By: Devina Samaroo
Finance Minister Winston Jordan on Thursday clarified that the government has no intention of restricting the importation of items that can be produced locally but he underscored the need to support products that can be made right here in Guyana.
Jordan told the News Room during an interview at the Umana Yana that the Kaieteur News headline in its July 6, 2017 edition – “Govt. to clamp down on food imports that can be produced locally” – is not entirely accurate.
“We don’t want to go down the road of restrictions; you know what happened in the past with banning. We not about to go down that road, we need to appeal to the patriotic sense and the rationale sense of our people together with the support that we can give to the manufacturing sector and budding entrepreneurs so that they can have the start that they need,” the Finance Minister explained.
Following the publication of the article, several persons have since criticised the concept and expressed fear of return to the days when there was a ban on the importation of certain products.
But the Finance Minister explained that the government has a different approach to have less imported products on the market.
“A number of our loans are looking in that direction. I talked about us having two abattoirs, we’ve already secured the money to put one in Region Five and Region Nine,” he outlined.
Jordan added that the government has also secured the finance to build a modern lab to ensure the locally manufactured products meet an acceptable standard.
“Hopefully we get some land near to the forensic lab so that we can get a lot of synergies between this lab and the forensic lab to assist in quality control, packaging and export because currently a number of our exports can’t go abroad because people don’t want it because they don’t believe it has gone through the rigor,” the Minister explained.
Most importantly however, the Finance Minister said the only way Guyana can have a thriving manufacturing sector is through the support of the people.
“Really and truly, I am urging Guyanese to see ourselves first. It is disheartening to see how many things can come from the smallest of islands in the Caribbean and sold here while we can’t penetrate the smallest of market in the Caribbean selling the same thing,” he posited.
Jordan continued, “I mean, do we need fudge from ‘X Island’, do we need plantain chip from ‘Y Island’? It’s really heartbreaking to see these things happening. Somebody told me about roti, I mean aren’t we the champions of roti? Why are we importing roti?”
The Finance Minister also called on the private sector to “wake up” and stop taking the “easy road out which is to go buy something and sell it back” instead of focusing on manufacturing.