Guyana training model will spawn 100 businesses, 1,000 jobs
By Nivedta Kowlessar
Guyana Chronicle
June 14, 2003

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‘ Empretec will introduce companies to profitable, sustainable exporting and will also contribute to regional economic integration by stimulating enterprise cooperation in the Caribbean, Central and South America’. - Mr Ramesh Dookhoo, President of the Guyana Manufacturers Association

The first batch of Empretec trainees pose with President Bharrat Jagdeo and other officials at the launching of the project at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel in Georgetown on Thursday evening. (Picture by Winston Oudkerk)
A HIGHLY recommended United Nations model that Guyana is now using to train entrepreneurs is expected to hatch some 100 businesses and 1000 new jobs after three years.

The Empretec Guyana Project will also eventually help expand non-traditional exports by US$5M, Mr. Ramesh Dookhoo, President of the Guyana Manufacturers Association (GMA) reported this week.

At its official launching at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel in Georgetown Thursday evening, Dookhoo said the project will train 250 small and medium entrepreneurs with growth or export potential and provide consultancy to 150 others.

It will also introduce companies to profitable, sustainable exporting and contribute to regional economic integration by stimulating enterprise cooperation in the Caribbean, Central and South America.

Empretec, which just trained 30 Guyanese in its first workshop here, is serving as a pilot scheme for the Caribbean where it is expected to be replicated.

The US$1.5M project, funded by the United Nations, the Government of Guyana and the GMA, is expected to produce entrepreneurs using training in behavioural sciences. Dookhoo said the GMA, which has invested a lot in the scheme, plans to use demographic information of all types to ensure an equal spread of its benefits across the country.

President Bharrat Jagdeo, who addressed the launching, said he was that pleased the project got off the ground just a year-and-half after the formalities were dealt with. According to the President, the project sets some “very specific targets”.

One is consultancy at the levels of small and medium enterprises, which he hopes would focus on improving production and quality and expanding markets.

The Government, the President said, is encouraging micro enterprises in keeping with its thrust to make the private sector the engine of growth and the right environment, training and access to capital must be provided for them to flourish and become “the new large companies” in society.

Noting the country’s loss of entrepreneurial skills through migration and other factors, Mr Jagdeo said that one of the Government’s “key tasks is to incubate more and more entrepreneurs” - an objective Empretec meets.

The authorities have been attempting to reshape and liberalise policy and create a more predictable environment to help micro businesses grow. The Small Business Act, which will be put before Parliament on Thursday and, hopefully passed before the end of August, will try to stimulate such enterprises, President Jagdeo said.

But, he noted, the key issue being addressed by the Government is creating “more predictability in the regimes that entrepreneurs would face so that they can do more long-term planning…”

There is still some unpredictability in the international policy-making environment and trade regimes that many aspiring exporters and even domestic market suppliers would have to face, the President observed.

In the region, he said, governments are trying to create a larger market space through the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) that may present greater opportunities for entrepreneurs and reduce barriers to business.

“We still have some difficulties, but I have no doubt because of the solidarity among CARICOM countries and because of the intense work that’s being done, that we’d overcome those…,” he added.

However, there are more uncertainties within the larger environment of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and countries like Guyana have to work to find a place in a new evolving trading system, the President said. He noted, “…we really need that kind of policy support from the external bodies too.”

In this sense, it is not just a case of stimulating entrepreneurial skills and identifying opportunities, but of staying viable when the FTAA and the Everything But Arms (EBA) initiative kick in and affect sectors that are traditionally protected.

“I urge you as entrepreneurs, whilst looking at business opportunities and investing in time and training, (to) pay attention to evolving discussions and potential change to regimes …to ensure (your) activities remain sustainable over medium and long terms,” President Jagdeo told the Empretec trainees, who graduated yesterday.

He also encouraged a cultural shift from fear of failing and risk taking, stating, “That’s how capitalism works and we essentially have a capitalist society”.

Empretec, a Spanish acronym meaning technology-based enterprises, took off as a project after experiments in England and South America and has since helped to sow entrepreneurial skills in several African countries.

Mr. Eku Dunwell of Empretec, Ghana, who shared a perspective at Thursday’s launching, said the programme combines competency-based training and an array of post-training services and has a basic principle of self-directed change.

New UNDP Resident Representative, Mr. Jan Sand Sorensen, in his first public appearance since taking office in Guyana, said there is a particular aim to involve women and young people. He referred to the results of a study presented to the UN in April which revealed that men are 50 per cent more likely than women to become entrepreneurs, a fact illustrated by the Guyana Living Conditions survey in 1999. This showed only 39 per cent of local women participate in the formal labour force, compared with 76 per cent of men.

“I’d like to turn these figures around…there’s also a huge untapped potential, an untapped resource that can contribute significantly to productivity and growth of the Guyanese economy,” Sorensen said, observing that women comprised almost 50 per cent of the Empretec workshop participants.

To ensure the participation of all Guyanese, Empretec will work with all Chambers of Commerce, the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the banking sector and others, he said.

The project can also make a significant contribution to the Poverty Reduction Strategy being pursued by the Government through its impact on creating jobs and promoting economic growth, Sorensen noted.

Participant Ms Marva Bancroft said the nine-day launching workshop dealt with real life business situations, with participants being encouraged to compete, expand and “smell the money”.

Mr. Geoffrey Da Silva, Head of Go-Invest, chaired the ceremony, which was also addressed by Mr. Vijay Rambrich, Executive Director, Empretec - Guyana.

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