Blackouts, corruption, high taxes cloud business climate here – US Ambassador
US Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch has listed a number of challenges that cloud the business climate here at a time when there is significant investor interest in Guyana.
Among the challenges she pointed to were constant blackouts, corruption and high taxes. The US Ambassador was speaking at the Private Sector Commission’s Annual General Meeting on Friday at the Marriott Hotel in Georgetown.
The World Bank’s 2018 report on Ease of Doing Business reflected a drop in Guyana’s ranking from 126 in 2017 to 134 last year.
“Places like Iran and the West Bank and Gaza ranked better than Guyana,” Lynch said.
She further said, “Some of the contributing issues highlighted in the report include taxation, energy, infrastructure, intellectual property rights (IPR), bureaucracy, lack of transparency, corruption and citizen security.”
The Ambassador said that Guyana’s difficult tax system often leads to foreign companies paying higher tax rates than other countries.
“In addition, the duties imposed on many imported items can be substantial, driving costs up beyond competitiveness,” the Ambassador said.
She said the cost of electricity in Guyana is one of the highest in the region at more than 35 cents per kilowatt-hour.
“The power grid system is antiquated, resulting in regular power outage, forcing companies, I’m sure many of yours, to install their own power generation systems to cope with the blackouts,” the Ambassador said.
Other challenges listed include the long time it takes to acquire permits to buy land and obtain work permits. The Ambassador said because of some agencies’ reliance on using manual paperwork rather than digital, some companies may avoid investing in Guyana.
“Corruption continues to be a perennial concern, but Guyana has made significant strides on this front and I’m sure it will continue to do so,” the Ambassador said.
The Ambassador said these challenges are not being raised to scare away investment, but to show that each one can be resolved over time and with proper resources.
The Ambassador said with oil production starting in a few months, Guyana should be able to invest more in its resources.