USAID provides technical aid to revise incentive regime

by Gitanjali Singh
Stabroek News
August 22, 1999

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will facilitate the government and the private sector working together on an investment strategy and on an incentive regime for investments.

This facilitation will be done through the USAID-funded Guyana Economic Opportunities (GEO) project which got off the ground two months ago and for which a work plan is now being finalised.

A recent stakeholders conference to facilitate the work programme for the GEO project echoed the need for an investment strategy, improved incentive regime and an investment code.

Project Director, Tom Whitney, said stakeholders shared the view that the incentive regime needed to be improved as it was not always clear what the incentives were, who is eligible for tax concessions or what the real incentives should be. As such, USAID will facilitate the private sector and the government working together to have an improved incentive regime in place which will lead to an investment code.

This is one area the GEO project is to concentrate its efforts on in its first year of operation. The five-year technical assistance project, which is demand driven based on the needs of stakeholders as identified by the recent conference at Mainstay Lake, will be updated each year.

For the June 1999 to May 2000 year, a second area in which GEO will work is in strengthening the project cycle unit in the Ministry of Finance. This will include an assessment of the current management of information and assistance to set up a new system which will expedite the process there. A similar exercise is to be undertaken for the trade information system which has been started at the Ministry of Trade.

GEO will also be working with the Guyana Export Promotion Council and the Guyana Office for Investment (Go-Invest) to strengthen their ability to facilitate and promote investments in, and exports from, Guyana. It is to also work with micro-credit organisations, such as the Institute of Private Enterprise Development, to strengthen their operations and work with micro enterprises to assist them with production and marketing.

Assistance will also be provided for the strengthening of the various private sector organisations and to assist Guyana in meeting World Trade Organisation (WTO)/Free Trade Areas of the Americas (FTAA) accession requirements. An awareness seminar may be on the cards. Actual work on the 1999/2000 programme is expected to start within weeks via the use of local and foreign consultants.

Whitney, a former USAID contractor in Guyana, said participants at the recent stakeholders' conference were very enthusiastic about this new USAID project particularly as it related to investments and information technology.

"Because we are making this project demand driven, that is what makes it different from other projects," Whitney asserted. He noted that a mission from Chemonics International of the US, which is executing the project, spent three weeks in Guyana, finding out what the key problems, constraints and opportunities are.

"The GEO project will offer both technical assistance and training. This project is results oriented," Whitney stated. Resources, he added, are not tied to any activity. They can and will be shifted from activities which are not obtaining results to those which are.

The finalised work plan for the GEO first year is expected to be out in a week's time.

At the recent stakeholders conference, some 30 persons representing the various sectors--government, private sector, non-governmental organisations, micro-credit organisations and Chemonics International--spoke of their expectations.

According to Whitney, many policy issues were discussed and important to everyone was the need for the investment strategy and the incentive regime which would lead to an investment code. The need for the private and the public sectors to work together was also highlighted and it was recognised that neither side could work on the investment climate alone. And the need to help outlying private sector organisations improve their advocacy skills was also highlighted. These would include the Berbice, Linden and Essequibo Chambers of Commerce.

The GEO project has four components: enhanced policy implementation; improving the trade and investment climate; strengthening of private sector organisations; and micro credit and micro enterprise development.

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