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Guyana has to prepare itself for a new era in trade, which is expected to take effect under trade agreements such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the Free Trade Areas of the Americas (FTAA) and the CARICOM Single Market and Economy. Guyana is a signatory to the WTO, and already signed many trade agreements bilaterally and future agreements may also be signed with other countries.
These trade agreements would require Guyana to give assurance to its trading partners that the products being traded meet the requirements of standards and regulations, and/or are produced under recognisable and acceptable management systems.
In order to honour and support these Agreements, the public sector has an important and critical role to play. The public sector would need to be reorganised in order to become more efficient, effective and responsive.
The public sector must support and facilitate the private sector, as well as other sectors, in providing the necessary services efficiently and effectively for Guyana to prosper in this era of globalisation.
The current Public Sector Modernisation Programme of Government is timely, highly commended and must be fully supported by all the players. Modernizing the public sector would enable it to become more customer-oriented, focus on quality of its delivery, capable of sustaining development, committed to a partnership with its stakeholders, capable of facilitating investment, innovative, transparent and governed by clear laws and procedures.
Modernizing the public sector would also, according to the programme, eliminate or reduce overlap and duplication; ensure critical mass in organised units; develop mechanisms to ensure that institutions, agencies and commissions are responsible and accountable; reflect functions central to the role of the State; make it flexible and responsive; and also, pragmatic and realistic.
Occurring simultaneously in Guyana is a Food and Agriculture Organization project seeking to strengthen the National Food Control System capable of ensuring the quality and safety of food supply in the country. The project is reviewing all the Food Safety Institutions in the country in order to modernize the Food Inspection System, which will facilitate compliance with the WTO Agreements on Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures (SPS) and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT). Technical assistance is also being provided to upgrade analytical capabilities of Government food control laboratory, upgrading food legislation, and harmonizing national food standards with international standards.
The capability of the Bureau of Standards would also be strengthened in relation to CODEX activities in the country.
Moreover, through a European Union project, the inspection, testing and certification systems for seafoods are being reviewed, and capacity built into the relevant institutions to facilitate the exportation of seafoods to Europe. Aggressive steps are being taken by these institutions to position themselves to support the export of seafoods.
In addition, a USAID project is reviewing the conformity assessment infrastructure of Guyana i.e. the institutions carrying out inspection, testing and certification of products so that a modern system could be established to fully support all the trade agreements. Capacity is being built into the institutions, public and private sectors to enable them to deal with and implement the critical international standards.
As Guyana moves forward, there is need for a modern quality infrastructure to cope with and master the dynamic changes taking place in global trade. With the review of all our institutions, the building of capacity and gradual implementation of the necessary changes, I am confident that we can achieve that vision of economic prosperity.