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In a statement signed by Mr. Edward Boyer, President of the association. The Chamber said Christmas is a season that all Guyanese appreciate despite religious, racial or cultural backgrounds. The season radiates goodwill and peace. The Chamber urges that these sentiments of peace and love be extended throughout the year 2003 and beyond. Guyana is too underdeveloped to allow itself to be torn apart by internal conflict. This country needs all her sons and daughters to pull together to defend their resources. We cannot and will not accept that investors are driven away essentially because of our own actions. The local Private sector cannot do it alone. Foreign Direct Investment is vital if we are to transform this economy. However, Foreign Investment will not come through wishful thinking or empty rhetoric. Rather, we as a nation must demonstrate through our words and actions that we welcome investment. Tourism is not only the industry reeling from the steep increase in crime. All sectors and sub-sectors are affected. Moreover, while we fight among ourselves, outsiders will capitalise on our internal divisions. The Surinamese military repulsion of the Canadian owned CGX Oil Rig is a classic example.
The Government and Private sector must harness the young dynamic human resource in Guyana. Government can do its part providing tax deductions for first time homeowners and other such incentives that could help stem the brain drain. The University of Guyana is already collaborating with the Private Sector in tailoring its curriculum to meet Guyana's specific needs at this point in time. At the same time, we as citizens must fulfill our responsibilities to the State if we wish to see progress. In this respect, the Chamber urges all Guyanese to pay their fair share of taxes. In the new-year, we trust that the IMF negotiated tax reform with the Government will produce a mutually acceptable consensus.
Despite the many setbacks we experienced in 2002, the year was not without achievements. The US currency remained relatively stable amid a very precarious global economy. We registered a positive growth rate and a further lowering of our external debt thus improving our creditworthiness.
We in the Chamber will continue to build synergies with over Private Sector agencies, Government and Non Governmental Bodies to move Guyana forward. The Chamber will also continue to forcefully advocate for the business sector's interests. GPL rates for instance, has been a source of major concern to the organization. It has significantly increased in 2002. Any further increase will only serve to undermine Industry and Commerce with obvious negative ramifications for the man in the street.
It is imperative for a calm and stable atmosphere to prevail if Guyana is to attract foreign investors and sustain local investment. The Chamber trusts that our politician are mature enough to put national interests above party politics and allow the country to progress. We as a nation must strive to ensure that we put into practice the philosophy of Jesus Christ and reject violence, hatred and all that is negative. The Chamber takes this opportunity to wish the entire business community and all Guyanese a happy Christmas and a productive New Year.