Gov’t meets PSC on advancing economy
Private Sector Commission Statement
The Minister of Finance, Hon. Winston Jordan, on Thursday last met with a delegation from the Private Sector Commission (PSC) led by its Chairman, Eddie Boyer, in accord with an agreement to meet with the Commission on a quarterly basis.The meeting addressed and sought solutions to the challenges facing the economy, including the expressed concerns of the Private Sector.
The PSC applauded Government’s handling of the apparent challenge to accessing foreign exchange and its resulting amelioration and complimented Minister Jordan for the injection of US$30m into the Housing sector. The PSC also commended the recently implemented ‘Trusted Trader’ system through which legitimate and compliant businesses are spared the burden of lengthy processing times for transactions.
During the meeting, the delegation raised the following matters of concern:
- VAT on tuition
- the rehabilitation of hinterland airstrips
- the 2% withholding tax
- Tributors’tax on the mining sector
- VAT on the tourism sector
- paddy bug infestation on rice
- the current system employed by the Guyana Stock Exchange to value the shares of publicly traded Companies
- the urgent need for Anti-Dumping and Mergers and Acquisitions legislation
- introduction of a Single Window System
- need for TSA compliant scanners at the airports to allow non-traditional cargo exports in passenger aircraft.
Minister Jordan, in response to some of those issues, reminded the PSC that all taxes will be reviewed for Budget 2018 and proposed that a working group is established to examine the taxes and concession packages for the tourism and aviation sectors.
The Minister also pointed to challenges facing the rice, sugar and forestry sectors and reminded the PSC that Guyana was told more than three decades ago that the sugar protocols would come to an end, but producers failed to seriously reorganise, and diversify the industry. He warned that the “adjustment pains” now confronting the country will continue if we lose this opportunity to create strategies that will ensure the viability of the sectors. He called for a “dose of reality to be had by all sides – government, workers, private sector and unions” as Guyana navigates its way through the diversification of its economy.
Mr. Boyer told the Minister that the Commission is committed to collaborating with Government to arrest the sliding of the economy.He emphasised the previous successful collaborationfacilitated under the National Competitiveness Strategy and urged the restoration of an institutionalised means of consultation and decision making between the Government and the Private Sector.
The PSC Chairman expressed the determination of the Commission to work with any government in office and noted that private sector leaders were often discouraged by disparaging and unwarranted labels applied to their efforts to speak out in the national interest.“It is time to change the rhetoric”, he said,“so that confidence can be restored.” He added that the PSC was heartened by a letter received from the Minister of State, Hon. Joseph Harmon, commending crafting of a formal structure within which Government and the Private Sector Commission could engage.
He also alluded to a meeting between the PSC and the Governor of the Bank of Guyana where the Commission was told that much needed foreign exchange was being traded by some businesses to other countries and urged the Minister to ensure that the leakage was arrested. Minister Jordan assured him that the Ministry of Finance was actively examining ways to strengthen the Bank including reviewing legislation and expanding the Board. Minister Jordan extended an invitation to the PSC for a representative to be part of the Board once the legislation was in place.
The PSC also informed the Minister that it has observed that some foreign-owned businesses were not charging VAT though they were registered to do so. The Commissioner General, Godfrey Statia, who was present, told the PSC that the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) had already written to some embassies with a view to discussing the laws of Guyana as it relates to their nationals’ tax obligations. Mr. Boyer, in response, said that the Commission will undertake to urge other businesses to honour their obligation to pay their taxes.
Mr. Statia also announced that the Single Window System will be implemented by June 2018 while the test phase will begin in September of this year. He added that GRA will begin operations in Morahwanna on June 1, 2017.
Minister Jordan urged the Commission to explore partnerships with regional and international bodies to take advantage of imminent opportunities in the oil and gas sector rather than wait for local content legislation. He advised the PSC that already emerging sector was creating a demand in the hospitality, food and housing sectors including ancillary services.
The PSC told the Minister, too, that it has heeded the call by President David Granger to execute a Business Summit and proposed thatGovernmentcohost the event.
Minister Jordan expressed his appreciation that the PSC has taken up the initiative and said his government stands ready to assist in whatever way it could.
The meeting ended with a commitment to greater collaboration for the growth of the economy.