Guyana is uniquely positioned to compete in the global market place by using technology to provide information services
Stabroek News
January 23, 2002

Dear Editor,

The world is changing rapidly. This statement is true for both the developed world and the developing world. Since 1990, with the fall of the iron curtain, there are no longer two great

superpowers. No longer are there guaranteed markets to keep allies together. No longer is there a need to buttress friendly regimes. With the end of the Cold War, international interdependence has increased in economics, trade, and finance.

For developing countries, one result of the changing world and the globalization of economies is that these countries can no longer rely on agriculture and natural resources as the sole basis of their economies. Rather, the tremendous advances in technology provide an opportunity to look to other areas for development.

This does not mean that a country such as Guyana should not improve agricultural efficiencies or discount its vast natural resources such as bauxite and timber. Guyana must use and develop these resources in a sensible way that includes technology as well as the protection of the environment. But development must not be limited to the agricultural and natural resource sectors.

What it does mean is that Guyana also has a vast, untapped resource in a competitive and literate labour force. And this is a labour force that speaks English, the language of international business. This valuable resource can be leveraged to create opportunities for international and/or multinational investments in Guyana. This resource can provide the basis for a service sector of the economy to complement the agricultural sector and spearhead development.

The market for services includes such areas as financial services, legal services, health care, accounting, and information technology. Of these, Guyana is uniquely positioned to compete in the global marketplace by using technology to provide information services. Specific information service sectors where Guyana is comparatively advantaged are back office support, data entry, billing inquiry, vendor payments or billing, accounting, disaster recovery, data storage, redundant networks, customer relationship management, and computer programming.

Guyana can employ several strategies in building an information service component of its economy. The traditional development strategy has been to entice multinational corporations to establish operations in Guyana. An alternate strategy is for Guyanese corporations to win information service contracts outsourced by multinational corporations. In addition, each strategy confers the benefit of jumpstarting a robust technology sector capable of spurring additional economic growth.

But what will it take for Guyana to attract such businesses? Since September 11, 2001, the developed world is looking towards countries that have civil societies. A country with a stable political system, a respected judicial system, and standardized accounting and financial reporting systems is one recognized as a civil society. These are goals that Guyana must strive for through the continued development of its political, financial, and economic policies.

To create an environment attractive to outside investment, Guyana must begin with appropriate macroeconomic policies. Macroeconomic policies that foster free enterprise include the lowering or removal of excess tariffs and their replacement with tax incentives. Policies should be extended beyond the lowering of tariffs to taxes that are not burdensome and encourage both external and internal investment. Government economic policy must provide for low inflation and continued debt reduction. Such market based structural reforms can lay the foundation for sustainable private sector led growth.

Infrastructure must also be able to support technology. In addition to reliable electricity, telephonic communications, safe water, roads, and reliable health care, specific structural requirements necessary to support an information service sector include broadband cabling, Internet access, and wireless communications. Financing for such infrastructure development may be available through Multilateral Development Banks.

Guyana should continue to develop an educated and skilled work force. Also, other appropriate governmental policies include good regulation, contract enforcement, and the protection of property rights. These building blocks of a civil society are necessary to attract external investment.

The most compelling argument is that attracting outside investment will not only provide jobs in the information service sector, but will stimulate other internal economic growth, including: consumer spending; home grown businesses; the spillover effects of technology to other sectors; and perhaps a halt to the emigration of Guyana's best and brightest.

The 21st century presents a unique opportunity for Guyana to profit from the increasingly global economy and the revolutionary strides in technology, especially in the area of information services. It is time to implement policies that will allow Guyana to take advantage of an underutilized national resource, its educated, English speaking labour force. By innovatively using its national endowments to build an information service sector of its economy, Guyana positions itself for continued economic growth well into the new century.

Yours faithfully,

Floyd N. Haynes

President, Haynes & Associates