– increases awareness regarding market opportunities
– establishes hubs for business registration in remote areas
– improves support for small enterprises
– provides more assistance to companies seeking ISO certification
By Kiana Wilburg
The Ministry of Business has been working steadfastly towards improving the commercial climate here.
Its Department of Commerce has been carrying out a number of outreaches; awareness regarding market opportunities has increased; the Small Business Bureau has improved support for small enterprises, and the Guyana National Bureau of Standards has provided more assistance to companies seeking ISO certification.
With respect to the Department of Commerce, it has conducted outreaches in 10 administrative regions. It met with various Chambers of Commerce and Local Authorities in an effort to share information and to hear directly, the concerns of businesses.
This year, the Department of Commerce collaborated with local chambers of commerce in Lethem and Mahdia to establish business registration hubs so that persons can now register their businesses in these towns rather than having to travel to Suddie on the Essequibo Coast under the prevailing system.
According to Business Minister, Dominic Gaskin, this has helped people in Regions Eight and Nine to regularize their business activities so that they can develop formal businesses and enjoy the benefits of doing so.
By the end of the third quarter of 2017, Gaskin stated that the Department of Commerce recorded an increase of approximately 20% in the number of import and export licenses processed and approved.
In addition, Minister Gaskin said that trade agreements between Guyana and other countries such as Costa Rica, Brazil and China have been analyzed and created into Fact Sheets to raise private sector awareness of market opportunities, key provisions and exemptions granted by such agreements.
In 2018, he noted that more such fact sheets will be available for Guyanese to learn about opportunities for trade with other countries.
Additionally, the Business Minister asserted that the Private Sector continues to play a vital role in the growth of Guyana’s economy. The politician noted that the Ministry of Business recognizes this and supports private sector development.
In this regard, he commented that various projects and initiatives have been undertaken including; conducting of product surveys to identify potentially viable manufacturing businesses that can benefit from governmental incentives; and training for women in Region Nine in the area of Record Keeping.
In 2018, he explained that nearly $1M will be spent on similar initiatives to build the capacity of local businesses with export readiness especially in the agro-processing sector.
The Business Minister stated, “Having a good awareness of the issues facing the business community is important in making meaningful interventions. This is why our Ministry has begun surveys for the development of a Business Confidence Index. Surveys have already been conducted in Regions Six and Ten, and are ongoing in other regions.”
Gaskin noted that this Index is intended to be a tool to identify the level of optimism or pessimism in the economy and to arrive at and propose evidence based policies for enhancing the ease of doing business in Guyana.
In recognition of the strong correlation between the business environment and the levels of investment that take place in an economy, the Ministry of Business has been pursuing various Doing Business Reforms.
Gaskin noted that in 2017 works were undertaken in the areas of Registering a Business and Registering property with the development of a web portal to allow the public to access forms, statistics and information on procedures and requirements.
In alignment with the Green State Development Strategy Framework, the Ministry in 2017 has sought to develop an incentive Framework for Green Businesses to promote sustainable green business practices through regulatory reforms and training.
To this end, Gaskin noted that the Ministry has secured partial funding from Compete Caribbean for the examination of regulatory reforms and the provision of training to be carried out in 2018.
The Business Minister said, “Our Department of Industry continued to focus on the development and management of industrial estates in Guyana. The existing industrial estate at Coldigen has had infrastructure works undertaken in an effort to improve the operating environment for its occupants.”
He added, “Estate Management Committees have also been set up for both the Coldingen and the Eccles Estate to actively address matters of importance to occupants.
Work is also being done to regularize the occupancy in these estates and to curb malpractices that have gone unchecked for many years.
SMALL BUSINESS BUREAU
According to the Business Minister, the Small Business Bureau is continuing to establish itself as a key national institution for supporting micro and small enterprises and to develop effective programmes to meet its objectives.
As at the end of last September, Gaskin revealed that 831 persons were provided with training in various aspects of running a business as well as technical training. Forty loans valued at US$758,753 were disbursed during the same period. Additionally, 132 grants valued at US$170,923 were disbursed.
The Small Business Bureau also launched its In-school Entrepreneurship Programme in which 100 grants of $30,000 each were disbursed to students in 15 schools all around Guyana.
This is a project aimed at helping fourth and fifth form business students fund their SBA projects and turn them into real investment projects. The Minister said it is also competitive and fosters the development of the entrepreneurial spirit. Subject to review, this project will be expanded in 2018.
The Small Business Bureau has also been contracted by the Ministry of Public Security to execute its Youth Entrepreneurship Programme. This year, a total of 68 grants valued at US$1,500 each were disbursed by the Small Business Bureau on behalf of the Ministry of Public Security. This project is also expected to continue into 2018.
The Small Business Bureau has begun work on developing a programme for operationalizing the two business incubators currently under construction.
An incubator specialist from Canadian University Service Overseas (CUSO) is assisting the Bureau to create a viable and sustainable incubator model.
NATIONAL BUREAU OF STANDARDS
For this year, the Guyana National Bureau of Standards continued to develop and revise standards for various products and services, and also provided technical assistance to companies seeking to become ISO certified. As of the end of last September, 21companies received assistance in achieving ISO certification.
In fact, the Bureau assisted yet another laboratory in attaining ISO accreditation, raising the number of accredited laboratories now operating in Guyana to three. The Business Minister has noted that more laboratories will become accredited over the next few years thereby enhancing the national quality infrastructure and reducing the amount of samples that have be sent overseas for testing.
In all, over 740 businesses were provided with technical assistance, training, and product certification in 2017 by the Guyana National Bureau of Standards. Training was conducted in the areas of management standards, root cause analysis, process mapping, food safety management systems, good laboratory practices and safety management training, to name a few.
Gaskin stated that the Bureau is also working on a National Building Code to raise standards in the local construction industry. Based on the recommendation of the Guyana Association of Professional Engineers (GAPE), the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States’ (OECS) Building Code was adopted by the National Standards Council in Guyana in August 2017.
He said that the implementation of a building code in Guyana will improve the standard and quality of works carried out, both in the public and private sectors and raise the levels of safety in the industry.
The Department of Consumer Protection and the Competition and Consumer Affairs Commission (CCAC) are the two entities with responsibility for consumer matters. These bodies have worked in tandem during 2017 to raise their profile and establish greater relevance in the country. This has also resulted in an increase in consumer complaints.
As of the end of November 2017, the Business Minister stated that 196 consumer complaints were received with a sales value of over $100M. So far, 155 of those complaints, i.e. 79%, have been resolved. The remaining 41 cases are still on-going. A total of eight cases were referred to the Board of Commissioners of the CCAC with two of those or 25% being resolved so far.
Gaskin related that both the Department as well as the CCAC has been conducting consumer education activities throughout Guyana using the various regional expos as opportunities to interact and share information with large numbers of consumers.
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