than manufacturing.

Dr Tewari also stressed the tourism should not be ignored, especially in Guyana. He said more emphasis should be placed on tourism in this country with its great potential for eco-tourism. President of the GMA, Ron Webster, noted that over the last year, the economy continued to be under pressure. He said the current strike if not remedied quickly would have a negative impact on the country. However, he said, against all this, the GMA was optimistic.

Several persons were honoured at the awards dinner. And for the first time, the President's Award for export achievement was introduced. This will now be an annual feature.

Winner of the first award for export achievement was Demerara Distillers Ltd, while the runner-up was Kayman Sankar and Company Ltd. Chin's Manufacturing Company and IDS Holdings Ltd received honourable mention.

Eight companies captured GMA awards. They are: Banks DIH Ltd, for its improvement in standards relating to occupational health and safety and the protection of the environment; the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company Ltd, for investment in improving telecommunications and other related services; Liana Cane Interiors Ltd, for its sustainable use of indigenous material in its furniture production; Gafsons Industries Ltd, for its dedicated efforts towards employees' development and training resulting in the improvement of its work force at all levels; the Guyana Furniture Manufacturing Ltd, for investments made by the company in the latest technology for its value-added activities in the wood sector; Bulkan Timber Works Inc, for its consistent start-up and continuation of exports within the Caribbean and the USA; Demerara Oxygen Company Ltd, for achieving ISO 9002 Quality System Certification and Edward B. Beharry and Company Ltd, for its commitment at large notably in the generous gesture to fund the 'Edward B. Beharry Hall of Residence' at the University of Guyana. Special awards were given to Sattaur Gafoor of Gafsons Ltd and George Jardim of Industrial Engineering Ltd.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples