Ram surveys finds... Business outlook decidedly positive
-- but crime remains a deterrent
by Mark Ramotar
Guyana Chronicle
December 19, 2003

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Mr. Christopher Ram, Managing Partner of Ram and McRae is seen presenting the Guyana Business Outlook Survey for 2004 at a news conference at the Towel Hotel on Wednesday afternoon. Also in photo (seated) is former media personality, Mr. Alex Graham, who chaired the news conference.
THE recently launched Guyana Business Outlook Survey Report for 2004 has found that although there is an overall optimism among the business community for a brighter future, crime has again played a major role in deterring business activity in this country.

"While the overall outlook of business persons was more positive than in the prior year, crime remains on the agenda as a major issue not being satisfactorily addressed," the 10-page report stated.

The Guyana Business Outlook Survey 2004 was presented at a media conference on Wednesday afternoon at the Hotel Tower in Georgetown by Mr. Christopher Ram, Managing Partner of Ram and McRae - the accounting firm which has been doing the business survey for the past 10 years.

Ram said the findings of the 2004 survey are decidedly more positive than those of the preceding two years when the economy suffered from a series of difficult events including El Nino/La Nina weather patterns, a highly contentious general election, international terrorism and increased local crime.

These he said augurs well for the economy even though its performance continues to perform at a level that is not conducive to raising standards of living, reducing social pressures including income disparity and migration, and deal with what many consider is a resurgence of serious crimes in the society, all factors which may contribute to the crime situation.

Against these are the negative trends - the overwhelming number of specific issues with which respondents show either less optimism or no change such as the value of the Guyana dollar and management of the economy, Ram contended.

According to him, these suggest that notwithstanding their pessimism about factors external to their business such as the conditions for private businesses, exchange rates and economic management, survey respondents are more confident of their own ability to overcome obstacles.

Finally, there are two issues in particular which we think the business community need to reassess, he told reporters. They are the level of foreign competition which they consider they face and their willingness to raise capital through the issue of shares, he said. Ram also contended that businesspersons appear to have learnt little from the consequences of short-term borrowing and to misunderstand the functions and benefits of the Stock Exchange.

"An obsession with control, weak governance arrangements and excessive dependence on bank borrowings will continue to inhibit the engine of growth." he asserted.

Meanwhile, Ram indicated that the survey was conducted against a background of an economy that the Bank of Guyana in its half-year report described as 'flat' despite the lessening of political tensions following the May 6 Communiqué signed by President Bharrat Jagdeo and Opposition Leader, Mr. Robert Corbin which saw the re-entry of the main opposition PNC Reform in the National Assembly and a perceived reduction in the level of criminal activities which had led to an increase in the rate of migration.

Ram also considers the 47% response rate to the survey as "very good by regional and international standards" and is several percentage points higher than last year.

Ram also reiterated that the report is not intended to be a statistical measure of business activity and performance but it does express, in good measure, how our businesspersons view the economy, their performance in 2003 and their expectations for the year ahead.

"We also wish to emphasise that the analyses contained in the report are strictly based on the data obtained from the Questionnaires," he stated.

According to him, the questionnaire was designed to obtain some general information on the respondent companies including turnover, industry and operating characteristics, their views about the business and economic environment prevailing in the country, the issues identified by them as most impacting on their companies' performance, their plans for the future and their goals, strategies and expectations of performance in 2004.

Former media personality, Mr. Alex Graham, chaired the news conference.