A productive meeting
October 16, 1999
The Private Sector-Presidential Summit on Monday was a useful exercise and came up with agreement on some concrete measures that if implemented could be very worthwhile. Some of these are worth considering in detail.
It was agreed that government would vigorously pursue the removal of barriers to Guyana's rice exports in Caricom and the development of export markets. Guyana has experienced difficulty in exporting even its parboiled rice to Trinidad and Tobago. This is just one instance of a broader problem where Caricom countries are not playing by the rules and it is more than time that government and the private sector work together on this. In other words, government must go in to bat for the private sector in the councils of Caricom and with individual member states and not let them get away with flagrant breaches of the rules. The Guyana Rice Export Board has undertaken to submit a paper to the President on the state of the industry where production is being maintained but the big problems are prices and markets.
It was agreed that the Guyana Manufacturers Association will present a paper on the establishment of a development bank by the end of the year. This has been on the agenda for far too long. Manufacturers need to be able to borrow money long term and at fair interest rates to enable them to update their equipment and be competitive. Government has agreed to waive taxes and reserve requirements and to help secure credit lines to finance this institution.
It was agreed to review the existing administrative structures in mining and to link royalty payments to the price of gold in the world market for medium and small scale mining.
The government agreed to house and fund the tourism authority for a period to be agreed and to give tax incentives to "sector-leading investment". This is a major potential growth area where little has happened so far. The above would be a beginning but there is need too for more advertising overseas.
Consideration will be given to placing government technical institutes under autonomous management to enhance the development of relevant skills. Recommendations for curriculum review and reform will be undertaken by the private sector. It is widely agreed that businesses are in urgent need of more technical skills and this can be a vital area.
It was agreed that effect will be given by the end of the year to stock market legislation. This is vital to the development of a capital market and someone must be found to run the stock exchange. Skills are available in the region.
A committee comprising private sector and government representatives will be set up to examine the feasibility of large scale investments like the Berbice river bridge and a deep water harbour and to mobilise resources and oversee implementation.
There were other agreements on the garment industry and the poultry industry and on completing an investment code.
There is a lot of work to be done, by government and the private sector, to follow up these decisions. It is good to note that the private sector is already meeting to appoint its representatives. The government should do the same. This summit could be the precursor to a real partnership between government and the private sector which could be a milestone in our development efforts.
President Jagdeo was there throughout the day up to and including the crafting of the communique and that spoke well for his commitment to the project. He must continue to monitor the implementation.
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