The launching of the Guyana/Brazil Private Sector Integration Project by the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA), and the Brazilian Micro and Small Business Development Organization (SEBRAE) was the occasion to lament on opportunities missed.
The president of the GSMA Mr. Clinton Williams ruefully bemoaned the dearth of progress a full decade after the Partial Scope Agreement (PSA) was signed by Guyana and Brazil and extended indefinitely in 2008 after the 2007 visit of Brazilian President Lula.
The unfilled PSA was made more poignant after the opening of the totally Brazilian built Takutu Bridge; also in 2008. Under the PSA Guyana was allowed to export sugar, rice and a wide range of agricultural and manufactured products that are locally available to Brazil. We have not scratched even the surface of this opportunity. Brazil also has its list of permitted exports to Guyana and such trade as presently exists is heavily skewed in favour of Brazil.
The most significant hurdle in exploiting the Brazilian trade is the road linkage between Lethem and Linden. From a Guyanese standpoint, our major agricultural and manufacturing centres are overwhelmingly located on the Atlantic Coast and these have to be transported to the Takutu Bridge at Lethem for entry into Brazil. At present, as we were reminded by the floods in the Rupununi three years ago, that the road and bridges to Lethem are in a heightened state of disrepair.
The surfacing of the Lethem/Linden linkage has long been broached by Brazil, which is anxious to have an outlet for its manufactured goods from Manaus and agricultural produce from the north to the Atlantic. On former President Lula’s aforementioned trip to Guyana, he announced that the financing for the road could be arranged by Brazil. The matter has been in front of the Guyana/Brazil Commission that was mandated to work out the modalities for the highway based on the International Road Transport Agreement (IRTA) since 2006. But a wall of silence has dropped over the activities (if, in fact, there have been any activities) by our government. Thus when we hear of government officials such as PM Hinds raving over the “potential” of trade with Brazil, we wonder at their seriousness in developing Guyana.
In terms of the present initiative, SEBRAE describes itself as a non-profit private organization, resultant from the union of both public and private sectors and the country’s main business fostering and research entities. Its purpose is to support the development of small-sized business activity and to stimulate and strength small Brazilian entrepreneurs through the managerial enhancement of national micro and small enterprises, giving them the best conditions for sustainable development. Its main programs include “Business Incubators, Cluster’s Development, Knowledge diffusion, Training, Consulting, Market access, Technology and Innovation, Public Policy, Business Associations, Agribusiness program, Tourism, Handcraft and Culture programs and Young Entrepreneurs programs.”
While Williams mentioned SEBRAE’s interest in “agriculture and agro business, particularly aquaculture, apiculture and agro-processing” we should note that the organisation generally focuses on “micro” businesses employing six persons and less.
Our needs in this area are the mega farms in our Rupununi Savannahs that have supposedly been in the works for some years now – with collaboration and help from Brazil. The “marine transportation and logistics” also mentioned on the cards are reminiscent of the deep water harbour in Berbice that was supposed to service the shipping of the Brazilian cargo hauled over the non-existent Linden-Lethem Highway, extended to Berbice.
What we would suggest to the administration is it must stop dawdling on the Linden-Lethem Highway. We will not enumerate the benefits will accrue to our economy: they are legion and were well explicated by the goodly Prime Minister. In the past there have been concerns raised as to the capacity of our minuscule state to absorb what has been projected as the “deluge” of Brazilians subsequent to the construction of the highway. If these concerns still exist, they should be aired and addressed. We cannot continue missing Brazil.
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