The poor turnout at the second day of the Business Summit has doomed that event to failure. But it also is a reflection of the lack of confidence in the present political and private sector leadership in Guyana.
The poor turnout reflects the loss of confidence in Government’s ability to boost growth. But it equally suggests that the local private sector is out of its depth when it comes to development.
The government has provided little direction as to how it is going to stimulate the economy. One day before the Summit, the Minister of Finance, announced that next year’s Budget will see a boost for small businesses. This may be good ‘sound bytes’ but is not the answer to Guyana’s economic problems.
Small businesses cannot boost an economy. It has never done so in any part of the world. A plantain chip economy represents an economy in crisis.
The poor turnout on the second day of the Summit is an indictment against the existing leadership of the private sector. The private sector had to outsource the organization of the summit to the IDB. The Private Sector Commission is not up to the task of developing any plan to develop Guyana without significant government input.
We have long been treated to the mantra that the private sector should be the engine of economic growth. But the local political class has always, however, had apprehensions about the ability of the local private sector to that engine.
It would be politically incorrect for local political leaders to publicly admit that Guyana’s private sector is woefully inadequate and inept. Some local politicians have not said this outright but may have been pointing in this direction when they indicated that a new economic class is needed in Guyana, one that takes greater risk.
When he was in power, Bharrat Jagdeo did not say these words but it is clear that he was intent, during his tenure, to promote a new economic class to countermand the present lot of private sector operators from which the terms risking taking is alien. The President did ask how it was that that the Americans, the British, the Canadians, Trinidadians, Suriname and Turks could be investing in Guyana and yet the local investors are not. The private sector is not interested in answering that question because it is not part of the answer.
The Summit was poorly conceptualized. It turned out to be a talk shop. Everything that was said there has been said before. It should have been structured for negotiations with Government. It was not.
The IDB should be banned from any future involvement in such exercises. It had its own agenda. It has wasted an important opportunity.
The private sector’s idea of an engine of growth can be caricatured by a cartoon of the local private sector sitting in the bonnet of a car, thereby representing the engine, but the car is being pushed or pulled by the government.
The local private sector is extremely limited in terms of the capital that it can raise. It likes to complain about being bypassed by Governments but when put to the test it cannot stand its ground. A new economic class, therefore, has to emerge to help develop Guyana and unfortunately that class is likely to come from some other country.
The poorly attended second day of the Business Summit shows that even the most ardent of private sector supporters had become disinterested in that event by the end of the first day. Many of them came to hear President Granger deliver a bag of economic goodies.
Many of them were hoping that he would tell them how they will benefit from the oil money. He did none of these things and this left them disappointed and dejected.
The local private sector is not interested in being any engine of growth. It wants the government to boost its coffers so that the members can enjoy a life of luxury in other countries.
They wanted tax reforms but their idea of tax reforms is for tax concessions to subsidize their operations, wages and profits. Their idea of an efficient tax system is one in which they benefit.
Guyana has nowhere to go with the present bunch of private sector operators. A new class of entrepreneurs has to be blooded.
The Private Sector Commission (PSC) should step aside and allow for others to take command of the Guyanese economy. The PSC is wasting time. It is not up to the task of developing Guyana. It should allow for the emergence of a new economic class.
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