May 09, 2017 News
Government and the Private Sector Commission (PSC) have described as “fruitful” a meeting last Thursday to deal with several challenges facing the country’s economy.
In a joint statement, yesterday, it was disclosed that Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan, was met with the PSC delegation which was led by its Chairman, Eddie Boyer. The meeting is scheduled quarterly and intended to address and seek solutions to the challenges facing the economy, including the expressed concerns of the private sector.
“The PSC applauded Government’s handling of the apparent challenge to accessing foreign exchange and its resulting amelioration. The PSC complimented Minister Jordan for the injection of US$30m into the housing sector.”
PSC would be referring to a recent decision by Government to divert a portion of an Inter-American Development Loan for the rehabilitation of the Sheriff Street/Mandela Avenue link into housing.
“The PSC also commended the recently implemented ‘Trusted Trader’ system through which legitimate and compliant businesses are spared the burden of lengthy processing times for transactions.”
During the meeting, the delegation raised a number of concerns. These included VAT on tuition; the rehabilitation of hinterland airstrips; the two percent withholding tax; Tributors’ tax on the mining sector; VAT on the tourism sector; paddy bug infestation on rice; the current system employed by the Guyana Stock Exchange to value the shares of publicly traded companies; the urgent need for Anti-Dumping and Mergers and Acquisitions legislation; introduction of a Single Window System and the need for TSA-compliant scanners at the airports to allow non-traditional cargo exports in passenger aircraft.
“Minister Jordan, in response to some of those issues, reminded the PSC that all taxes will be reviewed for Budget 2018. He proposed that a working group be established to examine the taxes and concession packages for the tourism and aviation sectors,” the joint release said.
The Minister also pointed to challenges facing the rice, sugar and forestry sectors and reminded the PSC that Guyana was told more than three decades ago that the sugar protocols would come to an end, yet producers failed to seriously reorganize, and diversify, the industry.
He warned that the “adjustment pains” now confronting the country will continue if it loses this opportunity to create strategies that will ensure the viability of the sectors. He called for a “dose of reality to be had by all sides – government, workers, private sector and unions” as Guyana navigates its way through the diversification of its economy.
Boyer told the Minister that the Commission is committed to collaborating with Government to arrest the slide of the economy.
“He emphasized the previous successful collaboration facilitated under the National Competitiveness Strategy and urged the restoration of an institutionalized means of consultation and decision making between the Government and the Private Sector.”
The PSC Chairman also stressed the determination of the Commission to work with any government in office. He noted that private sector leaders were often discouraged by disparaging and unwarranted labels applied to their efforts to speak out in the national interest.
“It is time to change the rhetoric”, he said, “so that confidence can be restored.”
He added that the PSC was heartened by a letter received from the Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, commending crafting of a formal structure within which Government and the Private Sector Commission could engage.
According to Boyer, PSC had met with the Governor of the Bank of Guyana. It was told that much needed foreign exchange was being traded by some businesses to other countries.
He urged the Minister to ensure that the leakage was arrested.
“Minister Jordan assured him that the Ministry of Finance was actively examining ways to strengthen the bank including reviewing legislation and expanding the board. Minister Jordan extended an invitation to the PSC for a representative to be part of the Board once the legislation was in place.”
The PSC also complained that it has observed that some foreign-owned businesses were not charging VAT though they were registered to do so.
Commissioner General, Godfrey Statia, who was present, told the PSC that the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) had already written to some embassies with a view to discussing the laws of Guyana as it relates to their nationals’ tax obligations.
There have been incessant complaints of especially Chinese businesses not paying their fair share of taxes.
Boyer, in response said that the Commission will undertake to urge other businesses to honour their obligation to pay their taxes.
Statia also announced that the Single Window System will be implemented by June 2018 while the test phase will begin in September of this year. He added that GRA will begin operations in Morawhanna on June 1, 2017.
“Minister Jordan urged the Commission to explore partnerships with regional and international bodies to take advantage of imminent opportunities in the oil and gas sector rather than wait for local content legislation. He advised the PSC that already the emerging sector was creating a demand in the hospitality, food and housing sectors including ancillary services.”
The PSC related the Minister, that it has heeded the call by President David Granger to execute a Business Summit and proposed that Government co-host the event.
“Minister Jordan expressed his appreciation that the PSC has taken up the initiative and said his government stands ready to assist in whatever way it could. The meeting ended with a commitment to greater collaboration for the growth of the economy.”
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