Government must involve all stakeholders in laying foundation on which investment code is built
May 19, 2002
Letters on economic concerns
As mentioned in a previous letter, in Guyana's case, the strategy that informs the Investment Code (the enabling regulatory framework) must now carry a clear ideological statement. It is also vital for potential investors to know that a wide cross- section of interests, even competing ones, are supportive of efforts to welcome new foreign investment. For this reason government must involve all the country's stakeholders in laying the foundation on which the Investment Code is built. This must be clearly stated in the investment strategy.
Stakeholders will include the Private Sector, main Opposition Parties, Trade Unions, Civil Society (including representatives from the Amerindian communities and Women's Groups) and Religious Leaders.
This inclusive approach will help define the stable political climate which is integral to the creation of an investment enabling environment.
It will help to convince prospective investors that their investments will find a hospitable home here even when governments and situations change. The community of 'vested interests,' at both the theoretical and practical levels, must be expanded so that a majority of Guyanese, irrespective of ethnicity, religion, political persuasion or social status, have a stake in the orderly development of the economy. In other words, in Guyana's case, the most expeditious way to create and sustain an investor friendly environment would be to build our own version of a stakeholder economy and society.
Involving stakeholders in the conquest of potential investors would be a novel approach for Guyana. However, Guyana's poor track record with many foreign investors, especially over the last decade, means that we now have to demonstrate convincingly that as a country engaged in the war for investment dollars, we are ready for action rather than missing in action.
In the serious business of attracting scarce investment dollars, Guyana is competing with many Caricom and other Third World countries able to entice international investors by presenting themselves as helpful if not solicitous investor hosts.
These countries have had the vision, resolve and enthusiasm to create investor friendly environments with enabling mechanisms that work. Since June 1997 Guyana has dithered and agonised over the finalisation and adoption of its own Investment Code which is perhaps the single most important factor affecting a foreign investor's decision to invest.
To produce an internationally acceptable Investment Code there is really no need to re-invent the wheel. There are many examples of well-written, investor-friendly codes, even in the Region. In the interest of speed, of trying to catch up with our competitors, Guyana can use largely unaltered, the draft code prepared by our own Private Sector. Perhaps in conjunction with relevant inputs from one or several of the examples mentioned above, an internationally acceptable code can be made available within the next few months. I am of course assuming that the resolve, enthusiasm and `enabling' political will already exist.
Of course Guyana's image as unfriendly to foreign investors will not improve until there is recognition that this image exists and that there is need to set about (systematically) putting it right. The problem is sclerotic but can be made manageable by continuous bold, innovative action, not promises. Failure to act and act decisively will guarantee levels of poverty, crime, social disintegration and despair Guyanese are only just beginning to factor in to their lives.
F. Hamley Case