— President calls for greater innovation from private sector
By Alva Solomon
FOR Guyana’s economy to become vibrant, the private sector must be innovative and exhibit commitment beyond trading.This is according to President David Granger, who made the remark while delivering the feature address at the launching of GuyExpo 2016 at the National Exhibition Centre in Sophia on Friday.
The President also pointed to the importance of the Linden /Lethem Highway and the opportunity it presents for the exploration of the country’s wealth. He also highlighted the importance of science and technology, an area which he is optimistic will be the vehicle to fuel economic growth.
This year, GuyExpo will be held from May 12th through to May 15th under the theme, “50 years: Guyana means business, promoting enterprise, driving productivity.”
The Head of State told a packed audience which included Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin; Minister within the Ministry of Education, Nicolette Henry; Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs, Valerie Garrido-Lowe; and members of the Private Sector Commission (PSC), among others, that the private sector needs to be innovative.
“We are still a raw economy and we have not really moved off of those six sisters,” he noted, as he elaborated that rice, sugar, bauxite, timber, gold and fish have always been the main exports which the country has depended on for decades.
The President said that if GuyExpo is to play a part in the transformation of the economy, “we have to think seriously about using this exhibition as our laboratory and our forum for value added.”
He said the requisite sectors should focus on moving from exporting raw logs into creating high-quality furniture and crafting bauxite into aluminum as well as gold into jewellery, among others.
“We need to use GuyExpo as a means of transforming our economy,” he stressed. He said that if the private sector views itself as the engine of growth, it must be committed to more than buying and selling and should focus on creating value-added products.
As he stressed the need for innovation, President Granger said that the local economy is essentially and fundamentally unchanged, noting that in the last 100 years the country has not created a new economy. “Our economy is still based on the exportation of raw materials,” he said.
He said that there is need to explore science and technology to produce products which “do not depend on barges coming through the Berbice River,” but the creating of products of a high quality.
He made reference to Charles Wooley, a past Governor of British Guiana, whom he noted created some of the country’s finest laboratories which produced some of the best scientists the country has seen.
To this end, the President stressed the need for labs to be placed in secondary schools across the country, so that children can master the sciences. Unless this happens, the country will not be able to leap over the current exportation of raw materials.
LINDEN /LETHEM HIGHWAY
As regards infrastructure, the President said that the country cannot continue dodging the establishment of a highway linking Linden and Lethem.
He said six months ago, he spoke to the Private Sector Commission (PSC) on the issue of infrastructure.
“We can’t speak out the corners of our mouths when we talk of infrastructure, we have to get a road from Linden to Lethem, a highway,” the President said.
He spoke of a number of areas across the country which are in need of infrastructural linkages and development. These include the Upper Mazaruni, Ituni and Kwakwani, and the Barima/Waini area which he noted is four times the size of Trinidad and Tobago, but which depend on the aged Lady Northcote vessel.
He pointed to Mabaruma, the administrative capital of Region One, not having a commercial bank and which depends on only six hours of electricity daily. He said that enterprises cannot be established with such basic infrastructure.
The President also spoke on the importance of Information Technology which he termed, the driver of change. He said the quality of this sector is what contributes critically to the transformation of the economy.He said a strong institutional framework is needed since according to him, investors need to be assured that the country is safe and that their investments will be protected.
Earlier, Minister of Business Dominic Gaskin, told the gathering that GuyExpo is well aligned with the objective of the Ministry of Business and the economic priorities of the government. He said it is designed to nurture and promote business growth and development in the country.
Gaskin said one of the areas of focus this year is the development of micro and small enterprise. He said this level of enterprise accounts for almost 30 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employs tens of thousands of people. He said many of those businesses have the capacity to develop beyond the level of small businesses.
Gaskin said the event requires support from all quarters, including the private sector, the government, the media and the opposition — all of whom — he noted can make GuyExpo 2016 a success.