What about the local stock market? To the Editor
Guyana Chronicle
March 4, 2002

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After much talk [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] about establishing a local stock market, one would have thought some preliminary ground work, beyond the research stage, would have been done, by now, on which the pillars of such a system would rest.

While legislation to regulate its operation, and a structured investigative approach to determine the long-term viability of public traded companies will be crucial, it is not quite clear, so far, that the local private sector has been doing enough to aggressively promote and position itself as the engine for economic recovery and growth. If not now, when?

There is believed to be lots of local and foreign currency circulating in Guyana, just as there are lots of overseas-based Guyanese who either have

huge savings and assets or access to finances that can be converted to shares in local public traded companies. But are the current signs encouraging enough for the buying of shares in such companies in Guyana?

I am knocking the private sector, but I feel so strongly about its leading role in our country's economic viability, that it bothers me there might not be enough signs, on its part, to convince potential shareholders there is something to look forward to.

The days of a government-run economy in Guyana are over. Finished. Done with.

Gone. Been there, done that! Don't even think about it. And in light of this truth, guess on whose shoulder the burden of responsibility now rests? The private sector.

If I may ask, does the private sector have, say, a bimonthly newsletter

through which its views or activities are channelled to the public? Or through which the public can reciprocate? Does it have a roundtable discussion, designed for the local radio or TV audience, featuring entrepreneurs from Guyana and abroad with interests in Guyana? What about sponsoring fifteen or thirty-minute TV infomercials to promote specific products or services in the private sector? Or is it Government's responsibility to promote the private sector?

If the public cannot be adequately informed about what the private sector is doing, or planning to do, how can the public be persuaded or encouraged to invest in public traded companies? Confidence building measures start with winning trust, and this depends on the dissemination of timely information to help guide the public in decision making.

Sometimes I get the impression that our leaders, political and business, can get bogged down in big picture technicalities, when all that is needed are carefully orchestrated and deliberate steps regarding the little things which, over time, can come to comprise the same big picture we all long to behold and enjoy as part of Guyana's reality.

Does Government, for its part, play a more reassuring role by publicly giving the private sector that stamp of approval, convincing both local and foreign potential investors/shareholders that Government means business, by openly backing businesses as the way to go?

If so, then public can then be encouraged, at the appropriate time, to buy shares. Later on, non-business organisations can be encouraged to invest portions of their financial reserves in shares. Do we have any idea what this can do for our local economy and public confidence? Or what kind of signal this can send to overseas potential investors/shareholders, Guyanese and foreigners alike?

Local banks, instead of reporting a loss or even a marginal profit, can see their bottom-line looking a lot better, which can only augur well for local businesses.

Government can also help by allowing the public to buy shares in whatever state-owned entities it may be seeking to partly divest itself of, rather than allowing a select group of individuals to get the lion's share. It certainly looks and smells bad, as a sort of political payback for past support or a gift for future involvement, even though it may not be entirely illegal.

I can only hope the Government, seeing it prides itself as a people's Government, did offer the employees and members of the public an opportunity to buy shares in Guyana Stores Limited, before this company was sold to a New

York-based Guyanese businessman, who made the news with a $3 million cash down payment. The same is my hope for the recently concluded Guyana

Pharmaceutical Corporation deal, which also made the news about the way it was sold.

And if Government intends to revisit the GT&T or GPL deals, it should consider making them public traded companies. Whether Government, for insurance/security purposes, should be the conduit through which the public could buy shares, may be worked out. Meanwhile, can anything be done in the current Omai-Linmine negotiations for employees, past or present, as well as the public to purchase shares there?

On a separate point, how far away is Guyana from introducing a local credit card system, seeing Guyana already has the banking card system in place? A local credit card system could serve as a prelude to Guyana linking up with the international credit card system. Maybe it's a banking question that can best be answered by banking authorities, or does Government, again, have to do the talking?

Credit cards, used responsibly, can be safe and convenient. In fact, such a system, if internationally linked, could speak volumes about Guyana's credibility and also position it for acceptance in the international banking and business communities. Isn't this what we are ultimately aiming for, to make inroads in the international community?
Emile Mervin,
Brooklyn, New York