President challenges private sector to ‘push hard’ to break down barriers to trade

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President Irfaan Ali on Wednesday challenged the local private sector to ‘push hard’ against barriers to trade in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which prevents the export of certain local products to member states.

“Your engagement with CARICOM must be bold. It is time we break down the barriers to trade…the private sector needs to push hard on all barriers that prevent our goods and services from entering a free market…in CARICOM,” the President said in his feature address at the 25th annual awards ceremony of the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA), held at State House compound, Georgetown.

Dr. Ali noted that while the government has to do its part, the business sector must also understand its role.

“The private sector must be bold enough to recognise where their challenge is, where there [are] shortcomings,” he said.

For years, there have been several complaints about Guyana’s inability to access markets in Trinidad and other countries for its agriculture products.

President Irfaan Ali delivers the feature address at the GMSA award ceremony (Photo: Office of the President/December 2, 2020)

The Head of State said it is important for all stakeholders to work together to increase market shares, not only in Guyana but in the region.

He noted that the private sector must be proactive in going after opportunities, noting that in the last three months, the government has seen remarkable interest in various sectors from investors.

In an earlier address to those gathered at the award ceremony, President of the GMSA, Shyam Nokta noted that the local private sector “need to not look towards exponential growth but to organise ourselves for evolutionary growth so we can be competitive not only at home but regionally and internationally.”

Nokta used the opportunity to also push for a greater space for locally manufactured goods and services in national procurement.

“However, this also needs to happen sectorally and in particular in oil and gas. We are assured by the government’s commitment to local content and look forward to having in place a robust local content framework at the earliest opportunity. This is critical for maximising value opportunities for Guyanese goods and services,” he said.

President of the GMSA, Shyam Nokta addressing the gathering at the annual awards ceremony (Photo: Office of the President/December 2, 2020)

With a new year on the horizon, he said the business sector is committed to working in partnership with the government as he outlined some areas for collaboration.

With oil discovery coming on stream, Nokta said the government must revisit its national development framework in light of oil discovery.

He pointed to the National Development Strategy (NDS), Competitiveness Strategy, Poverty Reduction Strategy and the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), noting that these strategies were prepared prior to oil discovery and Guyana becoming an oil producer.

As such, he said: “We believe there is need to revisit existing efforts and define the national development framework going forward to reconcile Guyana’s low carbon agenda and development priorities in relation to other sectors, including the oil and gas sector.”

He pointed out that 2020 has been one of the most challenging years as a result of the prolonged general and regional elections and the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Bank of Guyana mid-year report, real GDP in the non-oil sectors contracted by 4.9 per cent compared with the 4.2 per cent growth for the corresponding period in 2019.

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