By Kiana Wilburg
The Private Sector Commission (PSC) yesterday held a most significant business summit, the stated aim of which is to be more than a mere talk shop.
The forum which concludes today at the Marriott Hotel, seeks to encourage honest discussion about the issues affecting the business sector, and more importantly, find solutions for many of the issues affecting the sector’s growth.
One of the main challenges which stymie the growth of the business sector is the domination of the local market by products manufactured abroad.
There were several persons who expected the topic to be raised during the summit, particularly when the panel on “Markets” got into full swing in the afternoon.
The panel featured Foreign Affairs Minister and Vice President, Carl Greenidge; Ambassador Gail Mathurin of CARICOM, Mr. Clement Duncan of the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) and former Prime Minister, Samuel Hinds.
The matter of foreign products was, however, just raised in passing at the summit yesterday. One stakeholder during the question and answer segment noted that when one walks into a supermarket, it is easy to observe that 90 percent of the products on the shelves are of foreign origin.
Ironically, a glaring representation of this very situation was at the doorstep of the business forum. There were refreshments which consisted of teas and coffee, but not a single local tea or coffee was on site. Even the sugar and other sweeteners were from the USA.
Speaking with Kaieteur News last night, Minister Greenidge said that he too was surprised that the issue of foreign products dominating the local market was not raised. He was also surprised that no question was posed in relation to the Venezuelan market and the PetroCaribe issue or the subject of markets for rice and sugar.
He noted however that the topic of “markets” was indeed a broad one, and concluded that some attendees were “there to look after their own business.”
On the issue of the manufacturing sector, Minister Greenidge outlined that Guyana produces a wide range of goods and services. However, at the domestic level, a good deal of the products or the total value of the things that the country produces is serviced by the government.
The Vice President noted that over the years, manufacturing in Guyana has declined as a result of many issues, one being high electricity costs.
The economist asserted, “So for the longest while we have only been dependent on eight principal export products which are bauxite, fish, gold, molasses, rice, rum, sugar and timber…we do produce services, but in fact, that area is not very big in the economy…”
Greenidge added that trade in the eight products as well as the scope depends on the types of markets in which one intends to enter and sell.
TYPES OF MARKETS
Greenidge stated that Guyana has enjoyed access to different types of markets, one being the preferential market. It is here that goods are sold at a special price and are treated as tax free.
He noted that there are also open markets where there are no restrictions, but added that there is a set of rules which governs how producers sell. These rules and regulations are set out by the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Greenidge said that since the 1950s, the principle upon which they are extending those rules was called trade liberalisation; in other words, removing taxes and tariffs on quotas.
The economist explained, “So the world market is governed by those rules and you have to understand that. There is also the type of market situation where you give someone preferential access to your market or what is otherwise called non- reciprocal preferential access.
That is the type of market, sugar enjoyed, but that is being phased out. Of course, that has consequences for Guyana, as big producers can now compete, and cheaply too, thereby forcing you out of the market.”
Greenidge said that Guyana is currently experiencing the effects of this phenomenon.
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