The coalition government is looking to correct a major wrong that used to be perpetuated by the PPP/C government against several local businesses. Many local businesses use to complain about not being able to access concessions that were available to foreign companies.
At the most recent post-cabinet press briefing, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon said that no longer will businesses have cause to complain about an uneven playing field.
Harmon told reporters that upon assuming office, it was clear to the coalition government that a review of the measures in place for the granting of concessions was needed.
He said that the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) “aggressively” went after “those wonderful, sweetheart concessions that were granted. The idea is that we will try to level the playing field for foreign as well as local companies.”
Harmon alluded to Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan’s Budget Speech during which the economist noted that the government has decided to protect the local forest entities by putting an additional tax on foreign imports of pine wood. Harmon said that the government is cognizant that “as we go along, there are going to be other products that may require that kind of protection. This is to give local companies an opportunity to be on a level playing field.”
Harmon also made reference to Jordan’s saying that local companies need to build capacity. Harmon said that the lack of capacity is what has been hampering local companies from being eligible for contracts funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
“So we are working on building capacity.”
The Minister of State said that Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, recently held an extensive meeting with local contractors during which he pointed out to the contractors some of the measures they need to take to make themselves more marketable.
Harmon then pointed to the awarding of a $117.4 million contract for the establishment of a Business Incubator at Belvedere Industrial Estate in Region Six to assist local businesses to become more competitive.
Minister Harmon said that that initiative serves to give small businesses “an opportunity to promulgate, to push themselves further, so that they cannot just get small contracts, but medium-sized and large contracts”.
He said that the government’s principle objective is to create a framework within which businesses can easily operate.
Simultaneously, we have to realise that we are in a global market place and we have opened up Guyana for investment.
The investments will push the standard of living for our people. So, we are looking at building capacity for our local companies, providing a safe place to operate but same time recognising that in order for Guyana to advance, we have to invite and attract foreign investment.
“We want to send that message out to foreign investors that they can come and operate on a level playing field.”
Also, Harmon was keen to note that companies coming to operate in Guyana must be willing to operate within the law. He said, “No company operating in Guyana can operate above the law. The law is the law for everyone.”(Abena Rockcliffe-Campbell)
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