Mr Manzoor Nadir, the Minister of Trade and Tourism, must be congratulated for summoning the political will and the energy to stage GuyExpo at this most difficult time and despite the perfectly legitimate grouse by some businessmen that the government should be devoting more of its time and energy to protect them from the bandits, whose onslaughts have now become a daily routine. The exhibition of local products was from all accounts well organized and impressive though the attendances were less than might have been hoped for in better times and far fewer potential overseas buyers eventually arrived than had been aimed at.
The bleak reality for most businessmen in Guyana today is that things are bad. Quite apart from the physical danger posed by the highly mobile gunmen the net result of all this crime has been to further depress an already stagnant economy. As is well known certain businesses have closed or are in receivership. Others have experienced a drop in sales. One wonders how many businessmen will place the usual level of orders for the Christmas season which is not all that far away. Regrettably, all this will add up to a tighter employment market.
Neither political instability nor crime is conducive to economic growth. In fairness to this government it has had to face far more than its fair share of both. But the failure to deal more effectively with the extended crime wave has not helped. Business vehicles have been attacked and robbed, security guards have been shot, there is a siege atmosphere and a great deal of demoralisation exists.
Sugar production will be higher than expected, market prospects for rice are a little brighter but the prospects for bauxite still seem gloomy and the timber industry is languishing. The fisheries business continues to be threatened by foreign pirate vessels though the revitalised coastguard has had some impact on this. Mr Geoffrey da Silva is doing what he can to attract new investment. But the macro-economic picture is not bright, and there are threats to the protected price of our sugar industry.
Running a business in Guyana today would test the skills of the most accomplished graduates of the Havard School of Business. What with the ominous return of unscheduled blackouts, the continuing self-sponsored emigration of skilled staff to the land of the maple leaf, higher electricity rates, continuing high interest rates and a depressed market it is a challenge to make all but the strongest tremble. These are hard times for business, though those with a longer memory will note that we’ve been there before, with knobs on, in the period of `miniaturisation’ when licensing and currency requirements, all day blackouts and shortages of every kind, including raw materials, made life an obstacle course for businessmen which many failed to complete.
When will it all end? Can businessmen keep digging deep to find the resources of spirit and energy needed to keep their doors open? And what will happen to those looking for jobs?