– says Guyana’s economy healthy
Businessman, Gerry Gouveia, whose tenure at the helm of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) ended yesterday, in a parting shot, slammed the attitude of some of the city’s businesses that refuse to pay their taxes. To compound the matter, they help to fill the city with garbage everyday.
“I believe that we must seek to persuade our members and non-members of the desirability of changing their attitudes to our capital, and I believe too that this Private Sector Commission must begin to point fingers.”
The comments were made at Duke Lodge, yesterday, as the PSC held its Annual General Meeting to present the 2009 accounts and to introduce new nominees who will eventually serve on the executive.
Describing the state of Georgetown as shameful, Gouveia, the owner of Roraima Airways, Duke Lodge and number of other entities, was scathing in his comments, noting that it is no less “shameful than the total shamelessness of those business houses that appear quite content to pursue the delivery of goods and services in an immediate environment of filth and squalor.”
The sad fact is that the condition of Georgetown is due to “as much consideration of mindset as it is due to considerations of money; it is due as much to uncaring and insensitive businessmen as it is to inefficient bureaucrats.”
The outgoing Chairman also noted that it is nothing short of hypocrisy for businessmen to refuse to pay taxes while at the same time, fill up the city’s drains and blame City Hall.
There is an urgent need to change attitudes, Gouveia stressed.
Recalling a time when the private sector was disjointed, the official lauded the current situation where “we operate today in an extremely unified and cohesive manner.”
While encouraging the police to continue their “wonderful job”, the businessman warned that human rights and dignity should be the hallmark.
Regarding the state of country’s economy, Gouveia said that Guyana has withstood crises. Drawing comparison, he noted that the country’s debt stood at $2.1B in 1990 with reserves nil and the infrastructure rundown. Additionally, there were rampant high interest rates of over 30 per cent with inflation running almost neck to neck. The exchange rate was unpredictable also.
However, Guyana’s reserve is touching almost US$650M with major improvements to roads and schools, among other areas. Interest rates have stabilised to around 12 per cent with inflation tagged at over three per cent.
“We have seen economic growth maybe not as much as we would have liked but nevertheless, we are moving in the right direction. While we may not be wealthy we are indeed healthy.”
However, the country’s brain drain is continuing to prove a challenge.
Guyana will have to find ways to inspire and motivate the young generations since the next 10 ten years being catapulted into a new economic dimension, he said.
Vice-Chairman Ramesh Dookhoo, who is set to take over PSC, was happy that Guyana has weathered the global economic crisis recording positive growth when the rest of the region was faltering.
The performance underlines the resilience and industriousness of the country private sector, the executive said.
“I wish to extend my heartfelt congratulations to our members and the wider private sector for the tenacity and resolve under what could very likely be one of the most challenging periods in (our) history.”
He urged the local banks to be understanding of the situation since some of these companies can only rise again.
Dookhoo, a senior official at Banks DIH Limited, also tapped the role of the National Competitiveness Strategy, a private/public forum, which is working to improve the business climate.
“The Private Sector Commission believes and reiterates that Guyana’s path to development is enshrined in the National Competitiveness Strategy.”
Also speaking at the AGM yesterday was Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, who stressed that Government is firmly committed to the health of the private sector.
He noted that the government has continued to put systems into place to ensure compliance and the evidence is there to show that these systems are indeed working.
An example of this is the annual Auditor’s General report which highlights failure and systems’ faults.
This is not unique to Guyana, Dr. Singh stressed. Rather, the evidence will suggest that there are problems in every country.
He also questioned a recent US report which listed Guyana low on points and which was seemingly misrepresented locally by media.
In one instance 10 points were deducted because government “interfered” with the market.
According to the Minister, this particular situation was the slashing of gas tax after prices rose internationally.
Making his case, the Minister said that he found it unlikely that the private sector would have objected to the lowering of the tax, something that was done to ease the plight of Guyanese when prices were rising on everything else.
Last year, the PSC hired Roubinder Rambarran as its new Executive Director, to complement the five full time staffers. Its annual staffing costs are in excess of $14M of which $4M came from PSC and the rest from CIDA, through a donor programme.
Last year, in addition to renovating its offices, the PSC was able to realise over $19M in revenues with over $6M coming from CIDA.
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