Private sector must go looking for markets
Stabroek News
February 13, 2002

Dear Editor:

In keeping with my belief that the local private sector should be the engine of economic recovery and growth in Guyana, I want to single out for praise the move by the Guyana Government to help the crisis plagued rice industry get back on its footing.

It is a sure sign that Government is willing to and capable of working with the private sector, including finding ways to resuscitate ailing entities that have the potential to do better, or helping finance the start up of new entities.

However, both the Government and the private sector have to see

collaboration, not confrontation, as necessary for things to change for the better. Maturity requires that there be enough room set aside for disagreement on minor issues without affecting the bigger and more important results such mutual involvement is capable of producing.

Government should never try to micromanage the private sector, either through hard and fast rules that stymie creativity and productivity, or through victimization by way of political filibustering.

The private sector, on the other hand, must set realistic, not nebulous, objectives, and be willing to take responsibility for failure. Failure, itself, is not always a sign of weakness in the entrepreneurial world, but a sign of willingness to take risks.

The private sector also needs to move aggressively and expeditiously, not always waiting on Government to take the initiative, to establish and maintain working relations with other private sector umbrella bodies in CARICOM, Europe, and North America.

Spend money on a strong public relations campaign to showcase your business. Spend money and time travelling, in groups or teams, to meet with counterparts in the aforementioned places. Go where the market exists, do not expect the market will come to you.

And do not go looking like bewildered beggars, but go with a comprehensive marketing strategy, including all data pertinent to your products, as well as about your manufacturing or production capacity or potential for development.

Customers know and like quality products, at reasonable or competitive prices, but they also like the assurance of reliable supplies. So an outlay of manufacturing or production facilities should be made readily available to provide assurance.

Most important, though, is the element of trust. It has to begin, as well as be seen by foreign customers, or even potential foreign investors, to be in existence, between Government and the local private sector. Their commitment will not easily come if trust is obviously missing in Guyana.

Finally, because trust is a vital ingredient in making the Government's support of the private sector workable, our local private sector has to inculcate this ingredient, and let it be seen to be in existence.

Financial Consultant, P.Q. DeFrietas' concern expressed a few months ago about the possibility of rice millers who might have siphoned off large portions of their rice sales to foreign bank accounts, and are now declaring they are in a crisis, should be an example of what may affect trust.

Money that should be reinvested to keep the local industry afloat or repaying loans but ends up floating into overseas private accounts is more than about trust; it also smells like criminal behaviour.

In fact, this alleged behaviour should have necessitated an investigation by Government (by way of auditing the books of those rice farmers in debt) to determine who should qualify for debt relief. If farmers cannot provide proper explanations, they are on their own in trying to clean up their own financial mess.

And isn't what is good for the rice industry also good for other private sector entities?

Emile Mervin,

Brooklyn, New York