Local businesses have been doing just fine for the level at which they are operating and for the clientele they’ve been serving.
But if they are to capitalise on and benefit from the rush that first oil will bring to this neck of the woods in 2020, there needs to be a concerted and large-scale effort to meet international standards and be certified in their trade.
That is the insistence of Allen Keele, who is, among other things, a recognised subject matter expert, consultant, and business systems architect for ISO 31000 enterprise risk management programmes.
He explained that global standards of business management are important to tender as proof of a company’s credibility, and to instill confidence in its potential clients. He said that small businesses must now consider adjusting their mindsets to operate on a global scale.
Keele recently concluded a two-day seminar with some local companies at the Pegasus Hotel on Certified ISO 31000 Enterprise Risk Management Policy, Strategy, Design, and Risk Assessment.
He said that there seems to be a pervasive attitude, since local businesses have never needed to meet global standards to operate, that they shouldn’t have to now.
But it’s time to appreciate that “other nation’s laws become your issues too. This means that other nations and other companies from other nations, their expectations now become your expectations.”
Guyana has seen, since discovery of oil in 2015, a multitude of globally recognised businesses from all sectors coming to its shores. These businesses are well-funded, established and governed, according to Keele.
Keele, who is assisting Caribbean governments, Central Banks, energy, and other entities to establish governance of risk related activities, has a wealth of experience that has taught him how important it is to give competency assurance to third parties such as World Bank and the International Development Bank.
He said that banks, for instance, have recognised that they can’t operate in the financial sector and not work with the international best practice.
“How do you be a central bank and not operate in a risk management system that the rest of the financial sector throughout the entire world is using?”
He recalled that last year July, the Central Bank of Bahamas had its website hacked. That could have been avoided if it had an information security management programme.
Local businesses have available to them a series of frameworks that they can put in place for risk management, quality management (which Keele says is very important to the oil and gas sector), environmental management, business continuity, disaster recovery, and information security.
Asked what the consequences would be to the local business environment of refusal to acquire international certification, Keele said quite frankly that local businesses “won’t qualify to do business with international companies that require it”.
“So, for example, if my organisation is certified to ISO 9001, I did it because the customers who I service require it to even be on their vendor list. If I lose my 9001 certification, I can no longer work with them.
“Guyana has a tremendous opportunity in front of it.” Keele noted.
A startling amount of income will attract companies from all over the world. Keele said that acquiring global certifications will allow Guyana to do business with some of the world’s biggest customers.
If you want to know who to blame for businesses lacking qualification, Keele has already figured that out.
“The hold-up is in senior management not wanting to go ahead and take part.”
“These are governance programmes that can’t be initiated from the bottom level of the organisation. There is a management structure. If the board mandates it, and your executive management listens to the board and says they’re going to establish a new governance framework, then yes, you can do it.”
He said that there is a need to have stronger willingness in government and with the principals of the private sector.
“These governance frameworks actually have specific clauses requiring that kind of involvement.”
Recently appointed Minister of Business, Hemraj Rajkumar, was keen to note the importance of lifting the standards of business practices when asked, last month.
Questions about Local Content in the oil sector are rife in public discussion, given that oil is slated to start pumping next year. Guyanese want to know just how much they can get involved in the running of the oil and gas sector.
But Guyanese have a culture of being more interested in foreign products than those of local manufacturers, Rajkumar said. He said that he envisages a climate of business where locals appreciate indigenous products.
“I have a belief that if there is something you produce, and you don’t want to consume it yourself, then who else would?”
There is a concerted effort by the Business Ministry to increase the standards of local businesses, so that Guyana’s goods, services and skills can compete in a global market.
“At the Guyana National Bureau of Standards, we have already started to encourage them to up their quality and get the certifications.” Rajkumar said.
With such improvements, he said that Guyanese will have more leverage to participate in the sector.
GNBS is governed by the National Standards Council and it falls under the portfolio of the Ministry of Trade, Tourism, Industry and Commerce.
Technical Committees established by the Council are responsible for the development of standards. Apart from standards development, the Bureau promotes and implements standards in key sectors of the local economy through the many services it provides.
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