By Kiana Wilburg
This time around, the concerns of those in the local manufacturing sector will not fall by the wayside.
This assurance was recently given by the Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin.
In an interview with this newspaper, Gaskin shared his thoughts on Government’s policy and plans for the sector as well as his take on the current state of affairs of the manufacturing in Guyana.
The Business Minister admitted that while Government has not formulated a comprehensive plan, there are a number of initiatives in the pipeline that will ultimately improve the ease of doing business in Guyana, as well as support the development of the local manufacturing sector.
The politician sought to emphasize, however, that it is the former administration which failed miserably to stimulate Guyana’s manufacturing sector. With this in mind, he stressed that creating a competitive manufacturing sector would not be an overnight affair.
To make Guyana more business-friendly, the Ministry of Business is currently engaging various State agencies with a view to reducing bureaucratic red tape and making official procedures easier to navigate.
It is currently seeking financing to implement the Single Window Automated Processing System (SWAPS). When established, the SWAPS will link licencing bodies along with the Customs and Trade Administration to facilitate the sharing of information and to enhance the efficiency with which trade transactions are carried out.
These improved procedures will not only reduce the amount of time that private businesses spend mired in paperwork, but also increase government accountability, reduce corruption, and make data and information more accessible.
The Ministry of Business has already established a Help Desk for businesses, which acts as a single point of contact for information and advice for businesses, traders, and the Government.
Furthermore, while consumers and large businesses can access loans, Gaskin said that the Government is very much aware that small businesses commonly face a financing gap. He emphasized that this is being addressed by the Government through the implementation of the Micro and Small Enterprise Development (MSED) initiative which will be implemented by the Small Business Bureau of the Ministry of Business.
To build both generic and sector specific skills, the Business Minister said that training opportunities for small businesses will be expanded to cover all 10 administrative regions. The politician said that this year, 400 individuals are targeted to benefit from training.
He noted, too, that a newly appointed Small Business Council chaired by Commonwealth Woman Entrepreneur of the Year (2015) awardee, Ms. Valrie Grant, is now in place and tasked with significantly improving the work and expanding the reach of the Small Business Bureau over the next few years.
It has also been noted by the administration that efforts must be geared towards enhancing Guyana’s brand and visibility as an investment destination. As such, it is expected that GO-Invest would work towards improving agency websites and develop partnerships with other investment promotion agencies worldwide.
Gaskin said that GO-Invest is now overseen by a competent Board of Directors and headed by a competent and energetic new Chief Executive Officer. He said that the Ministry of Business’ Strategic Plan calls for the development of a national export strategy and the design of a sustainable national investment strategy.
The Business Minister said, too, that GO-Invest will play a key role in the implementation of these initiatives. He explained that the national export strategy will also be supported by enhanced quality infrastructure made possible by the upgrading of the national laboratory network to allow for testing and certification of products by accredited facilities, thereby assisting manufacturers to meet the requirements of foreign markets.
The Business Minister commented that another challenge that investors in Guyana face is finding adequate facilities with full utility services. In this regard, the Executive Member of the Alliance For Change (AFC) said that the coalition administration has committed to addressing this problem by upgrading and building industrial estates at Belvedere and Lethem to facilitate business ventures in such areas as light manufacturing, woodworking and fabrication.
Additionally, Gaskin noted that the Ministry of Business is seeking to have lands set aside in every region for industrial purposes.
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